Look no further; it’s time to Stay & Play

by | Jul 28, 2020 | 0 comments

Enniscrone

Kevin Markham

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Comedian Dara O’Briain recently tweeted his displeasure with people referring to staycations as holidays that people take in their own country. Apparently a ‘staycation’ is when you stay at your home and go and do things from there. It was an interesting series of tweets… but does it really matter? It’s just a word. 

The sentiment, however, is what’s important. With everything that’s going on in the world and the ongoing risk of Covid-19, it makes sense to stay at home and take a holiday in Ireland. The Irish economy needs it, hotels and B&Bs need it, and bars and restaurants need it. And let’s be honest… you need it too.  

So whether it’s a family break, a couple’s getaway, or a golf buddy trip, why not take advantage of some of the significant offers doing the rounds?  

Here’s another thought… consider all the places and sights that have made Ireland one of the top travel destinations in the world. Now consider that those destinations will be free of international tourists so no packed car parks, no endless queues, nobody blocking the view, nobody talking over the peaceful serenityThe Cliffs of Moher will feel like the wild and beautiful place it is and not like a pub crawl on a Saturday night. 

Now for a question: how many of those famous sites have you visited? You know they’re there but have you actually been to them? Close your eyes, point to a spot on the map and you’ll find something nearby. North or south, east or west. Some are indoors, some are outdoors. Such riches. And you’d be surprised just how often they’re close to a golf course!  

Let’s talk about the areas that really catch the eye and some of the things you can do while you’re there. Most of the packages below are for the higher profile golf courses, but please don’t think that doesn’t mean the less well known clubs haven’t put together some great deals. Or, if you’re as lucky as the 56,000 residents in Co. Kerry, you have a €100 staycation voucher to look forward to. 

Value 

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. The same is true of value. If I tell you that you can play The European Club for €100 this summer or Ballybunion for €130, there are those who will leap at the chance to play two courses that typically cost €250; there will also be those who continue to mutter ‘rip-off’, expecting these clubs to reduce the green fee to €50. 

A lot of hotels have been reducing their prices, too, but you have to shop around… because some operators have seen this re-opening of the economy as an opportunity to increase prices. I would always recommend going directly to the hotel and not using the likes of Booking.com or Trivago.ie. You can negotiate with a hotel after all. So go dig around, ask your friends if they’ve heard of anything, check out social media or just pick up the phone once you’ve an idea of where you’d like to go/play. As an example, SWING Golf has a July offer of two nights B&B in a four star Kinsale hotel, with a round each at Cork Golf Club and Old Head of Kinsale… starting at €350pps. 

And not all your golf has to be booked through a hotel: why not consider a ‘passport’ which usually includes three or four golf courses in a region. Then you can tie it in with a hotel offering excellent deals.    

Co. Kerry 

What a beautiful county. The coastline is dripping with bays, beaches and peninsulas. The Skelligs pierce the ocean like spears, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks rise above you for an eternity and the Ring of Kerry may actually be quiet for the first time in 30 years. Head up into Moll’s Gap, hidden away in the Reeks, visit Muckross House or Torc Waterfall, take a drive around the Dingle Peninsula and see Fungi (not forgetting Dingle Links for an enchanting 18) or tackle the daunting Conor Pass, one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland. The Ring of Kerry is almost too obvious but it does take you passed the eponymously named golf club outside Kenmare, as well as Dooks, Waterville, and Hog’s Head (which may be more willing than ever to offer access). Or head further north towards Tralee and Ballybunion 

The towns and villages are beautiful and there are places where you can get wonderfully lost… even if GPS makes that a bit unlikely these days. 

Eye-catching offers

Here are two hotels in Kerry with deals to appeal. Tralee’s Ballygarry House Hotel has a Tralee and Ballybunion Golf Club offer from €545pps. The package includes three nights B&B, one four course evening meal and a round each at Tralee, Ballybunion Old and Ballybunion Cashen.  This offer is available to GUI/ILGU Members only.  

The highly regarded Fairways & Fundays golf tour operator has a special staycation offer for groups of Irish and Northern Irish golfers. The offer is for three nights B&B and one four course evening meal at the four star Scotts Hotel in Killarney. There are three rounds of golf, one each at Tralee, Ballybunion Old and Waterville, and there are extras in the form of a welcome drink and a prize pack. Prices start at €645. (The current green fee rate for each of these three world class courses is €250.) 

Cork City & Waterford  

Ireland’s second city has a wealth of golf courses around it and a wealth of intrigue in the city itself. The English Market is a foodie’s heaven, Cork City Gaol is… educational, and then there’s the Franciscan Well Brewery with its large beer garden out back. The city is also renowned for its restaurants, including Paradiso, for vegetarians and vegansAnd don’t forget the timeless Ballymaloe House. 

Golf clubs around the city include the old and established Monkstown (big tree-lined corridors), Douglas (revered for its greens), Muskerry (a fine closing stretch) and the sweet municipal at Mahon. To the west lie Alister MacKenzie’s classic Cork Golf Club, the ever popular Fota Island Resort and the luxurious Castlemartyr. The latter pair also offer self-catering lodges which presents another range of options. If you want to stretch your budget and play a once-in-a-lifetime golf experience check out the Old Head, with July rates reduced to €130. 

Ireland’s oldest city, Waterford packs in over 1,100 years of history. There’s the Copper Coast, too, which includes a UNESCO Global Geopark and a driving route stretching for 166 km from Tramore to Dungarvan. All that coastline gives you much to explore, from rugged clifftops, beaches, alien-like rock formations and coves. If you prefer to explore golf courses, you have Tramore, Waterford Castle and Waterford golf clubs within easy reach, and Mount Juliet just 48 kilometres north 

Eye-catching offers

The five star Castlemartyr Golf Resort has a three night B&B package with two dinners (one in the exceptional Bell Tower restaurant) and three rounds of golf at CastlemartyrFota Island and Cork Golf Club. The package starts at €430pps. 

The nearby Fota Island has a B&B offer with a round of golf, starting at €329 (per room), but they have numerous other offers to which golf can be added. 

In Waterford, try the pretty Faithlegg Hotel just south of the city. There is a three night B&B package with one dinner for €480 (per room). Golf on the resort’s course can be added. They also have self-catering lodges.  

Dublin Hinterland 

From the west to the north, outside Dublin, lies some of our most powerful history. The Hill of Tara has a mystical quality that is matched by Brú na Bóinne, just west of Drogheda. Two sites that take us back in time. So, too, at Trim Castle, where its enchanting setting was chosen as a backdrop for Braveheart. The Royal Curragh Golf Club also appeared in the film, although you’d be hard pressed to spot a flag as the Scottish forces bare their behinds at the English army.  

Tayto Park may prove the perfect foil for golf as you can tire the family out before slipping away for a quick 18 at one of several nearby courses. 

Nearer to the famous K Club there’s the Irish National Stud in Tully, where you’ll also find the Japanese Gardens. And then there’s Kildare Village if some retail therapy is required.  

The choice of golf courses is vast, ranging from the K Club and Carton House, to Moyvalley and the little known Rathcore. There’s also the mighty Killeen Castle, HeadfortKnightsbrook and Royal Tara and the coastline courses of Seapoint, Co. Louth and Laytown & Bettystown. 

Eye-catching offers

The K Club is now under new ownership and the two golf courses have been renamed –  Palmer North, and Palmer South at Straffan Golf Club (the former Smurfit course) – but that is all that’s changed as the five star hotel still offers the same superb quality. They have several offers but the B&B one caught my eye: one night’s accommodation in the hotel, full Irish breakfast and golf on one of their courses. Prices start from €170pps.  

Further north, The Headfort Arms in Kells, has an offer of two nights’ bed & breakfast, one dinner in the award winning restaurant, and two rounds of golf at the nearby 36-hole Headfort Golf Club. Prices start at €199pps.  

Knightsbrook Hotel & Golf Resort have good ties with local golf clubs. You can enjoy two rounds of golf (one at Knightsbrook and one at Killeen Castle)with one night’s B&B from €288 (per room). Why not extend the stay to take in Rathcore and Royal Tara. The hotel has a spa and leisure centre, too.  

Moyvalley Golf Club and its neighbouring hotel are offering one night’s B&B with dinner for two and a round of golf for two. The price per room starts at €189. 

Head further west, to the enchanting Lough Ree outside Athlone (home to Ireland’s oldest pub), and you can enjoy a two night stay and play deal (there’s also one with tuition) at Glasson Lakehouse. It includes breakfast each morning, one dinner and green fees each day. Prices start at €199pps.
  

South West Luxury 

For those who really want to splash out, the south west boasts two world famous five star hotels as well as all the beauty of the Shannon, and a long stretch of coastline along the Wild Atlantic Way. This takes in many of the south west’s premium courses, stretching up to Doonbeg and Lahinch, but both Dromoland Castle and Adare are resort experiences all on their own… and have the awards to prove it. They also have golf courses to match. If you want the absolute best of service and quality, then head to Co. Limerick or Co. Clare.  

Eye-catching offers

Dromoland Castle’s offer starts at €715 for the room, and includes green fees and buggy hire for one round, a steak supper in the clubhouse, one night’s B&B accommodation and a complimentary daily scheduled experience on the estate. 

Two night’s B&B for two people in Adare’s Manor House, and one round of golf per person. Rates start at €1,750 per room.  

Co. Cavan 

It is said that Co. Cavan possesses 365 lakes – one for every day of the year. You can even visit one when you play Slieve Russell, and Farnham Estate has some sweet tracts of water scattered around its golf course, too. Cavan might not rank high as a tourist destination but a little digging reveals the Cavan Burren Park and the magical Marble Arch Caves, which is just over the county border in Fermanagh. It’s part of a UNESCO Global Geopark and visitors can walk or even kayak through the cave systemThe park also includes other sites, including the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail, which meanders through a large expanse of blanket bog. These are easily accessible from Slieve Russell, as is Florencecourt Housea large 18th century house and estate, also just across the Border. 

 Eye-catching offers

The Slieve Russell Resort has a particularly tasty offer. It has just launched its PGA National Ireland West Coast Links Tour package. This combines golf at Co. Sligo, Donegal and Strandhill golf clubs, as well as PGA National Slieve Russell. The breaks are available to golf groups of eight or more. Prices start at €268pps for two nights’ B&B accommodation at the four star Slieve Russell. This includes three rounds of golf (with more rounds and nights also available)There are plenty of other golf and non-golf packages available. 

A two night B&B package with one dinner at the impressive Farnham Estate starts at €408 (per room) and includes complimentary access to the resort’s Health Spa and pool.Golf can easily be added. The included dinner is in the popular Maxwell’s Grill, but the Cedar Rooms next door is utterly superb.  

Co. Antrim 

And since we have ventured north, let’s go further and visit one of Northern Ireland’s top resorts: Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort. From here you have a wealth of possibilities, from Belfast and the Titanic Centre to the Dark Hedges (right next to Gracehill Golf Club) and up to the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This luxury resort also has one of the most remarkable spas in Ireland – the Thermal Spa Village – which is complimentary to resort residents. You can spend all day just relaxing in the pools and jacuzzis scattered by the River Maine. Play the golf course (Galgorm Castle) and/or use it as a base to play golf further afield.  

Eye-catching offers

Plenty of offers to choose from at Galgorm but the resort’s two night B&B package with two rounds of golf starting at £239pps certainly grabs the attention.  

Dublin & Wicklow  

Dublin has so much to offer and not just the usual suspects that appear on every website’s top 10 list. Stay to the north of the city and areas like the Hill of Tara and Brú na Bóinne are within reach as well as the sites, galleries and restaurants in and around the city. There are rich pickings for golf, especially with the Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links right at the heart of it. South and south west of Dublin lies the ‘Garden of Ireland’ (aka Co. Wicklow). With over 25 courses around the county, never mind the proximity to Dublin, golf is on tap. And from Brittas Bay to the Wicklow Mountains there is plenty to see and do. So why not see it and do it from Tulfarris Hotel, just outside Blessington and close to Glendalough.  

Eye-catching offers

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links has a three night B&B offer with two rounds of golf for two people starting at €663 (per room) in July. And there are plenty of nearby courses you can challenge yourself on. Try the recently renovated The Island, for starters. 

Tulfarris Hotel has a two night B&B offer that comes with one dinner and two rounds of golf for a price starting at €184pps. There are several other options and the hotel has just opened its refurbished seven-bedroom Manor House (200 years old) for private hire.  

To be honest, all of these offers only scratch the surface and I haven’t even told you about the offers in my beloved counties of Sligo, Mayo and Donegal which already delivered value before Covid-19. There really hasn’t been a better time to go and explore Ireland and Ireland’s golf courses. Go. Enjoy. 

To note…

Every hotel will require its guests to follow Covid-19 protocols throughout their stay. Please follow these for your own protection and the protection of others. The use of masks is also becoming more common so don’t be surprised if you are asked to wear one in certain areas of the hotel’s premises. 

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