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My stay in paradise

IT is said that compromise is the key to any successful relationship. If that's true, I'd urge the conflicted couples of Ireland to zone in on the Turkish resort of Belek when indulging in their annual "where should we go on holidays?" argument.

It's always the same, and I make no apologies for stereotypes. He wants to play golf, flex his muscles windsurfing or go boy-racing on a jet-ski, with the opportunity to work his way through a list of exotic beers each evening.

She wants pure luxury, spa treatments, an opulent hotel room, a snippet of local culture and sun, sea and sand on tap -- and one that also pours fine wines and colourful cocktails.

Oh and one wants a long-haul destination while the other freaks out at the thought of spending any longer than an hour on a plane.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the perfect solution in the form of Belek, a hidden jewel on the southern coast of Turkey with the warm Mediterranean lapping gently at the shores.

I've been, I've seen, I've come home (albeit very reluctantly) and am happy to report that the magical Dome Kempinski hotel is the perfect spot from which to launch the holiday of two lifetimes.

If you're a budding Tiger Woods or Michelle Wie with a quest to improve your handicap, the hotel is perched beside no less than two PGA-approved golf courses.

The whole experience starts very smoothly with Turkish Airlines, who fly from Dublin to Antalya via Istanbul. I confess, I'm normally of the cheap and cheerless variety when it comes to getting from A to B, but Kevin Costner persuaded me otherwise.


The suave actor is the face of the airline, which offers three-course meals as standard (and not the potted, re-heated stuff) and a sense of luxury that I thought was long-extinct in this no-frills era. Suffice to say, if it's good enough for Kevin, it's good enough for me.

From Antalya it's just a 20-minute journey to the stunning 157-room Kempinski on the outskirts of Belek.

When I arrived, a mint cocktail was pressed into my hand before I went to settle into my room.

Like any material girl worth her salt, I then made my way to the Sanitas spa, having been reliably informed that a traditional Turkish hamam cleansing experience was essential preparation for getting a tan. In I went to a genuine Ottoman marble chamber, emerging an hour later minus several layers of skin and feeling utterly clean.

The following morning, I was back for more, submitting myself for a pummelling in the form of a hot-stone massage. Afterwards, I floated out the door and straight onto the pool area, revitalised, rejuvenated and ready to swim a length.

Big mistake. This massive pool comprises three connecting lagoons with a swim-up bar conveniently in the middle.

I managed a paltry 20 metres before the need for liquid refreshment became too much.


The Dome Kempinski also benefits from a magnificent private beach, with luxury loungers and canopies instead of the usual plastic chair and umbrella scenario.

My options were limitless -- a half-hour on a jet-ski, a lazy trip on a peddle boat, a windsurfing lesson and a spot of body-boarding to name but a few. It might have been the beginning of winter but, with year-round temperatures averaging 22 degrees, stepping into the balmy waters of the Mediterranean was like indulging in a warm bath.

Alas, every episode of shameless lazing must come to an end, so after I'd fortified myself with a stomach-expanding buffet lunch, I headed for the hotel's golf courses.

My competitors were petrified. After all, I have previous form, having announced my early retirement at the tender age of 12 after winning the local Parent & Child competition, with a handicap of 54.

Michelle Wie, watch your back.

First to suffer a rash of divets from my inept swinging was the 72-par Pasha. The following day, the 71-par Sultan escaped my demonic drive when I bowed out in favour of another research trip to the spa.

Here's where it gets interesting. It's all very well to bring the missus and deposit her in a treatment room while you work on your handicap but, gentlemen, you have other options.


This sprawling complex also offers a range of two and three-bedroom villas with private pools, meaning it's the perfect bolthole for a lads' holiday.

And if you plan to make it a family affair, pack the kids off to the weekly golf lessons or introduce them to the three clay tennis courts.

You might also find yourself tempted by the deal of €840 per person which includes seven nights' bed and breakfast and two tee times on each course.

Culture vultures should head to the picturesque city of Antalya. Surrounded by mountains and boasting an historic marina, it's a microcosm of Turkish style, hospitality and history that will whet your appetite for more. From Belek, it's also just a short drive to the Roman amphitheatre at Aspendos, the waterfalls at Manavgat, or the Byzantine tower-gate at Perge.