A West Cork Weekend at Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa

by Kristin on February 3, 2012

Before last month, I hadn’t been to West Cork in 10 years. We’d fallen in love with the place back then and had even briefly talked about moving there; it has that kind of effect on you. Driving along the narrow causeway that runs along the side of the inlet out to Inchydoney, it all came back — all those plans and possibilities and daydreams, before a mortgage, my own business and two kids came along. Much has changed since the last time we’d walked on the beach at Inchydoney.

The view of Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa from the beach

This time we were there to stay at the Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa for a weekend, having dropped off the kids with the in-laws, and we were determined to enjoy every minute. We were literally given a warm welcome with a complimentary glass of Irish Mist in front of the fire. We had a quick dinner of seafood chowder, crab claws and the excellent local Stonewell Cider in the hotel’s Dunes Pub after our long drive down from Louth, having stopped off for lunch with a friend at Electric in Cork city along the way, so we could get to bed early before the next day’s adventure bright and early. The hotel can organise a range of outdoor activities, including whale watching, surfing, golf and trekking, but we opted for the kayaking.

We met Jim Kennedy and Sally McKenna from Atlantic Sea Kayaking by a coffeeshop in Leap before following them to Reen Pier in Castlehaven Bay, just outside the fishing village of Union Hall. After a week of the strongest winds I’ve ever seen since moving to Ireland, that morning was dry, bright and calm, perfect for a few hours’ easy paddling around the bay. I was worried about how I was going to hold up, having not seen the inside of a gym in a decade, but after 10 or 15 minutes, the paddling becomes automatic and you stop thinking about it (though truth be told, I was in a double kayak with Jim and he might have been doing more than his fair share).

Castlehaven Bay in County Cork

You couldn’t ask for a better guide than Jim, a highly qualified, award-winning kayaker who immediately puts you at your ease and is a fantastic storyteller to boot, regaling us with tales of haunted houses on the shore and local history. Sally, who also writes the Bridgestone Guides, was with us as our seaweed expert, pointing out the bladder wrack, channel wrack and pepper dulse clinging to the rocks as we paddled into little coves and Ladies Beach to harvest some to take back home to dry and sharing her theory of sea salt as stardust.

Channel wrack and pepper dulse seaweed and unusual rock patterns on Ladies Beach

Jim offers a variety of tours, from two hours to two days, but the magical-sounding night kayaking trips where you might get to see the photoluminescence in the water sound particularly special. Instantly hooked after just a few hours in the water, we’re hoping to go back this summer to take the kids out on his two-hour family trip.

By the time we got back on land it was only 1:00, with the rest of the day still ahead of us, so we went in search of lunch, happily chancing upon The Glandore Inn. In good weather you can sit outside, high up on the main street with a view of the harbour, but on the January day we were there we were glad to have a table by the cozy fire with 8 Degrees beer and ham and cheese sandwiches. Or if you prefer, the hotel will pack a picnic lunch for you instead.

Jim had told us that the megalithic Drombeg stone circle was nearby, and never one to miss a chance to do some exploring, my husband found it on the map just outside of Glandore. The two portal stones of the Drombeg circle are aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice, which had just happened a few weeks previously, and the ruins of a fulacht fiadh (Bronze Age cooking place) are on the site too. With the sun starting to go down and a chill in the air, history was hanging almost tangibly heavy over the place.

The Drombeg stone circle and a fulacht fiadh

By the time we got back to the hotel and after a quick walk on the beach as the sun was setting, we wanted nothing more than to spend a few hours in the lounge’s oversized chairs with the Saturday paper, new books and a coffee, though I was tempted to wrap up in one of the blankets stacked up by the door and sit outside on the Adirondack chairs to soak up the view and the salty fresh air. Dinner that night was in the fine dining Gulfstream Restaurant, with the ocean just barely visible outside our window table. In the daylight, those highly prized window tables have panoramic views of the coast and the Irish Sea (breakfast for hotel guests is served in the same room), a view that lends itself to lingering over your meal.

I won’t lie — I woke up the next morning a little sore from the previous day’s paddling, but it wasn’t anything a spa treatment couldn’t take your mind off of. I was treated to an Elemis Skin Specific Facial while my husband had the Muscle Melt Massage (which worked a little too well — he was so relaxed I selflessly offered to drive). We looked in longingly at the hotel’s heated seawater therapy pool, but we opted for one more cobwebs-clearing wintry walk on the beach instead before the long drive home.

Inchydoney is the perfect base to explore West Cork — or indeed, not go anywhere at all, except maybe for a stroll on the beach right at your doorstep. For longer stays, there are also self-catering apartments at Inchydoney, with full access to all the hotel’s facilities. Keep an eye on their website for special offers and packages. Having fallen in love with West Cork all over again, we won’t be waiting another 10 years to go back.

We were guests of Conway Communications and the Inchydoney Hotel Lodge & Spa, with particular thanks to manager Julie McSweeney for making us very welcome.

Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa
+353 (0)23 883 3143

Atlantic Sea Kayaking
+353 (0)28 21058

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily February 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

It looks like a lovely trip! We were there for a wedding last summer and I wish we’d gone kayaking. That looks amazing! Hope it was restful!


Kristin February 3, 2012 at 11:52 am

It was SO restful – we find that one kid-free day away is equal to one week away with them!


Imen McDonnell February 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

Hi Kristin, I remember the tweets when you were on this mini break…..sounds like it was an AMAZING adventure! I love Sally’s Sea Salt post and had never heard of Glandore which sounds really lovely. A long deserved trip away that sounds like absolute perfection. xx


Kristin February 3, 2012 at 11:52 am

It really was perfect, such a treat and a wonderful way to start the new year.


Daily Spud February 3, 2012 at 10:08 am

I loved Inchydoney when I was there (gosh, all of about 18 months ago now) – they certainly know how to look after their guests! Sounds like you had a fabulous weekend – makes me want to go back (and soon!) & would love to try the kayaking too.


Kristin February 3, 2012 at 11:55 am

I specifically mentioned to the manager when we left how friendly everyone was. It was an amazing weekend away from start to finish, and the kayaking is not to be missed.


Liza in Ann Arbor February 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Love this post! I spent a huge part of my trip last summer in West Cork since that’s where our family reunion was. I fell in love with it! I was thrilled to see the Glandore Inn here, since eating an amazing sandwich outside there (on the road practically) overlooking the bobbing boats in the harbor was one of the most magical moments of my trip. I can see why you thought about moving there–me too!


Kristin February 4, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I’d say sitting outside at the Glandore Inn with a sandwich and a cold beer on a sunny summer’s day would be absolutely unbeatable. What a lovely part of the country to have a family reunion in!


Catherine February 3, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I must confess I’ve had those ‘moving to Cork’ thoughts myself! There just seems to be an endless supply of tasty food and amazing scenery. Looks like an idyllic weekend.


Kristin February 4, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I defy anyone to visit Cork and not dream of moving there. Can’t wait to go back sooner rather than later.


Magda's Cauldron February 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I haven’t been to Cork yet. I don’t know why my friends where discouraging us when we were thinking of going there… Maybe they didn’t seen Cork from the right side. Lovely photos, I particularly like Adirondack chairs and blankets :) I’m glad you had nice time :)


Kristin February 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm

I can’t imagine why your friends were discouraging you from going to Cork, it’s fabulous! Glad to see you had such a good time in Connemara recently.


MónaWise February 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Looks like a lovely place. I hear you on the ‘one day’ away from the kids feels like a week away.
Beautiful photos Kristen.


Kristin February 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm

We were able to get away for 2 nights at Christmastime 2009 and it was lovely. For Christmas 2010 we went to my mom in Florida for 10 days – and we later said that those 2 days in Carlingford had been more relaxing by far!


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