Inchydoney is a place that leaves you wanting more, says Amy Molloy.
Within fifteen minutes of arriving at Inchydoney Lodge & Spa Hotel, you quickly forget the hustle and bustle of city life. The fresh sea air greets you on arrival, along with a glass of warm apple cider and seahorse-shaped chocolates in your room...
A four-star hotel on the outskirts of the quaint Clonakilty, the hotel overlooks the beautiful Inchydoney beach - voted Ireland's best in our Reader Travel Awads.
That means you wake up to the sound of wild Atlantic waves crashing and seagulls flying overhead. 67 bedrooms all have ocean views from private balconies or terraces, too, and I found the interiors homely, helping me quickly settle into the surroundings.
First impressions? There's a genuine warmth about the place. That's due to the friendliness of the staff, many of whom are local and have worked there for years.
The Taste of West Cork menu in the Gulf Stream restaurant is easy on the eye, and mouth Champagne and oysters in reception are a nice touch, but make sure not to overdo it on the Tabasco sauce.
We enjoyed three types of warm homemade bread, followed by a perfectly sized scallop for starter. The peppercorn sauce which accompanied the beef was a talking point for all the right reasons, and dessert was yet to come.
Following a filling four courses, in fact, dessert is probably the biggest guilty pleasure - but make sure to find some room. West Cork tastes good.
For a more casual dining experience, the nautical themed Dunes Pub & Bistro (above) is your port of call. For €18.95, you get a generously-sized portion of fish and chips. A predominantly seaside menu, there is still something for everyone, including those trying to ‘be good’ as healthier options are offered as alternatives.
The lighter version of fish and chips is served with Cardamom scented basmati rice, stir-fry vegetables and a Teriyaki sauce and tastes just as good.
Caught in a dilemma about whether to choose a massage or facial in the spa? The Elemis deep cleanse facial is the best of both words as the therapists gently massage your shoulders, neck and head while cleansing your skin, leaving you feeling refreshed and relaxed.
While it’s perfectly understandable to stay within the confinements of Inchydoney for the weekend, there are many beautiful areas waiting to be explored within driving distance.
Kayaking on Lough Hyne was one of the most peaceful, relaxing experiences of the entire weekend. As you paddle along the lake, you are accompanied by the soothing silhouettes of seabirds. Moonlight reflects on the tranquil water as the instructors from Atlantic Sea Kayaking (atlanticseakayaking.com, above) tell tales of the history behind the area.
You feel yourself almost drifting into a deep sleep, the experience is that serene.
After your kayak, hot chocolate and a delightful banana and seaweed bread is used to lure you back to shore. Instructor Jim Kennedy describes West Cork as “Ireland’s hidden gem”. I left Lough Hyne finding it hard to disagree.
The Wi-Fi in the hotel was patchy at times. In hindsight, that probably helped with the rest and relaxation element. Make sure to bring all the toiletries you need, too - as the nearest shop is a 10 minute drive/30 minute walk away.
The Atlantic weather is slightly unpredictable, and you feel cheated when mother nature hinders your chances of taking a stroll along the beach. Come prepared!
Rooms at Inchydoney Lodge & Hotel (023 883-3143; inchydoneyisland.com) start at €158 B&B per night for two sharing, midweek. A two-night kayaking break including the Atlantic Sea Kayaking experience costs from €208pp.
Amy drove from Dublin, which took 3 hrs 45 mins. Another option is to get a bus/train to Cork city, then a bus to Clonakilty, followed by a local taxi to Inchydoney Lodge & Spa Hotel. There are also self-catering apartments available.