Special K: How does the K Club check out, 25 years since it opened?
Short breaks in Ireland
A €20 million makeover has made the K Club perfect for a five-star Friday escape, says our Travel Editor.
Set the mood
"Last January, the hotel ended here," says the K Club's affable concierge, Pat Duffy, leading us into the new Liffey Wing.
You wouldn't know it. A €20m refurb has seen the five-star balloon in size to 134 bedrooms, but the new wing is seamlessly stitched onto the previous one, which is seamlessly stitched onto the original, 19th-century Straffan House.
The French chateaux-style feel remains with this long strip of luxury, flanked by meticulously manicured golf courses on a 550-acre Kildare estate.
It's an auspicious start to the K Club's 25th anniversary - Michael Smurfit's flagship, which hosted the Ryder Cup at the peak of the Celtic Tiger in 2006, isn't just back. It's bigger and better than ever.
Deep baths, Gatsby-style chandeliers in the Media Puzzle bar (named after Dr Smurfit's Melbourne Cup-winning horse), kids' gift packs on check-in and a €1,200 glass of 1991 La Tâche from Burgundy on the room service menu leave you in little doubt as to the star-rating.
At times, it feels overblown (K Club logos on your rubber ducks, anyone?); at others, tastefully opulent. If you're spoiling yourselves, book a spa treatment and dinner at the River Room restaurant, whose dishes are celebrated in a handsome, 25th-anniversary cookbook (€39) this year.
Try the Castletownbere scallops with curried pineapple and fennel cannelloni, cauliflower purée and beetroot ice-cream for starters...
The K Club hosted a Celtic Tiger high with the 2006 Ryder Cup, and became something of a cautionary tale in the crash that followed. Through the ups and downs, its undulating, Arnold Palmer-designed golf courses have remained immaculate.
Prices for guests range from €90 to €145, but you can save further by booking as part of a package. The course hosts the 2016 Irish Open this May.
The K Club's art collection can't have been cheap, but similar to the wonders on display in Dublin's Merrion Hotel or Kelly's Resort in Rosslare, viewing won't cost you an extra cent. The vibrant gallery of early and middle-period Jack B Yeats paintings is a highlight, and afternoon tea (€33pp) is an opportunity for non-residents to soak up the atmosphere.
Elsewhere, golf, shooting and fly-fishing are available for a fee, but the 16m-pool, estate walks, bikes and kids' club (in season) are included with your stay.
The K Club isn't just on Dublin's doorstep. It's a short drive from Kildare Village (kildarevillage.com), the glorious Castletown House (castletown.ie) and the Irish National Stud (irishnationalstud.ie) with its foals, museum and gardens. Weekend sorted!
The leisure centre is a decent stroll from the hotel - part of which is outdoors, so think twice about the robe. The K Thai is a new addition, but the short bus transfer, bright lighting and variable-quality food didn't inspire us.
Get me there
The K Club (01 601-7200; kclub.ie) has a Gourmet Escape package bundling B&B in a superior room with a four-course meal in the River Room from €149pp (available until the end of March).
Going to press, it also had a neat, Five-Star Friday offer of B&B in a deluxe room with a four-course dinner and a bottle of house wine from €320 for two.
Its expansion is tasteful and assured and, in the quiet of January, we felt no loss to the warm and personable service.
NB: All prices subject to availability.