Beautifully situated near Smerwick Harbour on the Slea Head scenic drive and Dingle Way walking route, Sile and Vincent Gorman’s guesthouse is, as they say themselves “just a great place to relax and unwind”. Natural materials and warm colours are a feature throughout the house, and open fires create a welcoming laid-back atmosphere.
The bedrooms – which include some on the ground floor, with easy access from the parking area - all have sea or mountain views and are attractively furnished in a pleasingly simple style with thoughtfully finished bathrooms; four superior rooms have jacuzzi baths and other extra facilities, but all are very comfortable.
But, most importantly, the Gormans are knowledgeable and helpful hosts. You may not see too much of Vincent, as he is often busy in the kitchen, but Sile is a quietly effective powerhouse of hospitality, not only making sure that guests are comfortable and enjoying this lovely house and restaurant, but also advising on everything they need to know in the area. All guests get the loan of a guide book and ordnance survey map during their stay, and nothing is too much trouble to ensure that Kerry - and particularly the Dingle peninsula - will have happy associations when they leave.
Breakfast - an excellent buffet with hot dishes cooked to order - is a treat that will set you up for a day of happy exploration.
*Gorman’s was our Guesthouse of the Year in 2002.
Golfers will enjoy the nearby course, Ceann Sibéal in Ballyferriter.
Rooms 8 (2 junior suites, 2 superior, 4 ground floor, 1 for less able, 1 shower only, all no smoking). B&B €55-75 pps, ss €35. Children welcome (under 3s free in parents' room, cot available free of charge). No pets. Garden, cycling, walking. Short breaks offered - details on application.
The restaurant is open to non-residents, which gives it a bit of a buzz and, with large windows commanding superb sea views, it is a wonderful place to enjoy Vincent Gorman’s good cooking.
Although the menu isn’t long, it gives a good choice for a small restaurant perched on a clifftop on the far western tip of Ireland - and, more importantly, it is a menu with heart, which introduces guests to the life of the area through the local foods.
And some of those foods are very local indeed – the Gormans have developed their own organic garden, which is quite an achievement in this location, and it supplies the kitchen with salads, seasonal vegetables and some fruit. Most other produce has little further to travel, with a great range of fish and seafood coming just up the road from Dingle (and some from small harbours closer by), and the local black pudding from the famous butchers Ashes in Annascaul.
Beef comes from a little further afield as Vincent seeks it out especially from The Irish Hereford Prime, marketing group of The Irish Hereford Breeders Society, but lamb will be the local Kerry mountain lamb, known for its leanness and the special, slightly salty, herbal flavour that it gets from grazing on the cliffs and mountains beside the sea.
The cooking is excellent, and all the little extras are homemade too – breads and potato cakes, for example, and the green tomato chutney that’s served with the Irish farmhouse cheeses.
Begin with a warm Dingle Bay prawn salad with fresh basil, perhaps - or an attractive speciality of potato cake & Annascaul black pudding with glazed apples, and grainy mustard sauce.
Main courses will include several seafood dishes (roast fillet of monkfish with roasted peppers, balsamic vinegar & olive oil dressing is a speciality) and the ever-popular sirloin steak (Irish Hereford beef); vegetarian choices are always given too - Sile’s garden salad, perhaps, of tossed leaves and summer vegetables with toasted walnuts and seeds.
Desserts, including home-made ice creams and a wicked chocolate nemesis, are worth saving space for, or you can finish with an Irish cheese plate. Sile, who is a warm and solicitous host, supervises front of house.
On Sunday nights resident guests are offered a choice of simple dishes - a traditional Irish stew (made with Kerry mountain lamb) and a locally sourced seafood platter, served with homemade breads - and a house dessert to finish. A vegetarian option is available on request.
An interesting and informative wine list offers plenty of good choices for all pockets and includes Fair Trade house wines and about eight well chosen half bottles; there is also a Summer Special Drinks List.