Even before Christianity, Aghadoe was viewed as a special, spiritual place. The Paps Mountains, visible from the hotel, were called ‘Dhá Chíoch Danu’ in Gaelic, which means ‘the two breasts of Danu’. This was the name of the Celtic female goddess, who was regarded as the mother of the gods. The first inhabitants of Ireland, the ‘Tuatha Dé Danann’, were named after her.
The Celts didn’t see their splendid landscape as just a fine view. They were deeply religious, and these woods, mountains and lakes were loaded with magical and mysterious significance. They represented messages of life and fertility, with the Paps’ two breast-shaped hills interpreted as symbols of female power.
These people also associated the area west of Ireland with death and ‘the other world’. Indeed native Gaelic speakers still say today that someone has ‘gone west’ if they have died.
The first reference to Aghadoe, – or ‘Achadh dá eo’ in Gaelic, meaning ‘the field of two yew trees’ – is thought to appear in a poem ascribed to Oisín. He was the son of Finn MacCool, who led a band of warriors called the Fianna – Ireland’s protectors from foreign invasion in the years just after Christ’s birth.
The first known Christian settlement was established at Aghadoe in the fifth century, probably by St Abban, a missionary of St Patrick’s. Two centuries later, St Finian is thought to have created a monastic centre at Aghadoe and on Innisfallen Island below, which were linked by a causeway.
The Annals of Innisfallen, which is a history of Ireland written between 900 and 1300 AD, refers to Aghadoe from 938AD. A reference in the ‘Calendar of Oengus’ refers to ‘Achade deo’ as a place for expelling demons.
Aghadoe overlooks Lough Lein, which was called the ‘lake of learning’ because it was a major educational centre attracting pupils from all over Europe between 900 and 1000AD. Lough Lein and the surrounding area plays a pivotal role in Irish mythology; in one of its greatest stories, Oisín and Niamh ‘went west’ from Lough Lein over the mountains to Tír na N-og, ‘the land of eternal youth’.
By marrying home and hotel, architects and designers created a luxurious and glamorous property, while ensuring it remained an integral part of the rich, local heritage.
From 1999 to 2003 approximately Euro 8 million was spent extending and renovating the property to the highest international standards in a way that would suit the stunning natural surroundings.
The ethos that the genuine ‘Irish welcome’ is at the cornerstone of the country’s hospitality, and that this is what sets the hotel apart from its European counterparts. The long-standing staff members were a key part of this.
In 1998, Burke-Kennedy Doyle Architects were engaged to refurbish the hotel. Their brief was to open up the public areas of the hotel and elevate the image of the hotel to that of a modern, high class, five-star facility, whilst providing airy interiors with a ‘colonial’ feel.
As well as upgrading the public spaces, the refurbishment included a new floor of 24 executive suites. Adding balconies and large windows maximised the fantastic views of the lakes and MacGillycudday Reeks, while the new double height entrance and stone porte cochere provided a focus for arriving guests. In addition, the dining area was extended and the conference facilities doubled.
A second stage of works was begun in October 2003. It was completed a year later with the grand opening of the exciting new 10,000sq ft Resort Spa, the fantastic two-bedroom penthouse suite and 24 extra studio suites, each measuring 650 sq ft and kitted out luxuriously with the very latest in modern technology.
The spa and suites were built in a new extension using the same materials of cut limestone and white plaster as the original building, helping it to become a seamless addition to the hotel. This has helped to preserve the crisp, modern, dynamic image of the property and maintain the sensitive scale of the existing building.
The Spa was Ireland’s first Aveda Concept Resort Spa and with its innovative thermal suite, treatment rooms, heated loungers, calming relaxation area and eye-catching stream, enhanced the experience of hotel guests, whilst at the same time positioning the hotel to benefit from the rapid growth in ‘wellness travel’. July 2013, The Spa at Aghadoe Heights Hotel launched Irish product VOYA Organic Beauty from the Sea. VOYA comes from a 300 year old tradition based on the natural benefits derived from Irish seaweed. VOYA uses organic certified wild hand-harvested seaweed which is 100% Irish. The Spa at Aghadoe Heights Hotel now offers a full range of VOYA Organic Treatments from facials, exfoliations, wraps, massage and rituals, along with a relaxation area and extensive thermal suite.
The fabulous penthouse suite is the perfect celebrity hideout. Measuring an amazing 3,000 sq ft, it enjoys 360◦ breathtaking views. Inside, the suite consists of two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lounge, dining room, business centre, bar and kitchen. Outside is a terrace with outdoor hot tub, the perfect place to sip a glass of champagne while watching the sun set over the lakes and mountains.
The new, improved hotel reflects both the great cultural and contemporary history of Ireland and the owners’ calming modern vision. The homely feel is enhanced by an intimate lobby with friendly staff to greet you on arrival and the crackle of a real fire. The Heights Lounge offers spectacular views of the lakes, while the Terrace Bar is the perfect place to enjoy a fine whiskey, wine or cocktail. The Lake Room is an award-winning fine dining restaurant where our talented chefs use fresh local produce to create exceptional dishes with an eclectic European flavour.
Each of the 74 suites and rooms offers a breathtaking view – either of the hotel gardens, the rolling Kerry countryside or the magical lakes and mountains. Ideal for business or pleasure, each room provides the latest in modern technology, as well as every creature comfort – including oversized bathrooms with separate bath and shower, a special feature at Aghadoe.
Aside from the spa, other health facilities are also on offer at the hotel. The centrepiece of the Health Club is the indoor heated pool with waterfall and adjacent Jacuzzi.
For those who want to mix business with pleasure, the hotel offers two meeting rooms and a business centre. Throw into the mix the delicious cuisine, excellent service and pampering opportunities and Aghadoe becomes the perfect choice for any occasion.