A Dublin saunter on a sunny spring afternoon is hard to beat, writes Ed Leahy.
Granted, the stroll from Dalkey village to the lofted summit of Killiney Hill Park is not the easiest of ambles with steep and continuous gradients to compete with, but what awaits above will certainly make the traipse worthwhile as the views from this south Dublin outpost are some of the best on offer in the capital city.
Beyond the calm blue waters of Dublin Bay sits the magnificent Howth Head as the coastal panoramic takes you back through Sutton, Raheny and Clontarf to the central sprawl before the southside stretch runs back towards you through Sandymount, Booterstown, Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire.
Many Dublin landmarks can be identified, from the O’Connell Street Spire to the red and white chimney towers of Poolbeg and beyond to the monuments of the Phoenix Park. On a really clear summer’s day, you will see the coast of Wales – or so they say.
Kiilliney Hill is a landmark in its own right having been featured in many films and television programmes including the Oscar-winning Once.
Halfway up the hill sits another famous southside location and a great place to base yourself if you fancy a few days exploring this semi-suburban coast of Dublin.
Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel’s origins date back to the mid 1700s with various owners including Colonel Loftus and Lord Clonmel, before the estate was enlarged and renamed Killiney Castle in the 1840s by Robert Warren.
In the twentieth century, Killiney Castle was used by the Black & Tans, the IRA and the Republicans in the civil war before being burnt by Free State troops. It was requisitioned by the Irish government during the 1939-45 period and used as billets for the army.
Killiney Castle was then taken over by the Fitzpatricks in the 1970s and converted into a first class hotel, renaming it Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel and it remains in the family to this day.
The castle boasts 113 luxurious bedrooms and suites and two award-winning restaurants, the Dungeon Bar, a fully equipped fitness centre and a twenty-metre indoor swimming pool, and after the day’s exertions, a visit to the hotel’s leisure facilities proved productive as I enjoyed a slow hour unwinding in the swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna.
Staying in the Howth Suite, the big bay window provided a carbon copy vista of Dublin Bay and beyond, and I’d imagine the castle-wall balcony would be fully utilized on a summer afternoon.
The traditional decor of the room was in accordance with the grandeur of the castle, while the suite was given a welcome personal touch with fine coffee making facilities, complimentary fruit and a classical music soundtrack playing from the in-room stereo.
Drinks were taken in the expansive and very welcoming Library Bar, which was bustling with both locals and tourists – not bad for a midweek night – before going subterranean to dine at The Grill at the Castle restaurant, situated in the original dungeon of the castle.
The hotel’s flagship restaurant PJ's was disappointingly closed and is currently only open on Saturday nights, however, The Grill’s menu didn't disappoint and featured a lot of the fine dishes available at PJ's. The three-course meal proved great value and the service was first class, really adding to the experience. Again, a decent midweek crowd provided a pleasant ambience and some excellent food was sampled from the salmon fish cakes and Dublin Bay prawns, followed by a fine sea bass in lemon butter. The hot chocolate fudge sundae couldn't be ignored as the adjacent Dungeon Bar was calling.
The hotel is located within walking distance of Killiney Beach, where you can enjoy the seaside, appreciate the Martello tower opposite on Dalkey Island and perhaps ponder a dip in the refreshing Irish Sea, while you might even get a glimpse of some Dolphins at play in the Bay.
For an alternative day out in the area, enjoy the ten-minute downhill stroll into the historic village of Dalkey. There are castles aplenty in this affluent south Dublin suburb with great access to coastal walks as well as the chance of spotting a Bono or two up on millionaires row, Vico Road.
The village is choc-o-bloc with excellent eateries with all tastes catered for. Benito’s is a stylish Italian on the main street, while Ouzos will offer classic steak and fish dishes as well as their potted crab and shrimp signature starter. Enjoy their homemade breads and scones while waiting on your order.
De Ville’s is a similar steak and fish restaurant, while Magpie gastro pub and Jaipur Indian restaurant offer alternatives. The Queen’s pub has an adjoining restaurant where you can indulge in a steak on the hot stone, and if you show up on a Tuesday night, the bottles of wine are half price.
Several other pubs including The Kings Inn will allow you to make for a great night out and the last bit of advice I might impart is to procure a taxi for the ride back to the hotel – Killiney Hill stays long in the memory.
For more information about Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, visit www.FitzpatrickCastle.com