Dublin, with its rich history, stunning architecture, friendly locals, music-filled pubs and a booming restaurant scene, easily combines with a more relaxing retreat in the lush Irish countryside, offering a host of outdoor activities. Here’s our take.
City: The Westbury
The Westbury sits in a prime location between Trinity College and St Stephen’s Green, ideal for exploring Dublin. At its front doorstep lies Grafton Street, renowned for its color, street artists and luxury shopping, while Dublin’s “Creative Quarter,” a vibrant network of streets filled with lively bars, restaurants and quirky stores, runs behind the hotel. The city’s top theaters, parks, museums and art galleries are all within a short walking distance.
The hotel is elegant, with charming traditional décor, walls hung with works from Irish masters and plush seating areas with abundant fresh flowers. The Westbury is humming with a mix of families and couples enjoying the city. While the vibe is unpretentious, the hotel is considered one of the finest in Dublin and counts Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, as a regular, and hosts numerous politicians and celebrities not willing to be named.
Rooms and suites are spacious and luxurious with silk curtains and beds enveloped in crisp Irish linen. The best is the 1,500-square-foot Presidential Suite (No. 632), which comes with a separate bar, dining area and lounge. The master bedroom is sumptuous, and the black marble-clad bathroom has a steam room and sauna. Its décor includes original art — a Louis le Brocquy tapestry hangs in the living room. Top Tip: The Presidential Suite can be combined with four other guestrooms in a secure, private corridor. We also loved Room No. 525, a Luxury Four Poster Suite, which has city views and a bedroom and living room spread over 775 square feet of space. Slightly smaller, but still generous at 600 square feet, are the five Luxury King Suites, which also offer city views and separate living areas; we liked room No. 444.
The Westbury Hotel’s Luxury Four Poster Suites have sleek, low-slung sofas in the living area.
For enquiries, travel advisors should contact Katie Farrell ([email protected]), director of sales. Nice Touch: Kids are welcomed with a Westbury bear in their bed.
Dining in: From the Balfes all-day brasserie and the lobby Gallery to the Sidecar bar (just named the best five-star hotel bar by the Irish Times) and the fine-dining WILDE restaurant, you’ll find a buzzy atmosphere and friendly service in all of the hotel’s restaurants. We recommend high tea, a Dublin institution, in the Gallery, a glorious room off the lobby with large picture windows overlooking Balfes Street. Not to miss: The smooth-as-silk Irish Whiskey Cream tea, an Assam blend with cocoa & whiskey aromas. Kids, however, will love the Nutella hot chocolate. The newly revamped WILDE restaurant serves seasonal and regional meat and produce. The menu comprises local oysters, Irish steaks, seafood and sides. In the mornings, the full Irish breakfast (included in room rates) is truly grand.
Families take advantage of the hotel’s central location; the cobblestone streets surrounded by Georgian architecture are a pleasure to roam on foot. Best bets with kids according to VIP Guest Relations Manager Joseph Downing ([email protected]): Trinity College and the Book of Kells, to learn about the history of the university and see the famous library — the longest in the world — and the ornate Book of Kells. Packed with history, Dublin is a worthy city tour; choose between the kitchy Dublin’s Viking Splash Tours in an amphibious vehicle with a “Viking Guide,” or the Sandeman free walking tour, which departs daily at 11 a.m. from City Hall Square. We chose the latter as we preferred being on foot. Our excellent guide, Patrick, took us around the Dublin Castle, a secret garden, Christ Church, Temple Bar before finishing at Trinity College.
Several museums that Joseph suggested are entertaining for kids. These included The Little Museum of Dublin, which offers a brief history of the city and a cool exhibit on “local” band, U2; the National Archeological Museum, which has Viking relics and the “bog bodies” found in Ireland’s swamps; and the Natural History Museum, which is known by locals as the “Dead Zoo,” with an incredible variety of stuffed mammals on display.
The Westbury Hotel’s revamped fine-dining restaurant, WILDE, is known to serve seasonal Irish produce.
Looking after all the VIPs, Joseph is in the know on the local dining scene. He loves Fade Street Social from Michelin-star chef Dylan McGrath, L’Gueuleton and Le Bon Crubeen; he tipped us off to the three-story food emporium Fallon & Byrne, which is the Dublin equivalent of the famed Dean & DeLuca in New York City.
Countryside: The K Club
Though only 22 miles west of Dublin, The K Club, in Straffan, Kildare, feels worlds away. Set on 550 lush acres by the River Liffey, the charming resort — originally a French chateaux owned by the Barton wine family of Bordeaux for five generations — has 118 rooms and 16 suites plus the private 10-bedroom Straffan House, two Arnold Palmer-designed championship golf courses, which hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup, and a 20,000-square-foot spa. Perfect for families, the hotel has an abundance of outdoor pursuits (think horseback riding, fishing, falconry, archery and shooting plus cycling, tennis and golf) to make the K Club the quintessential Irish country retreat.
Like something out of a period film, approaching the K Club is majestic, with the regal white chateaux sitting at the end of a long drive surrounded by manicured lawns. The interiors are equally impressive — huge picture windows overlooking River Liffey and the golf courses; traditional décor in plaids, deep greens and blue; sparkling chandeliers and an expansive collection of art, including works by Ireland’s most renowned painters Louis le Brocquy and Jack B. Yeats, adorning the walls. With 16 suites, there are many choices for VIPs. We loved the recently renovated two-bedroom Presidential Suite (Room No. 60, which can connect to No. 61) that has a private terrace overlooking the River Liffey, a large King canopy bed, sitting area and dressing room. We also liked the new 800-square-foot Barton Suites (there are three: Room Nos. 107/9, 123/25 and 137/9), which can sleep two adults and three kids, with two bathrooms and a pull-out sofa.
For uber VIPs, there’s the 10-bedroom Straffan House, only available for exclusive hire, located on the K Club grounds in a secure, gated area. To give you an idea, this is where Justin Bieber stayed when he played in Dublin. Though it looks like a historic chateaux, the property was actually built in 2005, and has all the modern comforts — indoor pool, games room, gym, wine room and screening room — spread over 34,000 square feet. There are eight bedrooms in the main house and two further rooms for staff in adjacent quarters. The house comes with a private chef, concierge and house manager, and offers direct access onto the golf courses. To book Straffan House, suites or any VIP accommodation, contact Tara Green ([email protected]), the reservations manager.
Dublin allows adventurous travelers an opportunity to go kayaking on River Liffey.
As a former host of the Ryder Cup and Irish Open, K Club is well known for its golf, but there are many other wonderful pursuits available here. Kayaking on the River Liffey is gorgeous and tranquil. Our private instructor, Sean, took us out right from the hotel, the river literally flows through the grounds. Fishing is also done on property year-round, and falconry can be arranged. A short drive away is archery, air rifle and clay pigeon shooting, which turned out to be the highlight of our trip. Instructors Niamh and Sarah were fabulous, giving patient instruction and setting up fun competitions. The area is also famous for horseback riding. Guests of the K Club can use Abbey Field Farm where there is a choice of 40 horses and many routes over 200 acres. Top Tip: Stop off in the village for lunch at the Straffan House pub, also owned by the K Club. Head Concierge Patrick Duffy ([email protected]) sees to it that any sporting needs are well accommodated.
Covering 20,000 square feet, the K Club spa is extensive with seven treatment rooms, two couples rooms, indoor pool, two hot tubs, full gym, sauna and steam. Spa Manager Una O’Grady ([email protected]) has shaped the menu of treatments to include local products. She suggests the organic Seaweed Leaf Wrap, which is done using Voya (a certified Organic Irish skincare brand) with hand-harvested Irish Seaweed from the Atlantic Ocean. It is wrapped around the body followed by muslin to detoxify and soften the skin. For VIPs, Una organizes anything from a 24-hour on call massage therapist to bespoke treatments. The spa has just added a range of new classes in Shamanic Meditation, Mindfulness, Qi gong and yoga.
The Irish capital is known to have a rich history, which can be seen in the city’s museums that attract a lot of visitors.
As for eating and drinking, the K Club is a worthy destination. From the gastro delights of The Byerley Turk, the award-winning fine dining with a wine list and cellar that is considered the best in Ireland dating back to the property being owned by the Barton family of Bordeaux, to several casual restaurants on property, including a Thai restaurant, and two charming equestrian-themed bars off the lobby with magnificent garden views. Guests shouldn’t miss the wine cellar tour by Beverage Manager John Ryan, who doubles as curator of the many significant art works on property.