Inchydoney Idyll: My hotel stay on Ireland's favourite beach
Short breaks in Ireland
Last year, you voted Inchydoney Ireland's favourite beach, but there's a lot more to it than sea and sand.
Set the mood
"Imagine escaping to an idyllic hideaway overlooking the sea. Walking hand in hand on endless deserted beaches…"
You've heard the radio ad, of course. John Spillane's wistful voiceover has been doing the rounds for so long, it's more than three years since it was parodied on Gift Grub.
But try as he might to paint a radio picture, Inchydoney Island's twin beaches really need to be experienced in person.
In early winter sunshine, they are perfect for walking, exploring and, for the hardier among us, a quick dip or a surf lesson, safe in the knowledge that the luxurious Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa is right by the shore.
Ignore that television remote. Each room has a balcony offering views across the beach and onto the Atlantic. A half hour staring across the ocean and listening to the waves beats a re-run of Judge Judy, whatever the weather. Views are to die for in the restaurant and readers' lounge, too.
Food at the Lodge was an unexpected standout for us. Breakfast (served until 11am, crucially) is generous, with hot items ranging from porridge and pancakes to kippers and salmon, as well as a sumptuous Full Irish, including Clonakilty puddings. Hotel restaurants are notoriously hit and miss, but the Gulfstream screamed quality. A roasted fillet of Macroom beef (€36) was better than the steak in some high-profile eateries nearby.
It's not easy to find a working clock in the spa which is, of course, by design, and lessens any guilt about indulging in a 'Sleep Tight' treatment in the early afternoon.
The exact details are a little hazy, especially to those of us dozing off during it, but we're reliably informed that it begins with a lavender foot ritual followed by an intensive back, neck and shoulder massage.
Our therapist Leanne proved highly adept at releasing stress knots built up by work, the long drive, and the defensive woes of a certain football team.
When we came round - maybe two minutes later, maybe 25 - there was a facial massage, again with lavender, and a further snooze.
We could happily have stayed there all day.
This being west Cork, there's no shortage of activities - from whale watching to sea kayaking or simply collecting a picnic and heading to the sand dunes.
Weather permitting, a cheap and healthy way to explore the countryside is the Clon Bike scheme (available at reception). It costs no more than €10 for the day, with an array of docking stations including one at Clonakilty's Model Railway Village.
On a clear day, the scenery is breathtaking. But be warned: you may have to cycle up a few of those beautiful hills.
Perhaps the nicest area in the hotel is its third-floor readers' lounge. A 'no mobile phones' rule helps the atmosphere and interaction, but the rather harsh lighting could be softened to really create a haven from the outside world.
Get me there
Inchydoney lies just outside Clonakilty in west Cork, a one-hour drive from Cork city, and just over 3.5 hours from Dublin or Galway.
A double room at the 4-star Inchydoney Lodge & Spa (inchydoneyisland.com) costs from €158, with special offers including a Whale Watching package bundling two nights' B&B and a half-day whale watching trip from Baltimore with Dr Nic Slocum from €240pps.
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