My good friend time, presented a gift, in the form of a one hour drive from downtown Dublin, I’m threading Kilkea Castle’s enticing tree-lined canopy, a tunnel of leaves trunks and branches, an entry to a building of wood and stone construction in the 12th Century that culminates today with its magnificent staff. Lee Ann greets me at check in with a brief history of the site, construction began in 1180 when Sir Walter Riddlesford received the castle for distinguished military service in a local military campaign. A few centuries later Jay and Christie Cashman were married in Ireland, fell in love with castles. When this one came on the market, they purchased it and completed a $40 million 4 1/2 year refurbishment a few months ago. This included adding a brand new spa, where in addition to everything I expected to find in the luxury facilitys, there were six treatment rooms, and executive gym, a hydrotherapy room, and then there’s the state of the art thermal suite, beauty lounge and Elmis Biotech treatments.
On my walk to the pro shop I bump into someone who happens to be Kilkea’s development manager Reamonn, gives me some of the property’s highlights: In the castle itself, one has a choice of either the suite, or one of eleven rooms, dining in the 1180 restaurant, drinks in The Keep bar or relaxation in The Drawing Room lounge. A few yards beyond the castle the next category of Kilkea’s accommodation is one of l30 carriage house rooms, each appointed in the 5 star plus category, beyond these options is the choice of 99 Lodge bedrooms, classed as 4 Star deluxe.
After meandering between spa, luxury accommodation options and 18 hole championship course, I realize it’s time for tea where I get my first taste, pun intended, of Executive Head Chef David McKane’s stated philosophy to take diners on a “culinary journey” that blends the area’s classic rural Irish roots with modern presentations. I relax in a purple velvet chair, the respite accompanied by soft piano music and the Irish Independent newspaper. Choices choices, choices, will I put raspberry jam, honey or black currant on my scone? What about the ham with Dijon on white bread finger sandwiches? Perhaps house salmon on a brown soda bread or crab as a prelude to chocolate fudge cake, just before the big finish, creme brulee and/or blueberry and almond tart? Well, both time and a hearty appetite are my friends.
Because in a few hours it’s dinner at the castle’s restaurant, 1180, I hope Cathriona is still on the dinner waitress shift, because my reservation at an alcove table in a hunk of 5 foot thick castle wall calls for another evening with the tasting menu, while it changes almost nightly, tonight I’ve decided to indulge in tuna, wood pigeon, seabass, venison, spiced pineapple, and peanut parfait … or have I? Maybe I’ll choose a la carte seabass or Dexter Beef in truffle jus with pomme puree? Have I mentioned time is one of my very good friends?