Countess and Earl, Castlemartyr Resort’s resident dogs
Colin White samples what’s on offer at one of the jewels in Cork’s crown: the five-star Castlemartyr Resort Hotel.
Castlemartyr Resort Hotel in east Cork has been welcoming well-heeled visitors since it reopened in 2009. If it’s good enough for Springsteen, Clinton, Kardashian and West, surely it’s good enough us all?
Any hotel that allows, or more accurately, welcomes guests to walk Earl and Countess, its two resident Irish setters, sounds like the place for me.
Situated amongst woodlands and set on lands of historical significance, Castlemartyr Resort Hotel certainly feels every bit the luxury hotel. The exterior of the stately Manor House, that dominates the estate, has been restored to its former 17th century grandeur and due to its prime location, the hotel has so much going for it. It’s very accessible from places like Youghal, Midleton, Cobh and Cork city and its proximity to the sea is another obvious advantage.
Inside, the décor is modern and sophisticated; the hotel’s surroundings playing as important a role as the interior design, where the overall ambiance is stylish.
Each area of the hotel feels like a separate entity. Through clever use of light, textures and design styles, the building feels vast as corridors lead to enclaves or relaxation areas, perfect corners to retreat to for reading or simply to wile away the hours.
My ground floor room is spacious , designed with particular attention to detail. As I find with many high-end hotels, the bathroom is the showstopper, where a wonderful marriage of contemporary and vintage styles are on show.
A BYGONE ERA
Castlemartyr is an ideal place to explore. As recommended by one of the hotel’s friendly staff, I enjoy a peaceful stroll around the surrounding countryside, renowned for its bird life. My ramble is a short one, however; Lady Fitzgerald Afternoon Tea, as styled by Franc (aka Peter Kelly), is booked in The Bell Tower Restaurant at 2.30pm.
There’s certainly a sense of luxury with this feast, with savoury delights and sweet snacks aplenty. Overlooking the vast estate, sipping on a vast selection of tea, I was a very satisfied guest. The tradition of afternoon tea certainly harks back to a bygone era, one that has increasingly come into fashion over recent years, and it was no great surprise to witness how popular it has become at Castlemartyr, especially against such a breathtaking and traditional backdrop.
My afternoon indulgence had lulled me into a state of relaxation and contentment. Just as well the only strenuous activity for the rest of the day is pampering and relaxing at The Spa.
I didn’t know what to expect from my first spa treatment. The 30/30 back neck and shoulder massage, and a boutique facial are ideal treatments to get me reinvigorated.
Any minor skepticism I had quickly dissipated after a few minutes at the hands of a skilled, and friendly, professional. A feeling of complete relaxation took hold of my mind and body. I felt thoroughly calm and, given the option, would have happily rested there for far longer than the allocated time.
Some healthy snacks are provided and access to the Jacuzzi and aromatherapy sauna post-treatment is the ideal finale to my spa visit.
A pre-dinner drink sets the tone for what’s to come and as the drinks and conversation flow, we settle in for a dining extravaganza.
The food served over the next two hours is exceptional, covering a wide array of ingredients and cooking styles. The local area is famed for its quality ingredients and each dish that emerges from the kitchen is another culinary triumph, using locally sourced fresh produce wherever possible.
Delicious lamb and beef dishes were equalled by sumptuous seafood and exciting vegetarian options. Of course, there are also the obligatory sweet servings that never go untouched when offered at the end of a meal.
As dinner comes to an end, those still left standing are invited to join the hotel’s patrons in Knight’s Bar for a post dinner drink. A lively trad session in full swing, as Earl and Countess court as much attention as possible as they saunter through the crowd.
Although many hotel bars fall short when it comes to atmosphere and entertainment, the same can’t be said for Castlemartyr. Foreign visitors and locals alike converge as night becomes morning and the last of the punters finally hit the hay after an evening of well-mannered revelry.
This is a hotel that knows how to have fun
HOUSE OF FUN
After dragging myself out of bed the following morning for a fine Irish breakfast at the hotel’s excellent restaurant, I await my final activity during my stay. I’ve decided to try a ‘putting clinic’, and although I’m not much a golfer, I feel I should at least give the highly regarding 18-hole course a try.
Alas, the weather during the previous night wasn’t kind to the green’s sleek surface and its a short but sweet introduction to the course.
Given the many delights I sampled in only a few days, I’m happy to check out, bringing my short, but eventful stay at Castlemartyr Resort Hotel to an end.
I enjoyed every minute of my time at Castlemartyr. A big effort has been made to cater to the whole family here. Castlemartyr has achieved the perfect balance and its facilities cater to adults and kids in equal measure, without ever feeling exclusive to either.
It’s a hotel that offers all the trappings of luxury you’d expect from a five-star hotel of its kind, but without any sense of elitism. This is a hotel that knows how to have fun.
THINGS TO DO – OUT & ABOUT
There’s so much to see and do, both at the resort and on its doorstep.
Fishing: Fishing expert Maurice is available for bookings, whether you’re after a day out fishing for salmon or trout, or perhaps a flycasting lesson.
Carriage rides: Carriage rides are a great way to take in the atmosphere of the estate. Groundsman Roy Daly can regale guests with tales about the unique history of the Castlemartyr Estate, as well as pointing out particular points of interest.
Horse Riding: Whether it’s a beginner lesson or a long trek by the sea you are after, the hotel can organise and tailor events and activities to suit individuals.
Swimming: Castlemartyr Resort Hotel provides facilities for safe and fun family swimming. Children are welcome to use the heated indoor swimming pool every day between 10am to 12pm and again from 3pm to 6pm.
Leahy’s Open Farm: Just three miles from the lovely village of Dungourney, this family-run farm is open to visitors of all ages for the summer and Christmas seasons. With a large selection of animals on display, go karting and boat rides, the kids will love it.
Ballymaloe Cookery School: In addition to its world-renowned 12-week certificate course, the school offers daily afternoon cookery demonstrations from 2-5pm, along with an array of half-day, one-day, and even week or month-long courses.
Old Midleton Distillery: Home to world-renowned brands Jameson, Paddy and Powers, the Old Midleton Distillery presents historic whiskey tours. The new complex produces some 24 million bottles of whiskey each year, while the Old Distillery has been restored to its former glory.
Fota Wildlife Park: Fota Wildlife Park is a 75-acre wildlife park located on Fota Island, near Carrigtwohill. Opened in 1983, the park is home to nearly 30 mammal and 50 bird species. Ideal for all ages.
Titanic Experience: Titanic Experience Cobh is a new permanent visitor attraction. Situated in the original offices of The White Star Line, the location marks the departure point for the last 123 passengers who boarded the Titanic on its fateful maiden voyage to America.