It was 11.30 on a filthy night when we arrived. The next morning we’d admire the resort’s beautiful situation among acres of countryside, not to mention its challenging golf course designed by Christy O’Connor Jr. But as the rain beat down, we made a run forthe stylish lobby.
Decorated in muted tones, with polished floors, leather couches and lots of lamplight, it was inviting and the welcome at reception was warm.
Room to book
Our third-floor suite was spacious, plush and very comfortable, particularly the couch. I know this because I fell asleep on it and eventually had to be carried to our kingsize bed by my husband, Brian.
TV addicts won’t miss a moment of their favourite shows as we had three television sets, including one in the bathroom, but no DVD player. Our bathroom had a tub big enough for two and was stocked with lovely L’Occitane toiletries.
Breakfast was ideal: Bircher muesli followed by smoked salmon, gravlax and mackerel. Traditionalists needn’t despair — a full Irish is available, albeit buffet-style, and my poached eggs came cooked to order and were exquisite.
That evening, in the same room, I tried to decide between smoked haddock risotto (€8.50) or scallops with pork belly (€10.50), followed by roast loin of venison (€28.50) or poached brill fillet (€22.50).
I eventually plumped for seared breast of pigeon with a polenta cake (€12.50) and pan-fried monkfish with braised oxtail (€24.50). Although my bird was overdone, Brian’s creamy langoustine ravioli (€9.50) was well worth a taste. Perfectly cooked monkfish fell off the bone and he was equally happy with his scrumptious pheasant with potato Dauphinoise (€26).
Afterwards, we fought over the last mouthful of a moreish chocolate fondant (€8.50).
The pamper factor
I confess to being a spa junkie and the décor of this one, while not cutting edge, is classic indulgent chic.
The scent of rosewater and orange, the spa’s signature blend, filled the air during my Tranquil Touch (€150 for 90 minutes) treatment. It is pricey, but then hotel salons always charge a premium.
The treatment involves a foot ritual, followed by a back of body massage and a 50- minute, pressure-point facial.
Make sure to use the hydrotherapy facilities and small thermal suite beforehand — although give yourself time because, unusually, both are separate from the pool.
Thankfully, lie-ins are free and, with breakfast served until 11am at weekends, you should indulge.
A predominantly native crowd, we spotted families, young and old, as well as groups of women and many couples, including one who were planning their wedding.
And there were lots of men looking rather comfortable in their towelling robes throughout the spa.
What to do
We couldn’t resist the spa (while we swam a length or two in the heated pool, we were careful not to get too close to the impressively kitted-out gym).
However, more active bodies could take a golf lesson (from €50), play a round (€60) or stretch their legs in the surrounding woodlands.
Young ones are bound to love nearby Fota Wildlife Park. Cork city is a 15-minute drive away if you need to shop; if you can, treat yourself to dinner in the fabulous Isaacs on MacCurtain Street.
The hotel’s second restaurant, the intimate Cove, is closed from October to March (apart from private events). This is a shame because the main restaurant is a little informal for a special occasion.
Also the dinner menu on the website is different to the one in the hotel, and the prices vary too.
Tea for two in the Amber Lounge was a bit steep at €7, while a small Americano costs €3. Not good enough in a recession like this one.
Our Oak Suite cost from €285 per room per night (based on two people sharing); the weekend B&B rate is €374. B&B costs from €119 per room per night, while one-night with dinner, bed and breakfast costs €178 per room per night.
Romantics planning to go all out for Valentine’s Day might like the Chocolate Treat package (from €249 per room with one night’s B&B). The details Fota Island Hotel & Spa, Fota Island Resort, Cork. Tel: 021 467 3000; fotaisland.ie. For a selection of last-minute Valentine’s offers, visit discoverireland.ie/spatreats.