Getting immersed in an ocean of serenity in West Cork

Louise O’Neill enjoys some pampering in a true home away from home in West Cork.

When I was a child, I would sigh every time we drove past the fancy B&B at the bottom of our hill.

“I wish we could go there on our holidays,” I’d tell my parents. “Because if I forgot anything – like my comb or my toothbrush – it would only take a few minutes to get it back.” 

As an adult, I’m not sure if this story paints me as adorble or alarmingly sensible, but in recent years, I’ve become increasingly reluctant to leave my beloved West Cork. So, it was with joy in my heart that I packed my weekend bag and undertook the nine-minute drive to Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa.

“You didn’t have too far to travel at least,” the receptionist joked as she led me to my bedroom. 

The hotel is decorated in colours sympathetic to its seaside surroundings, pale wood and creams and blues, with an interesting array of paintings hanging on the walls, including some by a well-known local artist, Geraldine O’ Sullivan. 

Our bedroom is well appointed, with Elemis toiletries in the bathroom and a large balcony overlooking the dunes, my preferred side of the Virgin Mary bank. My boyfriend has been delayed by Storm Hannah so my mother joins me for dinner in the Dunes Pub that evening. 

She has the pan-seared fillet of salmon, I have the Castletownbere crab crumble and we share a platter of chips with spiced pink sauce, enjoying the cosy, bustling energy of the place.

Back in the bedroom, I find the temperature a little chilly and I phone down to reception for help. It turns out I, eh, didn’t turn the heating on — stupidity, thy name is Louise — but the staff couldn’t be more friendly and professional, showing me how to work the system before bringing me a Dimplex heater and an extra blanket to ensure my comfort.

Breakfast the next morning was served in the Gulfstream Restaurant and Richard and I grabbed a table by the soaring window, enjoying panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean. 

There is an extensive buffet with an array of cereals, pastries, delicious breads (including the famous Inchydoney walnut bread), homemade preserves, Bircher muesli, fresh fruit, as well as a self-serve pancake station which had the younger guests thoroughly delighted with themselves. 

Hot food is also available and while neither of us opted for the traditional full Irish, my poached eggs and his scrambled eggs and local smoked salmon more than made up for it. 

Afterwards, the water was calling us and I know I am biased, but I don’t think there is another beach in the whole of Ireland that can compare with the beauty of Inchydoney. It’s good for the soul.

We were supposed to go whale-watching (I accidentally tell some friends we are going ‘whaling’ and wonder at their aghast faces) that afternoon with the Atlantic Whale and Wildlife Tours but our excursion is cancelled because of Storm Hannah. 

It’s a shame because I’ve heard incredible things about this company but it can’t be helped. Instead, Richard and I wrap up in our delightfully fluffy robes and head to the relaxation room in the Island Spa. We drink cucumber water and eat fruit before making use of the heated Seawater Therapy Pool, with its powerful jets, bubble seats, and then move onto the steam room and sauna. 

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it, etc. We have booked in for ‘Muscle Melt’ massages and I warn my therapist that I have issues with my neck and shoulders due to working on a computer all day but she reassures me she will take care of me. I left her therapy room an hour later feeling as if I was cured.

Dinner that evening was in the Gulfstream Restaurant again, the hotel’s fine-dining experience. 

Richard adored his starter, a medley of the finest products from the excellent Caherbeg Pork and Rosscarbery Pudding, while my main dish of Macroom buffalo feta and sweet potato gateau with a side of roasted fennel in a parmesan cheese gratin was equally delicious. 

Richard had Clonakilty Brewing Company’s Tojo beer (his new favourite) to drink and we shared a decadent chocolate fondant for dessert, served with the hotel’s speciality walnut bread ice-cream. We took yet another walk on the beach afterwards, watching the sky turn to dusk around us.

We read the Sunday papers on our balcony the next morning, relishing the sunshine on our face. 

“We hope you’ll be back,” the receptionist says as she hands us a pot of homemade jam to take away with us when we leave. 

It’s a lovely touch and it feels indicative of everything else we’ve enjoyed about Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa that weekend – its sense of comfort, warmth; a true home away from home.

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