Stiff Drinks and the Great Outdoors at the K Club
By Shelly Goldman
As I sipped an Irish Coffee at the Media Puzzle Lounge, the spacious cocktail room overlooking the well-manicured K Club greens just outside Dublin, I wished I knew how to golf.
It was here that a bartender named John Ryan prepared his heralded concoction on a spring day. I used the potent potable to warm up after a falconry pursuit in the vast K Club gardens.
Turns out you don’t have to be able to handle a club to appreciate the healing quality of Ireland’s most famous libation; any amount of time spent outdoors will do.
My three days in Ireland demonstrated that stiff drinks and the great outdoors are both integral parts of the ideal vacation here.
Irish Coffee tastes best with a proper appreciation for its history. According to legend, the famous drink was invented not in the eastern capital of Dublin but on Ireland’s west coast.
Origin of Irish Coffee
Charlie Blair, the husband of actress Maureen O’Hara, was a flying boat pilot. As the story goes, he was set to fly a group to New York out of Foynes Airport (the present-day Shannon Airport) in the winter of 1943 but was forced to turn back due to horrific weather.
After touching down, the group was freezing. They wanted something to warm up. Coffee alone wouldn’t cut it, and the cabin chef, Joe Sheridan, was accustomed to having his own coffee with a little kick in it.
He garnished each drink with a splash of whiskey and cream on top. History was made: Irish Coffee was born. Other countries soon followed suit with their own versions.
To this day, the club hosts an Irish Coffee Festival that attracts mixologists far and wide. Winners, like Ryan, are only allowed to win this honor once. To sip from a winning cup was a special treat.
Stiff Drinks Everywhere
Stiff drinks are everywhere in Ireland. You don’t need a posh countryside experience to find a good one, but who doesn’t love a posh countryside experience?
The K Club features 140 hotel rooms overlooking a river, gardens or a golf course. Only 17 miles from Dublin proper, it is a lavish self-contained paradise and the first 5 AA Red Star property in Ireland.
Dive into a guided adventure in falconry, an ancient discipline begun in 400 A.D. to assist man’s pursuit of food. Today it’s considered a sport.
Brian McCann of Newgrange Falconry introduced us to the majestic falcons, hawks, and owls who were proudly arranged on their stands in the K Club garden.
Everyone in my group was given suede gloves to cover our forearms. The birds, sent by a trainer, landed on our gloves and noshed on the food in our hands. As we became more comfortable, the birds were placed on our shoulders.
Some landed on us themselves. Finally, we took turns holding hands – mimicking a ritual performed at the end of Irish wedding ceremonies – and the birds flew between our arms.
For families and large groups visiting the K Club, check out the Straffan House, an estate resort featuring eight guest bedrooms in the main house, plus two additional guest rooms in adjoining buildings. There’s plenty to do here on a rainy day (another Irish specialty).
The lower level of the main house features a pool with a swim-up bar, spa, gym, game room, wine cellar and cinema-style movie room.
Art buffs will be pleasantly distracted by paintings, sculptures, Lladro figurines, and Waterford crystal. My dinner in the Straffan House was served to the accompaniment of a harpist.
Coming in and out of the property, you’ll notice a few single-family private residences within its gates; Irish celebrities Pippa O’Connor and Brian Ormond have a home here.
Dublin is a half-hour drive from the K Club, and a haven for people-watching as you wander the walkable streets. M.J. O’Neills on Saint Andrew Street serves up Irish Coffee among other libations in the morning.
Matt the Thresher
For lunch, try Matt the Thresher, a seafood bar and grill featuring lovely upscale décor with piano accompaniment. On a Saturday afternoon, an international rugby match between Ireland and England captivated the denizens.
Straffan Pub on Barberstown Road was packed with fans who toasted an Irish victory with Guinness and – you guessed it – more Irish Coffee.
Ireland’s east and west coasts are separated by 130 miles of green countryside, but you don’t have to venture far from Dublin to see it.
About 35 miles west of the city limits sits Abbeyfield Farm Country Pursuits (located on Celbridge Road, Richardstown, Irishtown Upper, Clane).
You can indulge in almost any outdoor activity on this 240-acre haven. In one visit, we went horseback riding, clay pigeon shooting, and even found time to hit the Air Rifle Range.
Abbeyfield also offers archery, cross country riding, and an equestrian school.
An illustrated book from the year 1581, The Image of Irelande, depicts an Irish soldier leading forth a troop of soldiers while playing the bagpipes.
The siren song of Ireland’s outdoors beckons to this day – not as noisily, with an adult beverage never far from hand.
Aer Lingus offers nonstop flights from JFK to Dublin Airport starting from $399 round-trip. aerlingus.com or 800-474-7424
Standard rooms at the K Club start at 206 Euros and overlook the river, golf course or gardens. The Straffan House, a luxurious 10-bedroom country home spread over 34,000 square feet, is perfect for large groups. Straffan, Co. Kildare. +353 1 601 7200. kclub.ie
Single rooms at the Glenroyal Hotel & Leisure Club start at 99 Euros. Glenroyal Centre, Straffan Rd, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. 353 1 629 0909. glenroyal.ie
Barnacles Hostel, located in Dublin’s entertainment district, offers dorms, private double rooms, and twin rooms with en suite bathrooms starting at 20 Euros. 19 Temple Lane South, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. 353 1 671 6277. barnacles.ie
What to Do
The Dublin Zoo features more than 400 different kinds of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Phoenix Park, Dublin 8. 353 1 4748 900. dublinzoo.ie
The K Club offers fishing, kayaking, tennis, wine cellar tours, art and history tours, a garden walk, quad biking, a fitness center, pool, and the K Spa. Straffan, Co. Kildare, Ireland. 353 1 6017 200. kclub.ie
The wine cellar at the K Club stores Ireland’s priciest bottles of wine, including a priceless 1947 Chenin Blanc. Straffan, Co. Kildare. 353 1 601 7200. kclub.ie
Casual dishes at upscale seafood grill Matt the Thresher include Bangers and Mash, and Scampi and Chips. 31/32 Pembroke Street Lower, Dublin 2. 353 1 676 2980. mattthethresher.ie
Las Tapas de Lola serves wine, sangria, and Spanish dishes for dinner from 5 p.m. until closing every weekday, and lunch starting at 12:30 p.m. on weekends. 12 Wexford Street, Dublin. 353 1 424 4100. lastapasdelola.com
Shelly Goldman is a freelance writer for Conway Confidential. She also writes for the New York Daily News and is a lifestyle television host, specializing in beauty products and home goods. She is a certified fitness instructor and serves as the Director of Health and Wellness at the Westport, Connecticut YMCA.K