The Best of South West Ireland
From Cork to Shannon
Our blog review of the south west of Ireland, a golfers paradise on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Setting off from Edinburgh Airport on Sunday morning, we took the short 90 minute flight across the Irish Sea arriving in Cork with Aer Lingus. Cork has a small but modern airport terminal and is conveniently located for a fuss-free transfer into the city of Cork within 20 minutes. The ease of the connection proves that a golf trip combining Scotland and Ireland is easily achievable and worth consideration depending on the top courses on your hit list. Met by our wonderful driver Conor in the arrivals hall we made our way to the magnificent Hayfield Manor, our base for Sunday night. This grand, traditional Irish home offers the finest 5 Star accommodation within Cork. Located close to the historic main buildings of University College Cork, it is well worth a stroll around the campus grounds to sample some of the fine architecture. Although based within the city, Hayfield Manor with its pristine grounds has the feel of a country manor and presents a wonderful escape within a bustling Cork. Possibly its finest asset, Hayfield Manor is family owned and operated and the personal service and Irish charm afforded to guests is second to none.
|Hayfield Manor - Cork|
Easily reached and worth a visit while in the Cork area is:
- · Cobh (pronounced Cove): Cobh is a town situated on an island in Cork City’s harbour. The second deepest natural harbour in the world, it is known as the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912. The Titanic Experience at Cobh is a visitor attraction in the former White Star Line ticket office, while more displays are available in the Cobh Heritage Centre. The Heritage Centre is particularly apt for American visitors; if you claim Irish descent, then there is a good chance that your ancestors left Ireland through Cobh on the south coast of Ireland. Cobh was the departure point for 2.5 million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950.
- · The Midleton Distillery and the Jameson Whiskey Experience: a journey through the story and making of Irish whiskey. This distillery operated for 150 years, from 1825 until 1975, when the workers clocked off on a Friday in July, to start work in the new Midleton Distillery the following Monday. Thankfully, the old distillery has been beautifully preserved and it is now one of the most striking and interesting tourist attractions in Ireland.
Fully fuelled after enjoying a delightful breakfast overlooking the manicured gardens at Hayfield Manor, we headed south from Cork towards the coast and Old Head of Kinsale. A picturesque drive winding through typical Irish countryside, we passed through the pretty town of Kinsale, a foodie’s haven with a fantastic choice of eateries, before reaching the spectacular coastline. The Golf Links at Old Head is a striking and unique facility. Balanced on a jut of land stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean with dramatic cliff tops covered in lush Irish turf, this is a must play course and unlike any other golfing destination in the world.
|Old Head Golf Links - 18th Green & Lighthouse|
The pretty and arty coastal town of Kinsale is ideal for a couple of nights stay or just to explore for an hour or two after your golf before moving onwards. The wide range of high quality cafes and restaurants will leave you spoilt for choice. Moving on up to Killarney, we enjoyed a picturesque drive from County Cork into County Kerry with a sudden change of landscape, rolling green hills giving way to a more mountainous, rocky and dramatic landscape. Killarney is comfortably reached within 2 hours from Kinsale.
Killarney is often a base for our clients who play the likes of Waterville and Tralee. Set in incredibly beautiful countryside and bordering Loch Leane and the Killarney National Park, the town is a special place indeed and the hub of the South West. Brim full of history, heritage, activities, and world class hospitality, you are guaranteed a great taste of Ireland while in Killarney. We checked in at the Killarney Park Hotel, a luxury 5 Star establishment within walking distance of the town’s many eateries and bars. Again, most notable from our stay was the wonderful service and comfortable surroundings. After a visit to see the impressive Aghadoe Heights Hotel situated on the hill above the town of Killarney (stunning views of Loch Leane and Killarney National Park come as standard), we set off on the famous Ring of Kerry tourist route to reach Waterville Golf Links. Waterville Golf Links (1889) is a remote but majestic links course made famous in the modern era by the regular visits of Payne Stewart, Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara, who discovered the course to be perfect for Open Championship preparation. We chatted with legendary club secretary Noel Cronin, who was then kind enough to let us loose on the course with a couple of buggies in order to gain a feel for the brilliant layout. The clubhouse facilities are undergoing renovations which will ensure a fantastic visitor experience for years to come. We guarantee that it’s worth the effort to reach Waterville. Heading back to Killarney for the night, we passed through the town of Killorglin. If you're lucky enough to be in the area at the right time of year (August), be sure to visit the ‘Puck Fair’ and see the crowning of the King Puck for a true taste of Irish culture! Dating back to 1603, the event involves many goats and great festivities... http://puckfair.ie/
A fine breakfast in the beautiful Victorian dining room at the historic Malton Hotel in Killarney set us up for the long day ahead. First stop - Tralee. Tralee Golf Club is reached by passing through the town of the same name (the largest in County Kerry) and out towards the west coast. Anticipation builds as you take in the stunning views of the Dingle Mountains across Tralee bay and catch a glimpse of the castle ruin situated by the 3rd hole. A few miles of twisty road later and you arrive at the mouth of the bay where the club is located. Designed by Arnold Palmer and opened in 1992, Tralee Golf Club occupies a truly breath taking portion of the Wild Atlantic Way coastline. With a vast sandy beach stretching from the south end of the course some 5 miles north, you'll fail to tire of the outlook while playing this course. A course of two differing half’s, the front 9 plays on the lower and flatter portion of the property while the back 9 rolls through spectacular dune land. Unlimited fun awaits you on your visit to Tralee!
|Tralee Golf Club - 17th Hole|
Moving on up the west coast, we arrived at Ballybunion, a busy tourist town with the famous links course being the main attraction. The club, established in 1893, now boasts 2 fantastic courses (The Old & The Cashen) and a spacious, modern clubhouse. In contrast to many of the prestigious clubs in Scotland, Irish clubhouses are generally open to the public and therefore a more extensive hospitality service may be available, resulting in a great atmosphere with a mix of visitors and locals, golfers and non-golfers. Ballybunion’s clubhouse overlooks the great dunes and crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. The Old Course exudes a majestic feel with beautifully contoured fairways that tumble down through a blanket of grassy dunes. It's little surprise that these challenging holes have been consistently rated among the top courses in the world.
Our third course of the day was a visit to see the friendly folks at Lahinch Golf Club. After a quick 20 minute crossing of the Shannon River via a very useful ferry (cutting 2 hours of road time), we made our way up the coast and into the seaside town of Lahinch. With a similar setting and feel to Ballybunion, Lahinch is a bustling and charming town popular with surfers and golfers. Again, the course is set within great rolling dunes and on first impressions it's actually hard to see more than just a couple of holes. Considering that the 3 prominent influences on this layout have been old Tom Morris, Alastair McKenzie and latterly Martin Hawtree, excitement builds to see what lies over each dune and around every dogleg. The clubhouse offers a warm welcome with some excellent catering, locker room facilities and Pro Shop. Only a short drive from the course and just out of town stand the Cliffs of Moher, a must see attraction while in the area. We recommend you set aside an hour or so to take in the natural and wild drama of these sheer 700ft cliffs.
Our final destination on our whirlwind tour was Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg. A luxurious hotel and resort, our expectations were met with a warm welcome and marvellous facilities. After a recent 2 year redevelopment of the original Greg Norman course by Martin Hawtree, the layout now boasts views of the Atlantic Ocean from 16 of the 18 holes. This is a wild and spectacular setting for championship links. A walk up the 18th with waves crashing in and the imposing hotel beyond the green is sure to be a memorable one. For a sample of the local life, Doonbeg village sits just 5 minutes inland and provides a number of dinner and drinks options with live music never far away. Everything you would expect from a luxury Trump resort is delivered in style with the added benefit of true Irish charm and charisma throughout.
|Trump Doonbeg - 18th Green|
After a lovely breakfast overlooking the 18th green we headed for Shannon Airport via Dromoland Castle, a grand 5 star facility with an incredible history and boasting luxurious accommodation. With an impressive parkland golf course attached on the estate this is a great option at the start of your tour before heading to the coast to play the finest links courses. Shannon Airport is easily reachable within 1 hour from Doonbeg and Lahinch and it presents another well managed, small airport a very efficient transit.
Overall the south west of Ireland presents world class golf and world class hospitality in abundance. We have the knowledge and experience which will allow you to experience the best Ireland has to offer. See our three Top Tips below;
Top Tips for a South of Ireland Golf Tour:
- · Kerry Airport: Located only a short drive from Killarney, Kerry Airport is a small facility but is perfect for private jet access, bringing you straight to the heart of the south west and close to the finest links courses.
- · Take a Driver: The wonderful Conor drove us in a spacious Mercedes V Class during our 4 day visit to South West Ireland and the value of his service cannot go unspoken or be underestimated. A driver with luxury vehicle will allow you to sit back, relax and take in the scenery as you are transported swiftly and professionally from one stop to the next. Conor’s knowledge and anecdotes turned a potentially challenging and stressful aspect of our tour into a hugely insightful and memorable time.
- · Consider a Helicopter: With the stunning Wild Atlantic Way coastline and sometimes lengthy distances by road dependant on your itinerary, why not get a bird eye view and reduce your transfer times? A helicopter transfer always proves to be a great addition to any tour, and a flight from Old Head to Waterville or Ballybunion to Lahinch would live long in the memory.
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