Barry Egan visits Kildare: Touch of class with a capital K
Short breaks in Ireland
The Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne had been here just before us (and before that, another Prince, Albert of Monaco).
So we were in good company at the K Club, one of the plushest places in the land, an establishment where they really know how to do things.
We didn't check in; they just took us straight to our palatial suite. I felt just like Prince Albert - sans the male pattern baldness.
For the record: the aforementioned head of the House of Grimaldi and his family (Charlene, Princess of Monaco, their two children, some friends and their security team, plus the pilots for their private jet) actually stayed at the ultra-exclusive Straffan House, a private residence costing 20 grand a night in the lush grounds of the K Club, complete with its own swimming pool, private chef and team of staff.
Our little team was treated like royalty during our sojourn, too, as indeed is every guest here on a point of principle.
Within 15 minutes of entering our suite fit for a monarch, however, my two-year-old daughter had turned the rooms, however palatial, upside down in a mayhemic burst of toys and yoghurt. It looked like Peppa Pig had detonated a bomb in the suite.
It was chaos theory in Dr Smurfit's five-star bolt-hole of bling on 550 lavishly lush acres in Kildare. The only solace was that my wife and I and baby have stayed in the delightful K Club before so I imagined the poor staff here were used to my daughter running amok. To calm her down, we took her for a 60 minute dip in the hotel's swimming pool followed by a long walk around the K Club's manicured, even majestic gardens - an arcadian vision of beauty in harmony with Mother Nature.
And before you ask, I don't play golf. And yes, I know that they hosted the Ryder Cup on an Arnold Palmer-designed course here in 2006. And what a world famous golf course it is. But golf is not my thing, viewing it as I do as - to quote that Mark Twain bit of sacrilege - "a good walk spoiled".
But a good walk we had around the very French gardens, and across the bridge, before taking the baby back to the 'bombsite' for her nap. We treated ourselves to room service while the little devil mercifully slept like an angel.
In the afternoon, we took ourselves - or perhaps more accurately, the baby - to Base Entertainment Centre in Barrogstown, Celbridge.
Here we happily spent three hours watching our daughter have the time of her life, crawling up and down slides and various kiddie contraptions, laughing and smiling as she did so. It is a fabulous place to bring children. A great place to sit and have a cup of coffee and a bun (all right, it's not the K Club) and watch your little 'uns go safely about their kiddie business, on a cold rainy afternoon in February.
Worn out, we stopped in the lovely village of Straffan and enjoyed an equally lovely early tea at the Straffan Inn, before heading back for a well-deserved sleep (and in the most comfortable bed I'd ever slept in, too) in our rooms.
Bright and early the next morning, after feasting on a breakfast fit for a reigning monarch, we visited the Irish National Stud and Gardens in Tully. Our daughter was as taken with seeing all those beautiful creatures up close as perhaps Queen Elizabeth II was during her 2011 visit here. I have never seen a child's eyes light up so truly at the sight of the foals alongside the mares and the yearlings and the stallions.
It is a pity that this is the only stud farm in Ireland open to the public, as children, and adults, could all benefit for a morning spent among these equine wonders. We also had time to fit in another wonder - the Japanese Gardens, laid out, once upon a time, by Japanese craftsman Tassa Eida and his son Minoru, before going for our lunch at The Dew Drop Inn, a fantastic gastro-pub on the main street in Kill. We had fresh haddock and chips and steak on the hot rock. It was delicious.
The perfect end to a perfect afternoon was another swim at the K Club with the sun going down. My wife had a massage in the hotel's 20,000 sq ft K Spa while I took the baby for a walk in the grounds of this 19th century Georgian mansion estate.
When my wife returned all-zen from her treatment, we did a swap: she took the baby and I went for a pint in The Media Puzzle Lounge (named after Dr Smurfit's Melbourne Cup winning horse) and read the paper.
The following day, we took a serene stroll along the Royal Canal in Kildare. On the doorstep of Dublin, you won't find a better location to be more in tune with your inner self: four hours of something bordering on spirituality walking past old lock-keeper's cottages, stone bridges, an old canal-side church and endless, endless water. We visited the outlet bastion at Kildare Village where my wife and I did some tantric shopping. We spent an afternoon there but bought nothing.
All this tantric shopping had made us ravenous. So my wife and I (and baby) were delighted to have the poshest dinner we'd ever eaten in the Byerley Turk, the swish restaurant at the K Club.
A five-star gastronomic dining experience at a candlelit table in a grand room with brocade wall coverings, marble columns and high windows. There were waiters appearing out of nowhere every two seconds to check everything was OK. It was more than OK.
The food (sea bass, lamb, desserts to die for) and the wine was too surreal for words. Before checking out the next morning, I had a quick coffee with my new VBF Michael Davern (chief executive, general manager and all-round gentleman at the K Club). A Cashel man, he tells me his wife Aideen is from Straffan in Kildare, and that their three young girls, Ava, Emer and Clara, are all from Kildare but the eldest, Ava, who was born in Barbados, "believes she is Bajan!"
At this rate, my own daughter will soon start to think she is from Kildare.
The K Club Two Night Easter Break (from €290pps) includes two nights bed and breakfast in a Superior Room and a four-course evening meal on one evening in The River Room Restaurant.
Interconnecting bedrooms are available in Deluxe Room, Liffey Deluxe and Hotel Suite room categories (from €160 bed and breakfast per night) and cots and baby facilities are available for parents staying with small children.
Each family has complimentary access to the health club with its swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub.
For more details visit kclub.ie or call (01) 601-7200.
Read more:Special K: How does the K Club check out, 25 years since it opened? First Look: Inside the K Club's €20 million makeover
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