Horses and history blend in Castlemartyr

A hotel for the past decade, this castle has been welcoming guests since the 13th century, so it knows a thing or two about hospitality

The Norman castle ruins carry the scars of Cromwell’s canon balls at Castlemartyr Resort in east Cork

The Norman castle ruins carry the scars of Cromwell’s canon balls at Castlemartyr Resort in east Cork

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Giddy up for a trip to Cork

The Castlemarter Resort in Co Cork has been welcoming visitors since the 13th century, when Strongbow called the original castle home. Over the centuries it has sheltered Sir Walter Raleigh, housed hundreds of boys during its incarnation as a boarding school, and played host to the likes of Beyonce, Kim Kardashian and Bill Clinton... a motley crew, indeed.

Even Cromwell made an (unwelcome) appearance at one point, and the handiwork of his canon balls can still be seen in the Norman castle ruins.

You’ll learn about this, and much more, on a horse-drawn carriage tour of the 200-acre estate with groundsman Roy Daly and his trusty steeds, Nell and Nelson. Daly is the fourth generation of his family to work on the estate and knows it inside out. When we visit post Hurricane Ophelia, he’s lamenting the loss of hundreds of trees felled in the storm.

Castlemartyr Spa and Golf Resort in Co Cork, which still has the ruins of the original Norman castle
Castlemartyr Spa and Golf Resort in Co Cork, which still has the ruins of the original Norman castle

Daly gives a highly entertaining, whirlwind account of the estate’s long history – one which has been just as varied in the 10 years it’s been operating as a hotel. In the past decade it’s been through a few owners – including Nama – but is now in the hands of British hotelier Martin Shaw, who plans to invest heavily in refurbishing and renovating the hotel and has already introduced new self-catering houses on the estate grounds.

Inside the hotel, rooms are divided between the main house and a newer, modern wing, which is reached by a long walk past a state-of-the-art spa, gym and pool, and a comprehensive art collection lining the corridors (We spy a portrait of Brendan Behan hanging, rather fittingly, outside the bar.) Rooms are enormous, with large marble-lined bathrooms that dwarf many apartments seen on Daft.

Beyond the new wing lies the Ron Kirby-designed golf course - a new clubhouse is also in the plans for Shaw and his team.

One of the large bedrooms in Castlemartyr, which has hosted the likes of Bill Clinton and Beyonce in the past
One of the large bedrooms in Castlemartyr, which has hosted the likes of Bill Clinton and Beyonce in the past

The old ballroom has become the Knight’s Bar where a cocktail table is laden down with accoutrements for making excellent pre-dinner drinks. Dinner itself is served in the Bell Tower restaurant – where local fish, meat and vegetables feature heavily – or in Franchini’s Italian restaurant, where enormous Irish country-sized portions are on the menu (don’t expect to be able to manage dessert).

Castlemartyr is a good base for exploring east Cork – Ballymaloe, Midleton and Ballycotton are all within a 20-minute drive from the hotel, which is very family friendly.

The Winter Escape package (from €99 per person per night) includes an overnight stay in a Deluxe Room with a full Irish breakfast, a 2-course dinner in the Bell Tower plus €20 spa credit each with a complimentary upgrade to a Junior Suite (subject to availability). Horse and carriage rides with Roy Daly are €80 for a 45-50 minute tour (4 people). See castlemartyrresort.ie

A novel stay  

In celebration of Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday, the Hand Picked Hotels group is offering guests a special literary-inspired stay. Cosy up in one of their 13 properties across England and enjoy B&B, a seasonal three-course dinner and a copy of Wuthering Heights from €168. Book from now until March 29th at handpickedhotels.co.uk.

Castleknock Hotel’s €7 million development includes 52 new bedrooms
Castleknock Hotel’s €7 million development includes 52 new bedrooms

Castleknock-out

Castleknock Hotel has recently completed a €7 million development including 52 new bedrooms, a state-of-the-art luxury spa and upgraded leisure centre. The spa features six new massage treatment rooms, Biotec skincare and seaweed baths while the hotel has also added two new restaurants. For bookings and the latest packages visit castleknockhotel.com

Trading travel

Airbnb has released new information on the most sought-after destinations for 2018. The accommodation website has revealed a surge in bookings across the midwest in the United States and the Brazilian coastline. Guests are booking more non-traditional homes too, with nature lodges and yurts topping this year’s travel wishlists. For more visit airbnb.com

Unwind with your other half at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Limerick
Unwind with your other half at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Limerick

Blu For Two

The Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Limerick is offering couples a perfect two-night weekend break this month. Reconnect at the four-star hotel with prosecco and chocolates on arrival, a three-course table d’hôte dinner in the hotel’s popular Porter’s Restaurant and overnight accommodation from €300 per couple. The hotel will also help you plan your perfect activity, including horse and carriage tours of the city, candlelight cocktails, a day out in Bunratty Folk Park and tasting fine local produce in the city’s Milk Market. Book your stay now at radissonblu.com

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