SO DO you fly solo or travel in a flock? When it comes to getting away from it all, for an increasing number of young Irish holidaymakers, that includes other people.
Solo travel is on the rise, according to one recent survey, yet many still dread going for a coffee on their own, let alone jumping in the car or hopping on the next plane without their wing man or woman.
Whether jetting halfway round the world to Canada or just cruising down the motorway to Cork, personally, I love escaping from everyone — from overbearing relatives to nosey neighbours on occasion.
With solo travel, there’s no debating where to go, how to divvy up driving duties or what to do when you get there.
And having complete over the remote control, bathtub and bed after check-in, more than makes up for having to whisper the dreaded words, ‘table for one, please’, later on.
Needless to say, when the opportunity to steal a night away at the luxurious Castlemartyr Resort arose, I didn’t care to share.
Set against the ruins of an ancient castle, the upscale country estate is just half an hour from Cork city, and three from the capital.
Boasting picture-postcard gardens, plate-clearing food and seventh heaven spa though, seriously, why go halfsies?
When it comes to staycationing on my own, I have no problem hogging the bed and using up both bottles of bubble bath.
But being designated driver for the entire six-hour return journey from Dublin to the real capital can admittedly be a bit of a drag.
So just this once I decided to leave my trusty Micra at home, and gambled on Iarnród Éireann getting me there instead.
Despite such uninspiring hashtags as #lateagain and #wififail, my midday train chugged incident-free from Houston Station to Kent Station in just over two and a half hours, with a local chatty cabby (is there any other type?) whisking me and my overnight bag the remaining 30 kilometres to the five-star resort that shares a name with the east Cork village where it’s set.
Having abandoned himself in a measly standard double bed back home, I planned to make the most of my 24-hour escape from the Big Smoke, and the dream of a bed that awaited in one of the hotel’s Deluxe Double Rooms.
Sadly — or should that be happily — I got sidetracked by the tray of chocolate-smothered strawberries, titanic telly and bottomless tub before finally hitting the super-sized sack for eight hours of non-stop sleep.
Commandeering over 500 square-feet of the property, and with a double vanity unit, needless to say, the Downton Abbey-esque boudoir was made for sharing.
Sometimes though, like Lady Mary herself, you’ve just got to go it alone — particularly when there’s petit fours and a snuggly duvet involved.
Surrounded by loved-up couples or guffawing groups of friends, dining out alone understandably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Even as a seasoned solo traveller, I went along to The Bell Restaurant — the most elegant of Castlemartyr’s four places to eat — armed with my iPhone, before uttering the oft dreaded words, ‘table for One, please’. I needn’t have worried.
Neither shoved away in a corner nor on full display in the middle of the dining room, my candle-lit table overlooking the gorgeous gardens was the perfect spot for dinner for one.
And head chef Kevin Burke’s green pea risotto, pan-fried hake and crème brûlée was so distractingly delicious that I didn’t once reach for my smartphone. Well, except to take a few obligatory food porn snaps.
It’s impossible to enjoy some ‘me’ time at Castlemartyr without stopping by its award-winning spa on the first floor.
Starring ESPA products, the haven of health and beauty boasts an expansive range of face and body treatments for both guys and girls, as well as a swimming pool, thermal suite and relaxation room, all overlooking the impossibly manicured grounds of the historic estate.
Tight on time, I plumped for a half-hour age-defying ESPA facial, which the therapist tailored to my crinkly-looking visage before recommending a regime to follow at home — without giving me the hard sell.
Looking years younger, but feeling like time has stood still, certainly I emerged from The Spa feeling like I had experienced author Madeleine L’Engle’s famous ‘wrinkle in time’.
Former US leader Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen are just two of A-listers who’ve stayed in Castlemartyr’s opulent Presidential Suite over the years. Whether you come with an entourage or on your tod though, you’re guaranteed the VIP treatment by the hotel’s obliging-but-unobtrusive staff.
After being snapped up as the face of Cork golfwear brand, Green Lamb, I shared oxygen with supermodel Jodie Kidd during my stay and tried not to drool (too much) on the signed photo of The Boss in the lobby.
Meanwhile, comedy fans may want to nip around the corner to Pat Shortt’s eponymous pub in the village, where the D’Telly star is known to pull pints from time to time.
With a kids’ club and child-accommodating menu, even VIKs — that’s ‘Very Important Kids’ — are sure to be spoiled rotten at the family-friendly resort.
Being chronically allergic to exercise, I wouldn’t know a nine iron from an actual iron, but Castlemartyr is, of course, world-renowned for its golf club.
The 18-hole, par 72, inland links-style course is open from dawn to dusk all year round, apart from Christmas Day. And there are lots of ‘Stay and Play’ packages for those who like to spoil a good walk, as Mark Twain once quipped.
Afterwards, it’s par for the course to visit the old Jameson Distillery about ten minutes away in Midleton.
As for me, I’ll stick to getting into the swing of things in the spa. Maybe next time I’ll even consider bringing someone with me!
* Castlemartyr Resort’s ‘Unwind & Dine’ package — including a two-course meal in The Bell Tower restaurant, full breakfast and €20 spa credit — costs €99 per person per night, and is available Sunday-Friday until December 23, 2015. See www.castlemartyrresort.ie or call 021-4219000 for more.