Fota Island Resort: A welcome escape from the New Year's resolution-ers
Short breaks in Ireland
The post-Christmas period is the perfect time for a sneaky five-star break - and it needn't cost the earth.
Is there a more miserable week than the first of a New Year?
After the Christmas high, it’s a struggle to find a companion to join you in anything mildly pleasurable. Bank balances are low. Colleagues have cut the morning coffee; friends have renamed the month “Vegan-uary” after the meat sweat shakes.
Trying to find a companion to accompany you for a glass of wine? Prepare for horrified gasps from the carbohydrate-deprived.
Personally, however, I don’t think there's a better time to be kind to yourself than the Christmas withdrawal period. Pulling off the motorway and winding down the leafy drive of this Cork five-star is an immediate escape from the noise and the New Year's resolution-ers.
Even the lack of phone reception feels like something of a comfort.
We checked into one of the newly finished Fuchsia Lodges, adjacent to the hotel itself, but equally as plush - with that new house smell that you can never replicate once somewhere has been really lived in.
With three bedrooms, a spacious living room and trendy kitchen, the little house would be perfect for a group of friends - if you do manage the impossible and lure them away from the horror of a ‘Dry January’. It’s just a short walk to the main hotel, and if you’re moving to and fro after dark, there’s even a handy driver who will save you dashing across the wet winter grass in the early hours.
Even if friends stay behind, I think there's great comfort to be found in imagining them entangled in torturous TRX routines whilst a masseuse relieves the stress that the New Year’s pressures have placed upon your shoulders.
For this, Fota Spa’s Eastern Essence package seems appropriate. I came out of the room in my cotton robe after 90 minutes feeling so loose and relaxed I could have attempted even the most difficult of yoga poses.
The spa was wonderful, and the only qualm I had about the experience was changing into spa attire in a room full of kids in for their Saturday swim. It took away from the experience slightly - though that was rectified by a good-blow dry in the Hair & Beauty Rooms, which finished me up just ahead of my night-out.
Trotting back over to our house, it was lovely to relax with my nose in my book while the others engaged in the more exciting activities on offer - including a round in the resort’s world renowned golf course and the nearby Fota Wildlife Park.
Keen for a bit of boldness, we were happy to return to the main hotel and prop ourselves up at the bar in the newly renovated Amber Lounge.
It seems perfectly reasonable for begin the year as you mean to end it, and the barman was happy to talk us through the selection of Irish whiskeys on offer - from the well-known local, Jameson in Middleton, to new small batch distilleries like Teelings in Dublin. Already happily merry, the dinner that followed was a triumph.
The six-course set menu was a dreamy blur starring sparkling local produce, including pan-seared Cork scallops paired with sweet braised pork and fresh Irish crab with gazpacho and caviar.
Fondants as a rule can be pretty tricky, but the one that emerged from the kitchen spilled thick, shiny dark chocolate all over my spoon once it was broken open. It was a delight almost worth clapping about. The large fire in the Amber Lounge was still rumbling when we returned to finish off our evening with Dingle gin and tonics before hopping into our lift back over the road to the house.
After a weekend of cosy comfort, it might be hard to hand those keys back into reception and drive back into real-life - and a dreary winter. But you only live once, and that life's too short to spend January drinking acid-green juices.
Get me there
There's a wide variety of winter holiday packages available at Fota Island Resort (021 488-3700; fotaisland.ie), including two nights in a three-bed Fuchsia lodge for six people from €400 per night. The Eastern Essence treatment costs €150.