West Cork: Trains, buses and taxis to Inchydoney Island
Middle-aged, non-driver needs to get to Inchydoney. GSOH, will bring her own sweets, and can be relied on to wind down the window and ask for directions should the need arise.
The big sister is having none of it, and refuses to be my chauffeur, insisting I get us from Dublin to Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa using whatever means it takes. So can you get taxis, trains and buses to a spa weekend and still feel recharged at the end of it?
"Do we need to change?" I ask the Irish Rail employee at the ticket turnstile at Heuston Station? Really, if we end up going somewhere besides Cork, I think it'll take more than a good massage to wipe out the memory.
His expression is one of amusement when he looks us up and down and says, "Ye look grand, I don't think ye need to change girls," and laughs. Honestly, hilarious, but I'm glad someone has confidence in my powers of navigation and logistics.
There is a two hour wait when we get to Cork, to get the bus to Clonakilty. Enough time for a quick check-out of the city and a bite to eat. We head to the award-winning Market Lane Restaurant on Oliver Plunkett Street, which the taxi driver tells us there's a buzz about, and sure enough there is a queue outside the restaurant which opens at 1pm on a Sunday.
Barbara has a prawn starter and I have the fish and chips, but we both end up eating the fish and chips as she is not impressed with her food. We pay the bill and she mentions her disappointment and, lo and behold, the manager is over and insisting that we take the money back for her starter. So big kudos to Market Lane Restaurant, which was filled to its stylish wooden rafters.
Anna Coogan at Inchydoney Lodge & Spa
I'm not sure I should be mentioning this, but when we get to Cork bus station I can't find the bus to Clonakilty on the departures board. I urgently go in search of a Bus Eireann employee and point out that there is most definitely a bus to Clonakilty on the timetable which I have printed off and am holding in my hand like it is the bus timetable according to the gospel.
Does everybody in the world know that the Skibbereen bus stops off in Clonakilty (and the Skibbereen bus is prominently displayed on the departures board.) I come away feeling like a right school dunce, muttering about how I really should look at a map of Ireland some time.
So far, all good, and the bus drops us off at O'Donovan's Hotel in Clonakilty, which obliges with a list of local taxi numbers. Michael from Darcy Cabs picks us up and fills us in on the locality and recommends we visit the Model Railway Village and tells us where to go walking so we can get the best view of Inchydoney Island.
"Very New England," Barbara says of the décor of Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa after I succeed in getting us there in one piece. Go me! We both love the 'on the beach' feel of the hotel with its bleached wooden floors and blue and white hues, and cream/sandy coloured sofas and chairs, and we're told the hotel is in the middle of an ongoing renovation.
Nikki O'Donnell, architect and interior designer is given the credit, and a Dublin project she was involved in, The Morrison Hotel on Ormond Quay, has more than a passing resemblance to the new look being given to Inchydoney Hotel and Spa.
Inchydoney Beach - an aerial view
The hotel is chock-a-block with art work, including paintings and sculptures, giving it a lovely all-embracing feel, and artists whose work hangs on the walls include Annie Robinson and Graham Knuttel.
The big attraction of the hotel is, of course, the view, and our bedroom window looks down onto the crashing waves of the North Atlantic Sea. Inchydoney is apparently a small island (here comes the homework bit) which is now connected to the mainland by two causeways, and the nearest town is Clonakilty. It seems it's a Blue Flag beach. It'll be tomorrow before I go walking on the beach, and what a beautiful stretch of the Cork coast Inchydoney is, and a perfect place to get your first smell of the year of a salty sea breeze and seaweed.
The hotel is fairly busy on a bright Sunday afternoon, with families milling about and people sitting enjoying a bevvy at the outside tables. There is a laid back and low-key atmosphere when later we eat chowder in Dunes Pub & Bistro in the hotel, which is creamily fulsome with seafood, while the crab claws are delish.
It's Monday when we have the Sleep Tight Slumber Ritual in the Spa, which comprises of a foot massage, a shoulders and neck massage and a facial. Afterwards, we stretch out on reclining chairs in the relaxation room, and look down on the sea on a sunny spring day.
It's all very relaxing, and here's a good place to mention the friendliness of the hotel's staff. It's a genuine warmth, and in fact we get it everywhere we go on our travels, from everyone we encounter whether it is in train stations or on the buses. People couldn't have been more helpful, and it brought with it a feeling that winter's hibernation is definitely over, and we're all set to get out of our caves, and indeed outside of ourselves.
You're probably waiting to hear about the trip to the Model Railway Village and the walks up the hills. What I can tell you is that the fire in the resident's lounge was very inviting indeed and the chat took over and before we knew it, it was time for a big feed of scallops, pork belly, fillet of beef and lamb in the elegant Gulfstream Restaurant.
Inchydoney sea view
So did we make it back to Dublin on the bus and train, without taking away from the relaxation we enjoyed in Inchydoney? Buses and trains left bang on time, taxis were easy to get, and we were so busy chatting that the time flew. And as the one who usually does the driving, Barbara thought it was a far more relaxing way of getting around the country than having to be concentrating behind the wheel. But if she wants to drive the next time we head away, I'll be grand with that too.
Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa is situated just outside the colourful heritage town of Clonakilty in West Cork. Bed & Breakfast costs from €79pps Sunday to Thursday and €99pps Friday and Saturday. Dinner for two in the recently redecorated Gulfstream Restaurant, for the full works of starters, mains and desserts and two glasses of wine came in at €142. The hotel has a Reading Room and Children's Lounge, and the Spa has a Seawater Therapy Pool, Sauna, Steam Room, Gym, Relaxation Areas and a Fruit & Juice bar. There are also self-catering apartments available.
More info: www.inchydoneyisland.com