Ed Leahy works on his golf (and body aches) down Wicklow way.

According to Julius Caesar, the Druids were the intellectual elite. They were recruited from the ranks of the nobility and would meet at a sacred place to share knowledge, experience and expertise.

And it is no surprise that these wise men chose to wander the spectacular scenery which becomes evident as you take the walking trail around the periphery of the Druids Glen resort.

The resort of Druids Glen is a very short hop south from Dublin city centre. Within a few minutes of your diversion from the hectic periphery roads of the capital city, you are isolated in the heart of the beautiful Garden of Ireland, County Wicklow.

Staying in a deluxe room, the spacious suite was both elegant and extremely comfortable, offering excellent views over the sprawling resort. With the Wicklow Mountains and the Irish Sea the ideal backdrop, the madness of the nearby city became a mere memory.

Lunch was enjoyed at the stunning Thirteenth Bar, where the views were more than a match for the quality grub on offer. The open fires and alpine-style interior of the lounge is framed by a giant glass wall, which opens out above the beautiful tree top canvas that rolls out across the resort.

While the walking trail takes you around the entire perimeter of the estate, there are two championship golf courses that allow you to explore the entire estate - a real bonus for golf-playing guests.

The Druids Heath course was first up and while often overlooked due to the world class adjacent Druids Glen track, I found it as enjoyable a golfing experience as many of the best around the country.

This four-hour stroll was certainly not "a great walk spoiled" as Mr Wilde might assume. The course took me on a ramble over the rolling hills of the estate with beautiful vistas throughout and an exceptional golfing challenge to boot, especially with the strong sea breeze coming off the coast.

The following morning it was time to get out and about in the Garden County as the resort is located in close proximity to many great attractions, from the dramatic coastal beaches to the east or inland, deep into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains.

Glendalough is one of Ireland's greatest attractions and only a short spin from the resort. The medieval monastic settlement dates back to the sixth century and has a beauty and serenity that can rarely be matched. Slow moving glaciers carved through the valley, leaving the great lake, bordered by towering Scots Pine and oak woodlands.

There are nine walking trails in the area, suitable for all levels and all colour-coded with regular signposting. They include the Poulanass trail, which takes you on a steep climb through the oak woodlands to the waterfall, before making its way down to St Kevin's Cell.

The Woodland walk is approximately four kilometres and is another of the easier trails, taking you through the woodlands around the adjacent Glendasan Valley.

Elsewhere around Wicklow, there are magnificent houses and gardens to explore such as Powerscourt, Russborough, Avondale and Mount Usher Gardens. A host of activities is also available, with angling, outdoor pursuits and equestrian easily accessible, as well as many scenic driving routes throughout the county.

Back at Druids Glen, a pre-massage dip in the 18-metre lapping pool and Jacuzzi was enjoyed ahead of my pre-dinner appointment at the resort's Spa.

An array of aches, including tired limbs from the cross-country traipse, tension in the neck and shoulders from bad posture at the computer and the obligatory sore back from the often-erratic golf swing, led me to choose the deep-tissue massage from the wide range of options in the Spa brochure.

No pain no gain appeared to be the order of the day as I encouraged the masseuse to do her worst. She was most obliging as I took a proper pounding for an hour or so, but the results were amazing.

A rejuvenated man emerged ahead of a finishing stint in the Relaxation Room, which was most welcoming after my ordeal. A further spell was enjoyed sipping on herbal teas and eating fresh fruit skewers.

The superb day finished with dinner at the Druids Brasserie where I was delighted to encounter a top class restaurant in a very relaxing atmosphere. Well-known chef Catherine Fulvio has partnered with Druids Glen to create signature dishes using the best of the local Wicklow produce.

The freshest breads, a Caesar salad served in a delicate and tasty cheese basket, followed by pan-fried halibut with truffle white bean ragout, parsley mash and lemon butter sauce and washed down with a fine Malbec rounded off the idyllic day at the Glen.

Woodstock House was built in 1770 by the Earl of Aldborough's clan and sits on the grounds at the resort.

It was an early morning visit and while the cultural and historical details were not overlooked, the old manor house is now the clubhouse at the Druids Glen course.

Woodstock House was previously used as a writing and recording base by many famous musicians, including Mike Oldfield recording Tubular Bells II, Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi.

The Irish Open was a regular visitor to the Druids Glen course, which is often referred to as the Augusta of Europe, and with that in mind I set off down the straight, yet narrow par four opening hole.

The following four hours takes you on a magical golfing journey around and through the enchanting woodlands of the Druids Glen resort. While there is no denying that it is a tough challenge with an abundance of water and tree-lined fairways to negotiate, the course is without doubt one of the best in the country.

The back nine takes you around to the back of the hotel. There the patrons of the Thirteenth will watch as you work your way around this most scenic part of the course, most notably the hotel bar's namesake, which will prove the toughest test for even the most talented of professionals.

Knowing that you can swap places for some après golf refreshments will more than make up for a below-par (not under par) round at this Irish Master.

For more information about Druids Glen Resort, visit: www.druidsglenresort.com.

Ed Leahy
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