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Castle Fitz the bill

With lovely locals and top grub, it’s no surprise that Matt Damon loves Dalkey

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COASTAL LUXURY: The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

COASTAL LUXURY: The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

COASTAL LUXURY: The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

After Hollywood star Matt Damon spent three months locked down in Dalkey last year, he described it as being “like a fairy tale”. We had just three days in this beautiful part of south Dublin, but we couldn’t help but fall in love with the beauty of the place.

One of the city’s wealthiest districts, it has been home to writers and celebrities including George Bernard Shaw, Jane Emily Herbert, Maeve Binchy, Robert Fisk, Hugh Leonard, Bono, the Edge, Van Morrison and Enya.

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CELEBRITY HAUNT: Bono outside Finnegan’s pub in Dalkey after having lunch with Michelle Obama

CELEBRITY HAUNT: Bono outside Finnegan’s pub in Dalkey after having lunch with Michelle Obama

PA

CELEBRITY HAUNT: Bono outside Finnegan’s pub in Dalkey after having lunch with Michelle Obama

The suburb, nestled between the seaside town of Dun Laoghaire and the equally affluent village of Killiney, has a road known ‘millionaires’ row’ and is officially Ireland’s most expensive neighbourhood.

A stunning stretch of coastline taking in magnificent views of Dublin Bay to the north and the Wicklow Mountains to the south, it is often compared to the Italian Riviera and has earned itself a reputation as the Amalfi Coast of Ireland.

We were thrilled to visit such a beautiful part of the island on what was our first trip away after a year of tough lockdowns.

It wasn’t hard to see why Matt Damon was so happy to find himself locked down here for three months when Covid-19 hit while he was filming a movie last year.

An easy two-and-a-half hour motorway drive from Belfast, the area sits nine-and-a -half miles south of Dublin city.

Our home for two nights was the charming four-star Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, which is nestled on Killiney Hill, high above the Irish Sea, and has incredible views over Dublin Bay.

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BIG FAN: Matt Damon and Mary Caviston, the owner of Dalkey’s Corner Note Cafe

BIG FAN: Matt Damon and Mary Caviston, the owner of Dalkey’s Corner Note Cafe

BIG FAN: Matt Damon and Mary Caviston, the owner of Dalkey’s Corner Note Cafe

The family-run hotel is in its third generation and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It has earned a stellar reputation for the warmth of its hospitality and its exceptional service, which we were enormously excited about sampling.

It has more than 100 luxurious bedrooms and suites and we were delighted to be given a seaview room with a balcony, where we could sit out and enjoy the beautiful vista over Dublin Bay.

It also has two stylish restaurants and bars, a new outdoor dining area and a fully equipped fitness and leisure centre with swimming pool.

Surrounded by lush greenery and coming with a turreted frontage, it stands proud on Killiney Hill, while inside is a blend of old-world elegance and modern luxury.

We had booked the new Sea Swimmers Package — overnight accommodation, a three-course dinner in the Mapas Restaurant, a full Irish breakfast and use of Fitzpatrick swim robes and beach towels, along with a picnic.

The hotel was happy to add on an additional night as we wanted time to discover some of the treasures of this beautiful part of Ireland.

Arriving at lunchtime, we had a full afternoon ahead and began to explore with a walk to the nearby Killiney beach.

The road to the beach is a steep downward path that takes you past some of the walled and gated millionaire homes in this leafy coastal community.

Fifteen minutes later, we caught our first glimpse of a magnificent stretch of sandy beach set against the backdrop of the Wicklow Mountains.

It’s quite a hike from the main road down to the sands but well worth it. Returning to the hotel, the uphill climb was both challenging and invigorating.

After the sea air and walk, we were ready to sample the delights of the hotel’s Mapas Restaurant.

The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel prides itself on the quality of its locally sourced menus.

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A sample of the food served in its restaurants

A sample of the food served in its restaurants

A sample of the food served in its restaurants

The Mapas is a charming, atmospheric eatery and as part of our package we were provided with a set three-course menu.

While my teenage son opted to pass on the fabulous selection of starters, I tucked into a delicious and elegantly presented portion of grilled goat’s cheese with beetroot puree, honey-glazed figs, mixed leaves, candied pecans and balsamic glaze.

For the mains, my son was delighted with his perfectly cooked medium-rare chargrilled Irish Aberdeen Angus striploin, which came with watercress, a fondant potato, Roscoff onions and portobello mushrooms with pepper sauce.

My main was just as impressive. I went for Wicklow pork belly with black pudding bon bons, tenderstem broccoli and smoked Knockanore cheddar mash with apple puree. Tasting every bit as good as it looked, the combination of delicate flavours complemented each other perfectly.

Even though we were both feeling full and satisfied, I couldn’t resist dessert and went for the classic Eton mess with Wexford strawberries, meringue and crème chantilly. It was a beautifully presented bowl of delight, with a mountain of meringue topped with edible flowers, large strawberries and lashings of cream.

The service was also first-class, with very short waits between courses and pleasant, friendly and attentive waiters on hand to meet any request.

Feeling immensely satisfied after a great day out in the sea air and a delicious meal, we were happy to relax in our room, where we could sit out on the balcony and watch the comings and goings at the front of the hotel and enjoy the tranquil views.

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A suite at Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

A suite at Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

A suite at Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

After a great night’s sleep we enjoyed another feast at breakfast.

My son was happy to see his favourite homemade pancakes with Nutella on the menu, while I opted for toasted sourdough bread topped with smashed avocado, delicate pieces of chilli and onion and crumbed goats’ cheese, accompanied by a poached egg.

Fortified for a busy day ahead, we were happy to collect our picnic from the reception before setting out for a beauty spot just a five-minute walk from the hotel.

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Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

Armed with towels, a blanket and a gourmet takeaway afternoon tea, the sun was blazing in the sky outside as we made our way to Killiney Hill Park. Another steep but short and pleasant climb through parkland was rewarded with the most stunning clifftop views. Certainly a jewel in this part of Dublin, this cliff stands high above the Irish Sea, offering sweeping views across Dublin Bay and Dalkey Island to the left, with the Wicklow Mountains visible in the distance to the right.

At the very top of the cliff is The Obelisk, an unusual building known locally as The Witch’s Hat. With the sun glistening on the blue sea below, it was the perfect spot to spread out our blanket.

Still full from breakfast, we managed to enjoy a small portion of the generous picnic before deciding to save the rest for later.

For the afternoon and early evening we had booked a Dublin Bay Cruise from Dun Laoghaire East Pier, departing at 5pm, so we decided to drive there to see what it had to offer.

Another gem in this part of the world, Dun Laoghaire is a buzzing coastal town with a fabulous seafront where tourists and locals alike gather on the huge East Pier to enjoy the views.

The bars were well set up, with great beer gardens looking out over the sea, and the town centre was alive with people and offered a superb range of shops, from quirky and small independent to big chain stores such as Dunnes and Penneys.

After a little retail therapy, we made our way back to the East Pier for our cruise, where we enjoyed the nicest fish supper I have ever tasted, from the Salted Fish chip van, and a superb whippy cone from Eddie’s Ice Cream van.

The hour-long cruise took us towards Killiney beach, past the cliff where we had earlier stood beside the Witch’s Hat and along a coast laden with the most stunning millionaire mansions, all of them looking out over the sea.

On returning to our hotel after a day packed with sightseeing, it was lovely to relax and lap up the evening sun in the outdoor Terrace bar.

Before our departure back to Northern Ireland the next day, we took a five-minute drive into the centre of Dalkey for a look at the Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre.

You can book boat trips to the nearby Dalkey Island in the village, which could also act as the perfect base for a longer trip, with the centre of Dublin just a 20-minute Dart journey away.

Reluctantly, we had to head home after an all-too-brief visit, but the wonderful hospitality of the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel and the beauty of the area had us vowing to go back again soon.


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