Nestled in the stunning Glen of the Downs and overlooked by the majestic Wicklow mountains, the Glenview Hotel guards the gateway to the ‘garden of Ireland’.
It’s hard to believe in this wilderness you are just 25 miles from Dublin centre – which is why it makes a perfect base for any touring holiday – particularly if you have the golf clubs in tow!
In coaching days, travellers entered this “valley of the two brows” at their peril as it was a favourite ambush area for highwaymen… but by the 1900s this former hunting lodge had become a hotel on the doorstep of one of Ireland’s most stunning landscapes....and curiously became a favourite for famous filmmakers and stars of the silver screen.
Almost since the beginning of cinema, Wicklow has captivated the cameras with its wild beauty and diverse landscapes ranging from golden coastlines to unspoilt mountain settings with forests and sparkling lakes which earned the region the name “Hollywood of Europe.”
And with two state-of-the-art film studios in County Wicklow, The Glenview Hotel became a second home for many movie makers at the end of a busy days shoot.
Past guests include Katherine Hepburn – who rarely ventured out of her room – to Peter O’Toole who according to staff tales went missing a lot of the time! Others to check in included James Mason, Kim Novak, Rod Steiger, Angela Lansbury, Robert Morley and even golden couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
And when filming was finally over, production companies would hold party nights taking over the whole of the hotel and celebrating ‘til dawn!
Personalities, sports stars and politicians have since beaten the same path to the Glenview’s door, ranging from Seve Ballesteros to Maeve Binchy, Bono to Bob Geldof. But the hotel’s red-letter day was in 1968 when the family of assassinated USA president John F Kennedy arrived for lunch – ahead of the official opening of a memorial park at nearby Dunganstown, the family’s ancestral home.
Today the four-star family-owned luxury hotel has 70 bedrooms - with a presidential suite - an award-winning restaurant and a five-star leisure club set in over 30 acres of woodland walks.
The only decision to be made on an annual pilgrimage by UK golf writers hosted by Irish Ferries and Tourism Ireland - is which of the country’s 400 courses to discover next – and there are some real gems in the Wicklow area!
Our first call was at Woodbrook GC bounded by unrivalled views of the Irish Sea and the blue haze of Dublin and Wicklow mountains.
The first love of founder Sir Stanley Cochrane in 1921 had originally been cricket – which is why the club’s pavilion-style clubhouse is an immediate talking point.
With its configuration of five par threes and five par fives following a redesign in the 1990s, Woodbrook’s flat course layout may be unusual but it is regarded as among the top championship venues in the country.
Simply stunning is the only way to describe Wicklow Golf Club perched on a rugged coastline which has inspired three films to be shot on and around the course - namely John Boorman’s Excalibur, Pierce Brosnan’s Taffin and Reign of Fire which starred Matthew McConaughey.
Wicklow GC has the winning combination of a testing golf course, spectacular sea views and a stylish clubhouse.
Course management is key – and an accuracy of shot is required. Players are advised score well on the front nine and eliminate the errors coming home. Praying for good weather and no wind is also advisable. A measure of the test is the 17th, the signature hole, played from a high tee into the neck of the valley with water hazards in front and trouble in the form of rough and shrubbery on three sides.
Our final destination was Royal Dublin GC, a magnificent links course on Bull Island in Dublin Bay, which is the spiritual home of Irish golf legend Christy O’Connor. Christy’s eagle-birdie-eagle finish to win the Carroll’s International at Royal Dublin in 1966 still ranks as one of the finest finish to any professional golf tournament.
He joined Royal Dublin in 1959 as club professional and his association with the club continues to this day. Trophies and memorabilia adorn every wall and there’s even his personal trophy room to admire.
Some of the greatest golfers in the world have since played in some of Ireland’s great tournaments at the famed links.
Three -time major winner Pádraig Harrington has been a frequent visitor, once hosting a memorable round with United States President Bill Clinton and U2 guitarist The Edge.
Take your own turn on the tee here and every swing of the club will be a a pleasure...and you will be swinging a lot! It is described as a “thinking man’s course” with the emphasis on accuracy over power and when the wind blows you will soon realise why. This is a true challenge, where memories are made and playing to your handicap is tremendously rewarding.
When the final putt does eventually drop it would be a shame to miss sampling some of Wicklow’s unique culture, heritage and beauty – that’s after the craic of the 19th hole and the Guinness!
Within half an hour’s drive of The Glenview Hotel lies the second most visited tourist destination in Ireland – Glendalough – a glacial valley with two large black lakes and a 6th century monastic site.
And don’t miss the seaside charm of Bray and Greystones while inland is Roundwood, said to be the highest village in Ireland.
Irish Ferries are experts in making the journey easy from the North West – just fill the car boot and head for Anglesey. The company offers up to 16 crossings, with a fleet of four ships including the twin-hulled catamaran Dublin Swift which takes just 1 hour 49 minutes to cross from Holyhead.