A vacation at any of a number of golf/angling resorts in Ireland can enable the sporting couple to enjoy two favorite daytime activities together – or apart.
Some visitors to Ireland are surprised that the meadows really are as green as those pictured in the Birnbaum Guide. Others are surprised that the stout really is fresher than in Boston, New York, or Chicago. As a flyfisher, I was most surprised by the fact that this may be the only place in the civilized world where you can angle for trout without having to buy a fishing license.
“There was a great uproar,” explained my gillie (guide) Liam Burke, “when our own government tried to make us pay to fish for the trout that the English wouldn’t let us fish for centuries.”
Liam is the 57-year-old father of many a grown child and the embodiment of a lifetime of Irish angling acumen. He works for the Kildare Club, itself the embodiment of luxury, which attracts thousands of well-heeled golfers and should attract thousands of ambitious flyfishers to water hazards that routinely yield five-pound rainbow trout.
The “K” Club’s estate manager, Sean McManaman, has personally manicured a stretch of the upper River Liffey that meanders along the golf course, adding tons of chalk to its beds to facilitate breeding by native brown trout, and a handful of boulders to create pools and eddies. Here the trout wait in great anticipation of the sedge that you will float above them in even greater anticipation.
A vacation at the “K” Club or any of a number of golf/angling resorts in Ireland can enable the sporting couple to practice two of their favorite daytime activities together or — not that this is any way to sustain a relationship — apart. Of course, one needn’t be half of a couple in order to enjoy two of Ireland’s favorite sports.
Located an hour’s drive outside Dublin, the “K” Club is nicely mirrored by the Adare Club in Adare to the southwest. Here, an accomplished roll-caster could literally fish from her room overlooking the River Maigue. This inviting vein of cool, clear water is being newly cared for by a government that would like to see Adare become as famous for its fishing as it is for its golf. My friend Brian McCallen, senior editor of Golf Magazine, told me, “Adare Manor has the best inland golf course in all of Ireland and the UK.” No shabby endorsement, that.
Outside the heritage village in the mountains of Counties Cork and Kerry, Sheen Falls Lodge boasts 15 — count them, 15 — miles of exclusive angling rights to the River Sheen. The river is renowned for its salmon and trout fishing, its finny prey being much sought after since before this resort was a hunt and fish lodge for 17th century sports.
Though not priced at press time, angling packages last fall started at $350 per person, based on double occupancy. They include at least two nights accommodations, daily breakfasts, and a dinner at the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant, La Cascade, named after the falls.
Hook a salmon, have the chef grill it to a turn, and turn yourself in to your elegant room in this Relais & Chateaux Irish cozy before arising the next morning to link your angling package with a golf holiday. Management of this country manor estate has conspired with a few nearby clubs to create a four-night golf escape that could be combined with an angling bit for a week-long holiday of self-indulgence in the two most challenging participation sports.
Included are guaranteed tee times for rounds at the Killeen Course and Mahony’s Point at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, Dooks Golf Course, and the Waterville Golf Links Course — plus daily traditional Irish breakfasts, two dinners at La Cascade, and four lie-downs in some of the most luxurious accommodations in all of Ireland. The golf package last year was $908 per person. Sporting folk also enjoy clay pigeon shooting, hill walking, and horseback riding.
In the northwest, couples who would like to simply mix the occasional putt or cast with an in-depth visit to a favorite Irish city — Galway — can tuck themselves into goosedown luxury at the newly refurbished Glenlo Abbey, where a tidal fishery is being enhanced so that one may cast to the morning rise, then play a round on Glenlo’s challenging nine-holer.
When it’s raining or the fish aren’t on the rise, guests make best use of their time by browsing Galway, lunching at the Malt House and visiting Kenny’s, one of the world’s great book shops.
Up noah, the folks at cozy little Ardtara Country House in Upperlands pride themselves on a warmth that only begins with the fireplaces in the bedrooms. Nearby is the legendary River Bann, one of the world’s great salmon streams. The best day on this river took place back in 1635, when 62 tons of salmon were hauled out near Coleraine. Fortunately, modern conservation practices call for a somewhat more modest creel limit today.
When we fished there last September, Des Marshall of Belfast befriended us, shared a touch of Irish Mist and gave us the only salmon he’d caught that day. Then it was off to the pub.
Ardtara also is convenient to all the alluring golf courses along the North Antrim coast, including the legendary Royal Portrush, with its infamous 14th hole known as “Calamity Comer.” One of the top courses on earth, according to Golf Magazine. Empirically speaking, that means that all the greens are on top of the earth, while you’re at the bottom watching your little white ball rolling back to you.
Is it more frustrating to cast at a pool full of salmon to no avail or to putt to a tiny hole to no avail? Because this question can never be truthfully answered by anyone who participates in both flyfishing and golf, there is the Pub.
Finally, sporting couples can have it all in one place even as they move about by sailing on the convened river barge Bona Spes along the Upper Shannon River.
Here sports can stand on deck to cast to rising brown trout and step off the deck and onto some of Ireland’s finest links, while they leave the delectable cooking, impeccable cleaning, and faultless driving to the crew (who also man the pub). No fewer than seven golf courses are within a 15-minute ride of the barge’ s van, and two 18-hole facilities are right at the boat’s mooring.
Put down the flyrod, pick up the golf clubs, put down the golf clubs, pick up the flyrod. Is this heaven, or is it Ireland? Another one of those questions that can be best cogitated over in the pub.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the February / March 1999 issue of Irish America.
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