Make Dublin your first port of call

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After a superb stay at the Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, I finally discovered how to enjoy the best of both worlds in Dublin.

Sipping a beer while admiring the sandy beach and the panoramic view of the bay, I could have been in any port in continental Europe.

I had booked into the hotel in the coastal village of Portmarnock for a two night break to recharge the batteries and when I left it was mission accomplished.

Portmarnock Hotel is only half an hour from the city center where you can enjoy all it has to offer before returning to your hotel. On all previous visits to the Irish capital, I have stayed in the city itself and never been able to take in the beauty of its coastline. And boy, was I missing.

Nestled on what is known as The Velvet Strand, one of Ireland’s finest unbroken stretches of coastline, the historic Portmarnock resort was once the family home of the Jameson whiskey dynasty.

With an award-winning Links golf course, luxurious spa, and fantastic food and drink, the hotel has something for everyone, from the business traveler or a romantic couples vacation to a family vacation.

Arriving on a sunny Sunday afternoon with my son, we headed for afternoon tea in the Seaview Lounge. As its name suggests, the restaurant offers a view of the magnificent beach, an eight kilometer stretch of pristine sand. The beach is perfect for a morning jog or an evening stroll.

It was one of the tastiest teas I’ve had, with wonderful homemade warm scones that were simply delicious. Savory dishes on the afternoon tea tower include Jameson glazed smoked salmon with pink peppercorn cream cheese and citrus on a delicious soda bun, Irish ham on a poppy seed and a basket of Boilie goat cheeses (served in a crispy basil basket with tomato pesto).

We finished with a selection of sweets such as chocolate and passion fruit mousse, lemon tart and champagne macaron. A few fizzy candies in the macaroon helped the taste buds come alive.

After overdoing it, it was time to lie down in the hotel spa where we enjoyed much needed back massages from the wonderful Turkish therapist Sez. Suffering from a bit of pain in my back muscles from overdoing it during gym sessions, I opted for the 60-minute Elemis Deep Tissue firm massage which focused on relieving muscle tension. I find a spa treatment to be a great way to start a break, as I always literally feel like a new man afterwards, allowing you to fully relax and enjoy the hotel.

It also prepared us well for a golf lesson. Having a love/hate relationship with the game due to my inconsistent performance on the fairway, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn’t as rusty as I thought. Undoubtedly, much of this was due to Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links Golf Director Paul McCanny, who gave us invaluable advice during our lesson on the course, taking in everything from putts to bunker shots. Paul made me fall in love with the game all over again.

Designed by Bernhard Langer, Portmarnock Links is an exceptional course that offers just the right amount of challenge, great views and a relaxed atmosphere. Taking full advantage of the dunes and natural terrain, the course is ranked 13th in Golf Digest’s latest Best in Ireland ranking. It really suits all levels of golfer.

With the golf course, spa, bar and restaurants, and beach promenades, the hotel has so much to see and do that you don’t really need to stray far from the resort. We could have easily spent hours relaxing in our sea view room, watching the beach. The rooms themselves are spacious with large, lush beds with ultra-soft linens, fluffy pillows, and Villeroy & Boch smart bathrooms with power showers or a tub and shower combo.

But there’s so much on your doorstep it’s well worth a look, from the quaint neighboring fishing villages of Malahide and Howth to the delights of Dublin city centre. There is something to see and do for everyone. So we decided to hit the road again for the second day of our trip.

The next morning, after a hearty Irish breakfast, we hopped on a bus to Dublin city centre. The bus stop is a few minutes walk from the hotel entrance but you can also take a Dart train (about 20 minutes walk). In less than 40 minutes we were in the heart of the city next to St James’ Gate for a visit to Ireland’s number one tourist attraction, the Guinness Storehouse.

We took a tour, with our excellent guide Kat who was a source of knowledge on all things Guinness. A visit was so worthwhile as we learned so many facts and figures about the drink, starting with how the founder of the world famous stout – Arthur Guinness – signed a 9,000 year lease on the site in 1759. Surely he knew he was onto a good thing.

As you walk through the attraction, the aromas of roasted barley, hops and beer esters make you want to taste a pint of the black stuff the moment you have your first drink in the tasting rooms.

Take a walk down memory lane and realize how many great adverts Guinness has produced, before you get down to business and hone your pint pulling skills.

The view of the city from the Gravity Bar is amazing and worth a visit even if you’re not a big fan (the bar serves a range of other drinks made by Guinness).

But the coolest part of the tour has to be the STOUTie where you can get your selfie on a perfect pint. After you arrive, a photographer will take your picture, then it will be printed on the creamy head of the pint using malted barley extract. Your shot will stay mostly untouched until you get close to the bottom of your drink. It’s easy to see why this has become a social media sensation.

After working up an appetite for a bite to eat, we dined at a bar linked to another Irish drinks giant – the historic Jameson Bar in the Portmarnock Hotel.

Complete with oak paneling, sash windows and signature whiskey cocktails, the bar has a brilliant bar menu and should be a destination for foodies like me. Being a big fan of chicken wings, Jameson Bar gets top marks for their sticky, sweet, and crispy chicken wings. Coated in a very indulgent ginger and Jameson whiskey sauce, the flavors worked beautifully and the chicken literally fell off the bone. My son enjoyed a lovely seafood chowder filled with fish including smoked haddock, hake, salmon and cod.

For main course we both had a 10 oz salt aged Irish strip loin steak cooked to perfection. Served with a roasted vine tomato, a grilled flat-cap mushroom, an onion ring and house fries, it is accompanied by a superb cask black pepper cream. The dish was impeccable and the sauce also one of the best pepper sauces I have ever tasted.

The bar also offers whiskey tastings as a nod to its roots. King Edward VII often visited the Jamesons at their beach house and on his last official visit to Ireland in 1907 he unveiled a specially designed plaque to celebrate the marriage between members of two great distilling families, Jameson and Haig, in 1788. The Portmarnock Hotel’s motto, Lux-Pax-Amor (light, love and peace in Latin), is inspired by a plaque given by Prince Edward VII to the Jameson family.

And if you want to have a good royal holiday, go to the Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links. You will not be disappointed.

Travel file:

To book a stay or for more information on rooms and reservations, visit www.portmarnock.com or call 003531 8460611.

Try The Jameson Experience package — Taste, Dine, Explore.

Begin this unique experience with a guided tour of the original Jameson family home and grounds. Then, head to the cozy Jameson Bar to enjoy a superb three-course meal prepared by Executive Chef Tommy Butler while admiring artwork and historic items from the Jameson family.

Guests will end their evening with a tasting of three of the famous Jameson family whiskies. At the end of a day of exploring, retire to your comfortable rooms before a full Irish breakfast the next day. To book visit https://www.portmarnock.com/Jameson-Experience.html

From €331 per room and per night in a twin room with garden view.

For more information about the Guinness Storehouse, visit www.guinness-storehouse.com

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