Review: The K Club, Co. Kildare

1st August 2011
Pól Ó Conghaile

K Club, Co. Kildare











The K Club is one of the highest-profile luxury playgrounds in Ireland, but it has taken a mauling from this recession.

What that means for the future, who knows. But right now, guests have the opportunity of dinner and B&B at the AA Hotel of the Year from just €145pp.


First impressions…

The K Club has been impressing visitors since the 1830s. Back then, the original Straffan House was built by the Barton family, and owners have included Kevin McClory (who produced the Bond movie Thunderball), property developer Patrick Gallagher and, of course, Michael Smurfit.

Easing through the grand entrance into the 550-acre estate, there’s a definite tingle as we motor up a tree-lined avenue, pass the rolling hills and hollows of its Ryder Cup golf course, and pull up outside the French Chateau-style hotel. The nine-to-five doesn’t make it past the gates.



The usual five-star suspects are present and correct, as they should be. The K Club stands apart, however, by virtue of its Arnold Palmer-designed golf courses and a fantastic leisure and spa complex. In the latter, changing areas are tiled with black slate, and a 16m pool is surrounded by experience showers and bathed in natural light. It’s a bit of a stroll from the hotel, but otherwise perfect.

The activities are also a cut above. Dropping our five-year-old into the kids club, we’re left gasping like the Toy Story 3 gang when they first arrive at Sunnydale. It’s a huge room, full of little tables and chairs, overflowing with art materials and stuffed with toys, tents and tunnels. Top marks.

Other nice touches for the kids include a small playground with rabbit hutches in the walled garden, and the activities list features fly fishing lessons and bikes you can cycle around the resort.


The rooms…

The K Club has 69 bedrooms, nine of which are suites – less than I was expecting. The modest size complements the golfing landscape outside, however, making things that little bit more personal. It also adds exclusivity. Rooms are superior or deluxe, and all have king-size beds on request, luxury toiletries and no end of K Club branded sheets, towels and stationary.


What to see…

If you can tear yourself away from the resort, there’s a dinky butterfly farm in Straffan, or you could do lunch in one of two fine gastro-pubs in Kildare, the Ballymore Inn or Fallon’s of Kilcullen. After the Queen’s recent visit, the Irish National Stud is top of many visitors’ lists too. Budget a couple of hours for it, and don’t miss the horse museum – it contains the skeleton of Arkle.


The restaurant…

The Byerley Turk is one of only three 3-AA Rosette restaurants in Ireland, and I’ve heard very good things about it. Having the kids, however, we decided to go casual at the Palmer Clubhouse.

It was disappointing. I ordered a Thai Chicken curry (€16.50) that came full of chewy chicken pieces with just three or four green beans to fill it out. My daughter’s burger (€10.50), ordered from the children’s menu, was dry and lifeless and served with no toppings whatsoever.

Despite informing staff that she was coeliac, my wife Lynnea was presented with a steak flanked by battered onion rings on the plate. When it emerged that the batter wasn’t gluten-free, the rings were removed, but the same steak was returned. Eventually, a fresh dish was prepared.

At breakfast, Lynnea was left out again. While the rest of us tucked into a princely spread, she was only offered an omelette and toasted gluten-free bread as cooked coeliac options. Sure, the staff took our comments on board, but a five-star hotel should be able to do better than that.


The bottom line…

A midweek special currently has one nights’ B&B together with dinner at the River Room restaurant from €145pp. A summer family offer has three nights’ B&B, one dinner and kids’ club places from €345 per adult, with up to two kids staying free in their parents’ room.


Anything to add…

Don’t miss the art at the K Club. As with Kelly’s in Rosslare, the hotel makes a real virtue of its collection, including a gob-smacking pod of Jack B. Yeats paintings, a replica Book of Kells, and John Wootton’s 18th century portrait of the legendary stallion, The Byerley Turk.


This review originally appeared in The Irish Examiner.