Mary Jo Weiss, owner of New Canaan TravelWorld in Connecticut, recently returned from a Waterstone educational trip to Dublin, Belfast and London, with some unique insights on hotels and attractions. Here is her report.
Following an early morning arrival in Dublin in the middle of an unexpected snow storm, the short transfer and early check-in at The K Club was well received and definitely a consideration for advisors booking clients in Dublin. The weather forced our planned fly-fishing demonstration to be replaced with a treatment in their amazing spa, but no one found that too much of a hardship. Rooms in The K Club’s new wing overlooking the River Liffey are large with incredible bathrooms.
There are so many experiences to be had at The K Club. We ”lived like a local” and went to lunch in the Straffan Inn, a pub in the local village owned by the resort, which I would readily recommend. Likewise, dinner at the more formal, but equally exceptional, Byerley Turk restaurant was the perfect way to end the day.
Straffan House on The K Club grounds is a hidden gem. A 10-bedroom private residence ideal for multigenerational families and small groups, it is tastefully decorated and complete with an indoor pool and theater for movie viewing. We did not have time to do everything at The K Club, but even if sometimes the weather does not cooperate, it really doesn’t matter at this lovely five-star resort!
Mary Jo Weiss (Author) and Adrian Mooney, Director of Sales & Marketing, The K Club, Kildare, Ireland
Our next stop was the wonderful Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin, right across from St. Stephen’s Green, a great location for shopping and restaurants — and where their amazing bartender serves the best Irish coffee!
Sightseeing in Dublin is plentiful and varied for all tastes, and an important site to visit is the Kilmainham Gaol, where we learned about the struggles of the Irish in the 1800s. Another delightful pub lunch was followed by a cultural immersion at Trinity College with the historic Book of Kells and the amazing Trinity Library ceiling, which is certainly worth a visit.
Powerscourt Estate, in the Wicklow Mountains, is known for its beautiful gardens. Just a 35-minute drive from Dublin, it is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. We did so before a wonderful evening dinner in Glovers Alley, the brand-new gourmet restaurant at the Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin, which is creating quite a bit of interest for Dubliners and visitors alike.
Enjoying Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, near Ballintoy, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland was a new destination for me, but I was very impressed, and think its popularity will continue to grow in significance. We stayed in the heart of Belfast at the five-star Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast. Recently renovated rooms were spacious and comfortable with great views of the city. Both the hotel and general manager were recently voted the best in North Ireland by the region’s hotel association, and — having now experienced the hotel — I can see why.
There is a wide choice of experiences in Northern Ireland, and our first stop took us to the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. After an adventurous crossing we celebrated our bravery with a delicious lunch at Bushmills Inn, where the stars and stripes were flying in honor of our visit. The Inn is the perfect respite while exploring the wild, yet scenic, northern coast, which includes the famous World Heritage site, Giant’s Causeway.
Bushmills Distillery at Bushmills Inn, Co Antrim, N.I. (welcomed by the national flag of U.S. visitors)
Another epic adventure was a surprise visit to the “Dark Hedges,” one of the many film locations for “Game of Thrones,” which is filmed in Belfast. Enthusiasts can visit film locations and the “10 Doors,” located throughout the province, where the TV series was filmed. Tip: No trip to Belfast is complete without a trip to the Titanic Museum. Situated at the shipyard where the famous ship was built, the interactive museum is ideal for all ages to experience the building, launch and harrowing aftermath of its sinking.
Our trip ended in London with another first for me — staying at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. It has a great location adjacent to Kensington Park with easy access to local shops and restaurants as well the city center itself (the West End is just 20 minutes by taxi). The hotel is perfect for families. Children receive a special backpack amenity on arrival, and they cater very well to children’s dining requirements. They provide scooters for the whole family to use in the park next door and make the in-room child experience enjoyable.
Waterstone fam group outside Kensington Palace, next door to Royal Garden Hotel, London, UK
Our proximity meant we could walk the few hundred yards to Kensington Palace next door (home of Prince Harry and new wife!), where the exhibit of Diana’s dresses is well worth a visit for Royal enthusiasts and commoners alike.