A twin trip to Castlemartyr Resort and the Jameson Distillery in East Cork proves a tonic for Claire Murphy
At €875 a shot, the 1984 Midleton rare whiskey on the top shelf at the Castlemartyr Resort has had six takers.
Four were the owner - the other two were Beyonce and Jay-Z.
Clearly, this Cork five-star doesn’t do things by halves.
This five-star golf and spa haven is, after all, where Bill Clinton crashed a wedding, where Kanye and Kim Kardashian stopped by on their honeymoon, and where Bruce Springsteen reportedly took over the hotel bar for a session after his first Cork gig.
Now it has launched a ‘Whiskey Me Away’ Jameson Experience, including an overnight stay, two-course dinner in the Bell Tower Restaurant and entry into the Jameson Experience Tour in Midleton. I was happy to put it to the test.
This place is gigantic. It’s a good walk from the reception, past the swimming pool, spa, the Italian restaurant, the children’s playroom, a private dining room, to our rooms.
It is so large that despite a 220-strong wedding taking place while we stay, we barely notice.
We arrive on Friday evening and take advantage of the lengthening hours with a stroll around the lake and grounds of the 800-year-old castle, first constructed by the Knights Templar.
A giant cherry blossom tree is in full bloom. There are about a dozen horses grazing and as we pass, two white mares take off at a canter, revelling in the final drops of sunlight.
We feel the city melting away.
It’s a short stroll into Castlemartyr village, where the Hunted Hog pub is inviting for a swift pre-dinner drink. Then it’s back to the resort and the golf clubhouse obliges with some hearty pub grub and a buzzy atmosphere.
Back at the Knight’s Bar, the ‘Castlemartyrs’ band tune up with some gentle traditional music and with the open fire and a nightcap we are sated and soothed before retiring to bed.
In search of adventure, the next afternoon we take the 20-minute trip to the Jameson Distillery at Midleton (jamesonwhiskey.com).
The distillery dates back to 1825 and many of the original buildings have been beautifully preserved, with old kilns, mills and a water wheel.
Our guide Seán charms us with tales of the workers who crafted their trade in these stone buildings until they closed in 1975.
Irish Distillers - the producers of Midleton and Jameson Whiskey - operate from the gleaming industrial distillery which is now producing 1.5 million barrels of whiskey a day and they are at 99pc capacity.
“We are planning for the future, hoping that the appetite for Jameson whiskey will continue,” says Seán.
Although the technology has moved on significantly, the technique and quality remains the same. And some traditions remain.
“We still have distillery cats here to keep the pests away because the mice love grain - anything they can get their grubby paws on,” says Seán.
Back at the hotel, we are ready for proper pampering. A spa journey begins with an aromatherapy full body massage, followed by a chill out in the vitality lounge with wraparound views over the estate, a trip to the steam room and a dip in the 20-metre pool.
Then, refreshed and revived, we conclude with a feast in the Bell Tower restaurant.
But it’s not long before we find ourselves back at Knights’ Bar.
There, we chat with the barman and discuss our chilled out Cork getaway and, in the words of James Joyce, ‘the light music of whiskey falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude’.
Claire was a guest of Castlemartyr Resort.
The ‘Whiskey Me Away’ Jameson Experience includes an overnight stay in a deluxe room with a full Irish breakfast, a two course dinner in the Bell Tower Restaurant and entry into the Jameson Experience Tour in the Midleton Jameson Distillery, and is available midweek from €209.
Visit castlemartyrresort.ie for more information.