I'm married to an Irish man so every now and then we go to Ireland to his home town, or village is the more apropiate word, Straffan. Straffan is in County Kildare, 25 kilometers from Dublin and has a population of 439 people (that was the number in 2006 so it might be more now, or maybe less?). So what do they have in Straffan? To be honest, not that much. Whenever we are there we end up in the local bar, Friels (the acctually have two local pubs, Friels and Straffan inn). Let just say that they are typical local places in Ireland. However, I would recommend tourist to go to those bars (then I mean local places), as you do get a good feeling of the country side and the local environmet, culture and very friendly Irish people. Good pub grub as well.
As I said, not that much to do in the actual village of Straffan, they have some lovely buildings.....
A very good, fancy restarant and hotel, Barberstown Castle, which was build in the 13th century and have been running as a hotel since 1971. It has been recommended by Fodor's Chise Distinction 2010, The Good Hotel Guide and Michelin Guide. Barberstown Castle was also awarded "Best Hotel Restaurant in Kildare 2011". I have been there for dinner myself and although it is a little bit expencive it is worth a visit, the food is great. Also remember that Barberstown Castle is privatley own and not a member of any chain so it has maintained its perfect victorian style for over eight centuries.
Almost right beside Barberstown Castle you can find Straffan Antiques. This great antique shop with three different furnuture shops and a lovely tea room will definetly have something for everyones taste, especially girls with an interest in furnutures and shabby chic accessories.
The Tea Room has become very popular amongst the locals and during the weekends they are almost full all the time. A great way of meeting the local people and cathing up/get to know one another over a cup of tea, coffe or maybe one of their great sandwiches. Try the salmon!
The one thing I would say Straffan and Co. Kildare is most famous for is The K Club, hotel and golf resort. or as it is also called The Kildare Hotel, Spa and Country Club. Don't know if this is true, but in my eyes it could easily be. In 2010/2011 it was awarded with the title of 'AA Ireland Hotel of the year' and this five star hotel, spa and country club is well worth a visit. The Original house was modelled on a French Château and it was build in 1832. In 1991 it opened as a luxury hotel, which have been one of Irelands best in service and standards ever since. The hotel has 69 guest bedrooms including 9 hotel suites, and in the whole resort you can find four different type of restaurants. The River Room restaurant, in the main hotel, Legends Bar and Restaurant in The Palmer Clubhouse, Kwam Suk Royal & Orient and The Riverside Cafe, two last ones located in the Smuffit Clubhouse.
The K club has two famous courses desigend by Arnold Palmer, The (Palmer) Smurfit Course and The Palmer Ryder Cup Course. The Smurfit course has dramatic landscape and several very good spots for spectators to view all the golfers at a good range. With this type of landscape it is a true championship course with many different "twists and turns". The Palmer Ryder Cup course, located just accross the River Liffy (wihich goes through a large part of the K Club) and is one of Europe's most spectacular courses. This course is very different from the Smurfit Course and it is regularly ranked the top 3 parkland golf courses in Ireland. It is no secret that Ireland has a lot of good golf courses.
Golf is not the only activity you can do in the K Club, they also have things like fishing, Falconry, Clay Pigeon shooting, horse riding and of course you can go for a lovely walk along the beautiful gardens of the huge resort. And do not forget the five star spa! Here you can get many different treatments in the peace and quiet of the Irish countryside.
The biggest thing in Straffan history (well that is just what I think), happened here in 2006. The K Club was the host for the annual Ryder Cup. For all the Golfers around the area this was a great deal, and I think that everybody who lived in Kildare was in Straffan at the same time, never been that busy I can imagine;) Well, it was a really good way of putting the place on the map and a great way for foreigners/tourists to explore some of the more rural Ireland. However, happenings like this is not the only thing that is going on in County Kildare. It might not be as big as Ryder Cup but there are stuff happening. Since all the small towns are really small you will have to travel around to different ones to get some of the action. Something that we have been doing a few times is to go to Punchestown and the horse race that takes place every year around the end of April. The racecourse is in Naas (just a little bit outside of the toen center) and they have several events there, however, this is the one we have been to. And we always go on the friday when it is "fancy" dress day. It is a true experience and you start the day with good breakfast and champagne.
After that you just head to the lokal pub for a drink and meet up with other people, and you get out to the race course together. In our case we headed to Friels (Geraldine Inn), the lokal pub in Straffan (one of the two they have). A little bit windy that day, but no rain and it is Ireland so don't have to high expectations for good weather. There is a reason why the grass is so green all year around;)
I think I should mention that in this post I will use pictures from two occations when I/we went to Punchestown. One time when it was sunny and one time when it was not so sunny. Must admit that everything is a litte bit nicer when the sun is out and you can sit by your table, have som wine and pick you horses and just enjoy the warm weather.
If the weather isn't that nice there is a lot of places at the races where you can be inside. It does get a bit packed though, especially between the races. If you do not fancy being outside you can watch the races on the big screen and the tv monitors in the bar. Or buy a VIP ticket and get the whole package. No matter what kind of weather it is, it's great fun to be there.
After the races we always go into Naas for dinner and drinks. But be aware, every place in town will be full of people so you better be there early and be prepared to wait a little bit if you want a table for dinner. Think we have been very lucky because we never had to wait that long for any table, dinner nor at the pub. We have been very early at the places though so that is probably why. If you want dinner at a certaint place, book in advance:) One more thing, pre book a taxi to take you into Naas or where ever you are going, otherwise the wait will be forever.
In the pictures above it was only us four girls who went for dinner, the guys went straight to the pub. We did one smart thing before we went to the restaurant, went to the pub, paid our way in, got a stamp so we could go right back inside when we were finished with dinner.
The rest of the evening you just spent in the pub as many of them are late bars and open untill late:)
There are more (important) things to do in Kildare though, shopping. There are several shopping places around the area however there is one place you should go to to get some really great bargains. Kildare outlet! Here you can find everything from sports wear to designer clothes, fine bedsheets and quality pillos and duvets, handbags, wallets, suitcases, you name it. It is not as big as the outlets in America but it still have loads of stuff. The whole places is outside so make sure you go on a sunny day (very easy in Ireland) and not a rainy one like we did:(
As you see we ended up buying a few thins (this was the second run to the car with our stuff).
There is one more place I have to mention, although it is not in Kildare, but between Kildare and Dublin City Centre. Dundrum shopping center. This is a great place, everything from designer stuff to cheep stuff in Penny's (in UK called Primark). Another great thing for us Norwegians, is that they have shops that we do not have in Norway, Bershka, Pennys (as I mentioned already), House of Fraser (loads of make up and perfume amogst other designer stuff), Marks & Spencer, Pull and Bear, River Island and loads more.
So for now this is what I have on County Kildare. I am sure there will be more things to write about in the future as I'm there every now and then. If you ever decide to go to Ireland, go out of the "big" cities and explore the more rural Ireland, it is a beautiful country!