Friday 9 December 2016

Doonbeg: How Trumped up is the five-star Co. Clare resort?

Presidential suites

Graham Clifford

Published 03/04/2016 | 02:30

Doonbeg Lodge, with Donald Trump (inset). Composite Image (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Doonbeg Lodge, with Donald Trump (inset). Composite Image (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Graham Clifford in one of the hotel's luxury suites. Photo: Noel Gavin/Press 22.
Doonbeg Lodge

Graham Clifford checks in to check out Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, Co. Clare.

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A collection of lodges, suites, rooms and other properties, the original Doonbeg resort was built by American cousins Charles 'Buddy' Darby and Leonard Long, who were also behind the entire Kiawah portfolio - including Kiawah Island, which staged the 1991 Ryder Cup.

It was developed at an initial cost of around €28m and tens of millions were poured into the resort in the years to 2014, when Trump's name became the new one above the door.

The sale to the US Presidential hopeful didn't include a number of luxury suites that had been sold to investors during the boom and leased back to the hotel. These lavish suites were bought as investments, with the owners expecting to generate annual rental income and capital appreciation. Some 47 suites were sold at prices ranging between €1.2m and €1.8m.

It's in one of these suites at Trump Doonbeg that I get side-tracked by the book Mother Teresa 1910-1997. It's clearly not the kind of reading material I'd expect to find in an establishment owned by the Presbyterian who felt the rough side of Pope Francis's tongue in recent months over his views on immigration.

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not about building bridges, is not a true Christian," said the Pontiff. He didn't get into the whole area of rock barriers off West Clare.

Graham Clifford in one of the hotel's luxury suites. Photo: Noel Gavin/Press 22.
Graham Clifford in one of the hotel's luxury suites. Photo: Noel Gavin/Press 22.

My two-level suite looks out over Doughmore Bay and is tastefully decorated. The furnishings, the beams, the grand fireplace, the under-floor heating, the fully equipped kitchen - it's an oasis of calm and comfort.

I switch on one of the two 42-inch LCD flat-screen TVs and there is Trump again - he's impossible to dodge.

Though the Trump name is unashamedly branded across his business empire, his image is not plastered around the Doonbeg resort - save for the photograph of him appearing to fire someone on The Apprentice TV show which hangs opposite a picture of him with Tiger Woods.

Then there's the cover of the Forbes 400 Richest People in America magazine where he's pictured on the front cover. But in truth, the Trump link is, if anything, down-played.

Diners can choose from the Ocean View restaurant with its stunning vistas or the more casual Trump's Bar and Restaurant. I opted for the latter and the braised shank of West Clare Lamb with garlic, rosemary potatoes and roast root vegetables was simply outstanding. But then this is five star.

The full-body massage in the White Horses Spa at the resort was nothing less than you'd expect either. I could have opted for the Voya seaweed hot-stone massage but I've added that to the must-do list.

With the mind and body in near-sleep mode, my masseuse brought me some fresh fruit and an avocado, spinach and apple smoothie. The relaxation, the quietness... things you don't necessarily associate with the restless and brash Donald Trump brand.

When the golf course reopens in mid-May, after being re-designed by the renowned Dr Martin Hawtree, it's expected business will continue on its upward trajectory here.

Good news for Trump and for the local community who are hoping for a healthy economic spin-off whether he wins the White House or not.

Above the main entrance to the resort and at locations throughout I notice the Trump family crest with the motto "Numquam Concedere" - the Latin for "Never Give Up". Whether it's in his bid to get his feet under the table on Pennsylvania Avenue, or a rock defence system for Doonbeg, the one thing we can be sure of is Trump will fight to get his way. And he usually does.

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