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Ed Leahy finds luxury and history just down the road.

Standing on the 18th tee at Carton House. Monty tells me that the ideal position to land my drive is the right-hand side of the fairway, which sets up the perfect approach to the green.

Staring at me, however, just beyond the aforementioned right side lies the Rye Water Lake that runs the length of the finishing hole at the Co Kildare venue. Monty failed to mention that. So once again, for the 18th time, I ignore Monty's advice and just try to keep the ball in play, and above water.

The Monty I refer to is, of course, the former Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie, and while I am not actually playing a round with the unfortunately nicknamed Mrs Doutbfire, I am reading his tips from the Carton House shot-saver course guide.

The course at Carton House, designed by the Scotsman, was imaginatively named The Montgomerie, and in four weeks hence, the elite of the European Tour will be walking in my footsteps.

The Irish Open returns to Carton House this summer for the first time since 2006, with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell leading the home charge in a star-studded field.

Playing the Montgomerie was an absolute joy and the track was very close to being Championship ready, which makes it a privilege for a hacker like myself to get a chance to play so close to a European Tour event.

The course is renowned for its greenside bunkers that you could get lost in and table-top, plateau greens full of undulations. However, the track is also very playable for an amateur: the fairways are quite wide and the rough not too punishing.

And when you do make it down 18, the green looks out over the adjacent boathouse and beyond as the entire Carton House estate awaits, ready to be explored.

Carton House is steeped in history and synonymous with the FitzGerald Clan and the Earl of Kildare. The FitzGeralds actually ruled Ireland back in the late 1400s, while the grandson of the eighth Earl, Silken Thomas, was executed for leading a rebellion against the English in 1534.

Despite the failed rebellion, the FitzGeralds held on to the land in Kildare and Carton House was built in 1739 when Earl FitzGerald commissioned renowned architect Richard Castles, who was also responsible for Leinster House, Powerscourt House and Westport House.

In 1923 a local unit of the IRA went to Carton with the intention of burning it down. However, they were stopped when a member of the FitzGerald family brought a large painting of Lord Edward FitzGerald – leader of the 1798 rebellion – to the door and pointed out that they would be burning the house of a revered Irish patriot. Carton survived.

The panoramic view of Carton House really shows how spectacular the exterior sits, surrounded by over one-thousand acres of pretty parkland.

And the house is equally impressive up close and personal as the exceptional stonework boasts a variety of colours that appear to alter shade in the ever-changing light.

Inside, the great rooms can be explored, including the Mallaghan Room, the Drawing Room, the Chinese Boudoir and the Gold Salon. When wandering the historic corridors of this spectacular building or rambling about the scenic gardens and woodlands, the four-star Carton House certainly emanates a five-star attitude.

In the main house, 18 of the original suites have been entirely refurbished and individually fitted with four-poster beds, bespoke design furniture, glass fittings and lavish fabrics.

Observing the exterior, you would wonder where the 165 new bedrooms are located. The blending of classic and contemporary is one of the main triumphs of Carton's design as the modern extension is barely visible, neatly hidden behind the elongated structure.

The rooms at Carton are bright, spacious and all situated in the mature cedar tree estate. Each room is accessed by gently curving, low-lit corridors, punctuated by floor-to-ceiling photographic lightboxes.

While the estate boasts two championship golf courses, Carton is far from a golf-specific resort. The sprawling lands can be explored by following any of the walking trails, which take you out and around the grounds past historic landmarks like the Tyrconnell Tower, the Shell Cottage and down to the lakeside boathouse, which was apparently built for the visit of Queen Victoria.

Other activities available on site include cycling, fishing, tennis and xTreme adventures including zip-wires, obstacle courses and 4x4 training jeeps.

And after a day in the field, make time before dinner to enjoy the Carton Spa, located adjacent to the main building in reconverted stables.

Massage and other treatments are available, using AVEDA products, which incorporate the five elements found in nature: Infinity, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Afterwards, the relaxation room lets you return to the real world at your own pace with refreshing sorbets, herbal teas and fresh fruit in abundance.

Dinner reservations were quite late, but the light-filled Linden Tree restaurant, one of the top restaurants in Kildare, clung on to the early summer evening as my table looked out through the glass walls to the estate's soaring Linden Trees.

The menu matched the surroundings and the local Kildare produce was used to create a fine feast, as night fell, bringing a fantastic day to a fitting finale.

Ed Leahy

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