| 1.6°C Dublin

Special K for all the family

AT THE height of the Celtic Tiger boom, five-star hotels were the last places where you'd find families. But Ireland's luxury hotels and houses have opened their doors and embraced the lucrative market – openly courting it with attractive deals.


And even with The Gathering flooding the country with tourists, opulent hotels like Straffan's K Club are offering family specials.

I took off for the weekend with my son for the handy drive down from Dublin at not much over half an hour.

And even with the city nearby,it's a different world - 550 acres of pristine countryside manicured to within an inch of its life.

That's without even mentioning the main house – parts of which date from 1832 and contain works of art, including paintings by Jack B Yeats.

Our Downton-style bedroom was typical – if typical is the appropriate word. Every room (60 regular; nine suites) has its own charms, its own unique style. The king-sized bed could have accommodated a family, but I lost the toss with himself and took the pullout bed.

The room has lovely antique touches, but they'll be lost on children, who will hog the remote of the big flatscreen TV and zip through the many satellite channels catering for kids.

And keep the bathroom door closed – the enormous bath (even big enough for me to have wriggle room) is a magnet for them to grab the bubble bath salts and dive in.

The resort is a golfer's paradise (good enough to host the prestigious Ryder Cup in 2006), it boasts not one, but two world-class courses in the Palmer Smurfit and Palmer Ryder Cup courses.

But fun on the green isn't just for mum and dad – kids can try their hand too for free at the golf clinic, and if the summer weather doesn't hold over the next few weeks, there's an indoor kids' club too.

But while the sun shines there's no excuse for hitting the great outdoors. Children can learn the basics of angling (the River Liffey runs right behind the hotel) with a fishing demonstration, or just chill out with a duck race.

If you fancy a quick trip back into the city, the family offer (see panel) offers family admission to Dublin Zoo, and the best way to finish off a hectic day is to take a free DVD rental from reception.

And the sign of a good approach to kids is when things go wrong.

One of my bugbears is early cut-off times for children in tourist bars, but while we were too late to get in, the waiter made it up with complimentary milk and cookies for himself and a coffee for myself.

Nice touch.

Most kids will spend their time by the pool, and the pool area here is one of the nicest in the country, and was proving popular with families on our visit.

It's a short hop, it's nothing short of a Downton Abbey on your doorstep.