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Castlemartyr Resort, Cork, Ireland – review

Denise McGlinchey has a cracking family holiday in her ancient homeland

Written by . Published on September 22nd 2010.

Castlemartyr Resort, Cork, Ireland – review

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” shrieks my mum.

“Don't worry, the horses are used to it and perfectly safe,” replies the man with a strong Cork accent. He’s holding tightly to the reins of two beautiful ponies. My mum looks at me, “I’m not worried about them” and her knuckles turn white as she holds on to the seat in front for dear life.

The hotel also boasts a spa and fitness centre with views over the estate grounds and a large indoor swimming pool. Children are allocated specific times in the pool. There is a kids area next door, kitted out with flatscreen TV, dvd player, pool table and table football. There is also an area stacked high with toys and board games.

Our carriage man is Roy Daly and my mum and I are sat on the back of his pony and trap. In the front sits my husband who’s holding tight to our two-year-old. The little one is screaming for joy as we go down another steep bank at warp speed.

We booked a trip with Roy and his small cart to take a guided tour around the grounds of Castlemartyr. Roy never stops talking. He speaks more words per second then an Irish pub serves pints of Guinness.

The ride lasts an hour and is great fun. In a way that ride summed up everything I love about Ireland. Friendly, laid-back people with a carefree loveliness that the country is so famed for. And much to my delight, there’s not a health and safety form in sight.

I was born in Cork but when I’m in Ireland I tend to keep this fact to myself – leave the Irish ancestry tale to the Americans. I left when I was a mere nipper but spent most of my childhood holidaying there, visiting friends and relatives. This trip was no different.

We stay at the Castlemartyr Resort, a 20 minute drive from Cork City between the East Cork towns of Middleton and Youghal. The resort is only a 30 minute drive from the recently expanded Cork International Airport. The hotel is nestled in woodlands, 220 acres of mature landscape, with meandering streams, rolling meadows and a tranquil lake packed with wildlife.

Steeped in history and tradition Castlemartyr is a beautiful destination. The castle - from which the village of Castlemartyr takes its name - was first built in 1210 by knights under the leadership of Richard Earl de Clare. The castle and its lands belonged to the Knights Templar - among the most famous of the Christian military orders. In the 17th century the magnificent Manor House was constructed. Restored to its original grandeur, the Manor House now forms the main part of the Castlemartyr Resort housing the hotel bedrooms, dining room, bar and conference rooms.

For families, Castlemartyr is a great place to stay. Our accommodation is a self-catering lodge, set in the walled garden on the grounds making the lodges safe and extremely private. Originally these lodges were built for golfers but sensibly they’ve been opened up to families.

Offering two or three bedrooms, each lodge is simply decorated with white walls and wooden floors. Bathrooms are what you’d expect from a 5 star hotel, white towels and toiletries all present. The lodge offers understated style, very minimal. Kitchens are equipped with the most important utensils but not all and the standard of the equipment was not always the best.

We were welcomed by a basket of goodies which we all treated with great suspicion, circling it like a herd of inquisitive cows – if we touch it, will we be charged? This consisted of bread, milk, butter, tea, coffee, sugar, orange juice and even a bottle of wine to help us unwind and settle into holiday mode. Much to our delight our original wariness was unfounded, the goodies were free.

Activities at Castlemartyr are suitable for all members of the family and there are lots to choose from. The magnificent 18 hole, par 72 golf course is the centre piece. Immaculately maintained and designed for players of any calibre.

The hotel also boasts a spa and fitness centre with views over the estate grounds and a large indoor swimming pool. Children are allocated specific times in the pool. There is a kids area next door, kitted out with flatscreen TV, dvd player, pool table and table football. There is also an area stacked high with toys and board games.

For my treat, I escaped from the clutches of my two year old to relax and have a facial in the spa.

Other estate activities include walking the Irish setter dogs, target archery, laser clay shooting, fly casting and fishing lessons, yoga, heritage walks and not to forget my favourite, the pony and trap ride. There are also plenty of offsite activities like horse riding and sailing, which the staff are more than happy to arrange for residents.

The area around Castlemartyr is stunning. Breath-taking beaches, sea views that make the hairs on your neck stand up and little villages with houses that look like the contents of a chocolate box of ‘Roses’, brightly coloured in pinks, reds and blues. It’s well worth exploring.

We drove to a nearby Ballymaloe house, the sister hotel to the famous cookery school. The hotel is run by the Allen family (a lineage of cooks- Rachel Allen being the most recent member of the family to adorn the celebrity chef hat) and has been running for 40 years.

There is a shop selling everything from jumpers and crockery to cookery books and homemade preserves. At the back of the shop is the cafe. If you want to die happy order one of their homemade cakes. The staff provided the little one with crayons and paper so I could devour every mouthful with no distraction.

Another place we visited is Fota Wildlife Island, about a 20 minute drive from the resort, fifteen if you don’t get stuck behind a tractor. You’re greeted by giraffes, bison’s, cheetahs, ostriches, flamingos, all kinds of monkeys you name it, and they have it. The little one spotted something in the bushes and screamed ‘massive rabbit’, it was actually a kangaroo, one of many free roaming animals at the park.

On our last morning we treated ourselves to a full five star Irish breakfasts in the restaurant of the hotel. You can’t leave Ireland without eating black and white pudding (does anyone know what white pudding is made of?) besides we needed the extra fuel to help us on our way home. With a fond farewell and a cheery wave we left the resort and Ireland behind. Within three hours we were back in Manchester recalling our trip over a cup of tea and soda bread with butter.

This holiday was booked through www.naturalretreats.com - stunning locations and luxurious self catering holiday experiences, in some of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty in the UK and Ireland.

For more exciting fun-packed family holidays visit www.awaywiththekids.co.uk - locations in the UK, Ireland and overseas.

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