Ed Leahy is in the lap of luxury on his own doorstep.
I'd never seen the River Liffey sparkle like this. It was an unrecognisable alter ego of the bold stretch of stench that sits un-pretty between Heuston Station and the O2.
Crystal clear water flowed effortlessly through the endless green meadows, as fishermen cast their lines along the riverbank and from the bridge above on this laziest of sunny Sunday afternoons. Thirty minutes earlier, I was stuck in traffic on the banks of this same body of water.
To most of the capital's children - myself included - the River Liffey is imagined to rise somewhere at the back of Heuston Station, perhaps even as far away as Chapelizod, and it's main function - now that the Guinness boats are gone - is to separate the Northsiders from the Southsiders in this Fair City of ours.
But now it took on a whole new meaning as I wandered down to the Straffan riverbank from the magnificent K Club estate, which was restored and opened in 1991 as a luxurious hotel and country club.
The K Club estate rolls out in all directions to the tune of 550 acres of Co Kildare countryside, dissected by the River Liffey and bordered by two Arnold Palmer-designed championship golf courses.
And the best way to acquaint yourself with the grounds of the estate is to take the garden walk, which sets out from the terrace at the back of the hotel from where signposts guide you around the trail that even at the most leisurely pace will last no longer than an hour.
There is so much to ponder along the walk, with commanding views of the garden, the golf courses, the river and beyond to the plains of Kildare. Keen gardeners will pick out a wide range of flowers, plants and trees throughout. Fine examples of oak, lime and beech are evident around the demesne.
In the 19th century the Barton family laid out the garden on the banks of the Liffey, combining a formal garden and a collection of interesting trees with informal riverside plantings. The cultivation of a wide range of plants from many regions of the world has been continued by successive owners.
The walk continues to the white, cast-iron suspension bridge that dates back to 1849 and along the river banks to the walled garden, back around past the herb garden and arriving at the hotel terrace.
Back in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, the pretty gardens are packed with seasonal flowers and prove an ideal environment for a spot of afternoon tea or coffee. And you could easily spend the last strains of the afternoon looking out over what appears like a scene from the film 'Atonement' or one of those Mr Darcy-type scenarios.
My bedroom looked out over the garden and beyond to the finishing holes of the Ryder Cup golf course (more of that later) and while the room was a decent size, you certainly wouldn't get lost in it. The bathroom, on the other hand, was nearly as big as the room itself, with a monster bath dominating the marble floor, double sinks and a walk-in shower.
The evening was all about the eating and the River Room restaurant, which overlooks the landscaped gardens, served a fine traditional menu, which was good value at around €49 for a three-course meal. The garlic prawns to start were faultless, as was the fillet of beef for the main course and while the lemon and meringue tart arrived in a different guise and size to what I was expecting, it proved a worthy finale, even if a neighbouring chocolate fondant was trying to tell me I had made the wrong choice. I'll never know.
The wine list is as extensive as your taste and wallet will stretch. The time spent decanting the Rioja while it was being gently warmed with a candle proved that sometimes the service and attention to detail make all the difference. And this particular dining experience, in what was a very relaxed environment, was more than worthy of the resort's five-star billing.
Wellness at the K Club
Wellness is a big factor at the K Club, and the K Spa mirrors and matches the hotel with luxurious treatment rooms and top of the range facilities. The philosophy at the K Spa is 'give us your body and we will give you back your soul' and it incorporates seven luxurious treatment rooms, two private suites and an aromatic herb garden, offering facials, body treatments and massages for both men and women.
The Spa also boasts two private suites named after the significant trees within the resort: the majestic Oak tree that fronts the hotel building and stems back to 1798, and the Ash tree that was planted at the opening of The K Club.
The health and fitness centre includes a state of the art 16.5 metre resistance pool with hydrotherapy jets, Jacuzzi, experience showers, relaxation area overlooking the outdoor hot tub, and luxurious changing facilities with individual saunas and steam rooms.
Golfing the K Club
The K Club is probably best known for hosting the Ryder Cup in 2006 when the world's golfing greats arrived in these parts. So first up, the Arnold Palmer Ryder Cup course.
The opening tee brought back great memories of the European players teeing off, most notably Darren Clarke. And playing the track for the first time, the course guide proved a very handy aid with tips on each hole from Arnie himself.
Arnie's advice proved to be a running joke throughout the round - what would Arnie advise, as I'm stuck in a steep sand trap with nothing but water on the far side of the green?
The next day was a spin around the equally entertaining and perhaps aesthetically superior Palmer-designed Smurfit course, with links-style grass and a lot of water to negotiate. And the 18th hole is one of the best finishing holes that you are likely to find - the par five runs adjacent to the water with the approach to the island green again over water, while the residents of the K Club apartments watch on from their sun-drenched balconies.
Other Activities at the K Club
Fishing is another major attraction at the K Club with resident ghillies taking you out on the water for fishing lessons where you can take your catch back to the restaurant for dinner. The River Liffey has a natural stock of wild brown trout; three of the lakes on the golf courses are stocked with rainbow trout, brown trout and pike, while there are three lakes stocked with coarse fish consisting of carp, bream, tench, rudd, roach and perch.
Clay pigeon shooting is another option at the K Club, where a purpose-built shooting layout has been erected for the guests with expert tuition from the trappers available. Horse-riding is also available on the nearby Abbeyfield farm, set on over 200 acres and with plenty of options from quiet country lanes to full cross country courses.
For more information, visit: www.kclub.ie.
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