Esther N McCarthy enjoys a family break by the sea at Inchydoney Lodge and Spa.

For anyone who’s lucky enough to know Inchydoney beach, it will have come as no surprise that TripAdvisor users voted it number 1 for the third year running.

The stunning strand is the top favourite Irish beach. And we live 45 minutes away from it. Self high five.

Husband spent teenage summers life-guarding on the “glorious and unspoiled stretch of beach” near Clonakilty, Co. Cork. 

I didn’t know him back then, but I imagine him running in slow motion, pretending he was Mitch Buchannon.

Over the years, we’ve made the drive just to walk the dog there, our kids have learnt to surf there, we’ve spent happy hours constructing castles and conquering the sand dunes. 

Weekend break: Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa, Clonakilty, Co. Cork

We’ve played, but never stayed.

Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa overlooks the beach and all its glory, so as a treat just before I popped out our third offspring, we went to visit our favourite beach but this time, we brought our suitcases.


The kids were super excited and on arrival the oldest asked the receptionist: “Will we wake up to the sound of the sea?” John Spillane’s ad campaign has worked well. 

The bemused receptionist confirmed we would, indeed, hear the sea, if we went outside. 

The hotel’s reception is huge, bright and welcoming, neutral tones, gorgeous wood carved furnishings, deep sofas, and a big fireplace.


The highlight of the room was the double doors leading out to our very own private balcony looking out onto the beach. 

We had a job convincing the two boys they couldn’t sleep out there, just so they could fulfill the “sound of the sea” part of the stay. 

Everything one would expect of a 4-star hotel was here, a slate of handmade chocolates (I hid them immediately - they are far too nice for grubby little boy hands), a Nespresso machine, flat screen TV, fluffy robes and slippers. 

Weekend break: Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa, Clonakilty, Co. Cork

The complimentary water was a nice touch. 

We were able to dupe the lads into thinking the fizzy water was 7-Up. Suckers. 

Don’t judge me, ultimately it’s for their own good. 

Now where did I put those chocolates?


There’s a jawdroppingly huge panoramic window at the front of the second-storey Gulfstream Restaurant that makes having dinner here something very special.

I started with the Ardsallagh goats cheese pannacotta with a tomato jam, Rosscarbery beetroot and a basil dressing, followed by green apple sorbet with apple crisp and a cinnamon sugar. 

My entree was Union Hall monkfish with a toasted almond potato purée, Kinsale broccoli, confit shiitake mushrooms with a citrus cream and we shared a side order of red cabbage slowly braised in red wine flavoured with cinnamon and orange and finished with coffee and petit fours. 

It tasted as good as that all sounds.

Weekend break: Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa, Clonakilty, Co. Cork

The boys shared all of it and ordered the soup. Not just any old soup. Parsnip soup flavoured with apple, caramelised baby apples, parsnip crisps. 

It may have been the novelty of having crisps as part of the meal, and the fact that I didn’t tell them they were made from vegetables but they still ask for that kind of soup whenever we go out.

Head chef Adam Medcalf makes sure to source as much ingredients as he can locally and the menu is created to reflect the wealth of artisan producers and suppliers in the West Cork region. 

This is evident at breakfast too with Clonakilty yogurts, homemade orange and hazelnut birchin muesli and handmade sausages by Martin Carey butchers in Bandon. 

The staff were so lovely, so patient, relaxed, chatting to all the guests, it made for a genuinely lovely atmosphere at breakfast.


The lads loved the playroom that had an Xbox, books, toys and the favourite attraction, a giant Connect 4 game. 

We had a little scare when husband challenged the 3-year-old to a race from our room to the playroom, which ended up with said 3-year-old lost on the wrong staircase. 

I know I’m producing another baby soon but really, that doesn’t mean we can be blasé about the ones we have. 

I like that one. Let’s not lose him. 

We also made good use out of the buckets and spades and balls and DVDs available to borrow from reception.

The spa at Inchydoney has won countless awards and with good reason.

The seawater therapy pool, the ocean view relaxation areas and the fruit and juice bar are all world class. 

For kids, make sure you only bring them poolside between 10.30am to 12.30pm and from 3pm to 5pm.


There’s lots of family fun to be had in Clonakilty. 

The West Cork Model Train village is a favourite with the boys, they love feeling like giants going around the grounds, there’s an indoor play area if it’s raining and lunch on a genuine old train carriage is always exciting. 

If you’re feeling the Mitch Buchannon vibe yourself check out for surf lessons right next to the hotel.

Clonakilty Farmers Market is on Fridays, it’s lovely to stroll around and sample the hot food stalls, fresh local produce, home-baking and craft.

For more ideas on what to do in West Cork go to 


See or call 023 8833143 for up to date offers.

Weekend break: Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa, Clonakilty, Co. Cork


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