Seaside stress relief in Inchydoney: West Cork
The people of Cork are blessed with several beautiful towns and villages within a short distance from the city and on a recent journey to West Cork, I was reminded how good Ireland's lush countryside is for the soul.
As we approached Clonakilty, the stress levels caused by urban living had already fallen several notches. A couple of turns off the main road sent us down to our hotel - to be greeted by a stunning sandy beach and vast ocean view. For a first-timer, Inchydoney's beauty is breathtaking.
The Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa must have one of the best settings of any hotel in the country.
Most of the bedrooms look out on to this wonderful vista, which changes day to day - on a sunny morning the sea and sand are bright blues and shimmering silvers. When the clouds gather, the shades turn to greens, greys and even navy tones. The hotel itself didn't need to look far for inspiration - its decor mirrors the nature surrounding it and the hues and textures reflect its location with themes of the sea incorporated throughout.
When we arrived in late afternoon, the sun was splitting the rocks. But as Irish weather tends to do, it changed overnight and the rain lashed against the hotel building on the second day of our stay.
While it might feel sinful to stay indoors with such magnificent surroundings, the downpour provided the perfect excuse to try out the award-winning spa, which again incorporates the sea into its many luxurious treatments.
I chose a signature treatment, one of The Island Spa's most indulgent treats. The Botanical Ritual promised to detox, regenerate and firm - a tall order, but hard to resist the line-up which included a sea salt exfoliation, facial and mini massage.
The most memorable part of the ritual was the algae wrap. The beautician slathers on green, seaweed-smelling mud and then wraps you in cling-film.
She then covers you in a heated plastic blanket and leaves you to 'cook'. It's an odd feeling and all quite slimmy but the resulting effect was smooth, silky feeling skin so I can only assume that it did some good.
Overall, the experience was extremely relaxing and a very effective way of changing those mental gears on a short getaway. The 70-minute treatment costs €135, so it's a bit of an investment in oneself. But there is access to the sea water therapy pool for all guests.
This includes children for some parts of the day, so worth checking out times during the school holidays, depending on whether you are travelling with family, or on a relaxing girls' getaway, as I was.
The Gulfstream Restaurant is the hotel's main dining area and it boasts local organic food and fresh fish each day. It also serves a very good breakfast, and its homemade brown treacle bread was a culinary highlight of the trip.
The breakfast also offers cheeses, smoothies, delicious yoghurts and avocado in the mornings, while it also features a pancake-making machine, which we dared not try but it seemed very popular with some younger guests.
The hotel serves a very nice afternoon tea, consisting of scones, mini pastries and dainty sandwiches and seafood bites. Everything was delicious. There is also a bar menu and room service menus.
The main bar, Dunes, is lively and popular with locals and features live music at the weekends. It is a hive of activity for beach lovers in good weather.
There is plenty to enjoy in the local area and lots of lovely little shops in nearby Clonakilty. A must visit is Michelle Mittons, a charming little shop with quirky homeware, jewellery, bags and gifts you never knew that you needed. There are also lots of boutiques, including the White Fawn boutique, which is full of cool jewellery and funky tops and dresses.
There are also several restaurants and bars in town, although some close in the off-season and on Mondays. When we visited, it was mid-term and the hotel is clearly a firm favourite with many Irish families. The beach is a natural draw for youngsters and the staff are happy to help children make the most of the seaside.
They can avail of kites, hula hoops, frisbees and, of course, buckets and spades from the reception area.
There is also a children's room with plenty to entertain younger visitors when the weather forces them indoors.
For adults who need something more invigorating than a spa treatment to switch off, there are plenty of exciting activities which the hotel can help arrange, from whale watching to sea kayaking.
There are also a number of golf courses in the area and Inchydoney is popular with surfers too.
There is plenty in the area to interest history buffs, including the Michael Collins monument and centre.
We opted for a more laid-back approach, given our short stay, and were lucky enough to be staying in a suite which has recently been refurbished.
Like many of the rooms, it has a panoramic view of the sea and it was tempting to retreat there to soak up the views, enjoy a glass of wine and read a book in the tranquillity of the modern, ocean-inspired bedroom.
The staff were always helpful during our stay and we saw them warmly welcome back regulars who clearly feel Inchydoney is a home away from home.
When we noticed that guests were presented with a small brown bag when checking out, this piqued our curiosity.
When it came to our time to head back to the real world, we saw that it was a small pot of home-made jam - just enough to enjoy sparingly in the coming months and remind us to return to West Cork and Inchydoney for another visit the next time we need to get away from it all.
The easiest way to get to Inchydoney is to drive, which takes about three and a half hours from Dublin city centre. Alternatively, you could get a bus, or a train to Cork city, and from there a bus to Clonakilty. A short taxi journey on to Inchydoney, costs around €10.
The Botanical Bliss package which includes an overnight stay, a 70 minute Signature Botanical Treatment in The Island Spa and a Botanical Afternoon Tea is available from €235 per person sharing.
Sunday Indo Living