Travel Bag: We check out the deals so you don’t have to
A chocolate massage, gourmet breaks and Waterford Greenway
The breakfast terrace in Fota
Chocs away to Fota
So it turns out the mistake I’ve been making all my life has been to foolishly eat chocolate, when I should have been melting it down, blending it with oil and rubbing it into my skin. My massage therapist Katarina informs me of a range of moisturising and firming benefits during a chocolate massage treatment in the softly-lit, pan-piped spa rooms of Fota Island Resort. Yet in spite of all this knowledge, when she leaves me alone in the room, I swipe a couple of the unmelted chocolate chips from the side table – old habits and all. Turns out after the treatment you receive a chocolate mousse in the relaxation room. I needn’t have worried.
The Fota Island Resort in Cork was an easy drive from Dublin, just off the M8. If you like your weekend away to begin with an imposing gateway and a long forested driveway, you’ll be happy here. We drive past family lodges to the modern hotel at the heart of the island, and all of a sudden we are happily in the middle of nowhere.
The hotel itself is vast and stylish. Our room faces west, so we watch the sunset on the balcony before heading down for dinner in the Fota Restaurant, a room with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at landscaped gardens. A continental buffet breakfast is set out here in the morning, or if the weather continues to hold up you can eat on the terrace in the sunshine.
The 780-acre resort is entirely self-contained with a children’s playground and a children’s pool, an adventure centre with kayaking and obstacles courses, a 27-hole golf course which has hosted the Irish Open three times, and, of course, the spa where chocolate is not just for eating.
We made the short trip up the road to the Fota Wildlife Park, where you get a discount on the entrance fee if you’re staying at the hotel, and wandered around with a 99, getting up close with some monkeys, pelicans and giraffes. The animals have a lot of space here so we had only mild levels of zoo guilt.
If you fancy driving a little further the beautiful harbour town of Cobh is about 20 minutes away, and from there you can take a ferry out to Spike Island, “Ireland’s Alcatraz”, if you want to truly jolt yourself awake from any spa-induced reverie.
The Sweet Life at Fota Island Resort is available from €295 based on two people sharing, and includes overnight accommodation with breakfast the following morning, a 60-minute sensuous chocolate massage and a post-treatment treat of chocolate mousse.
– Catherine Conroy
Garden County calling
The five-star Druids Glen Hotel and Golf Resort in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, has unveiled a new look thanks to a €9 million refurbishment project which has been under way at the hotel for the past five years. The new Garden Rooms and Bar, a new outdoor terrace and the refurbished Sycamore Lounge are dotted with Irish crafted furniture and artwork by Tom Climent, John Short and Frances Ryan to name just a few. Pop down for a look around, and savour their new bar menu while you visit; druidsglenresort.com
With the Galway International Arts Festival taking place in the city from July 16-29th, now’s the perfect time to head to the west. Put yourself at the centre of the action and avail of the G Hotel’s Gourmet Getaway package from €135 per person sharing. Enjoy an overnight stay, breakfast the following morning and a delicious dinner in the award-winning Restaurant Gigi’s. Book your stay now at theghotel.ie and find out more about the festival at giaf.ie
Enhancing the high
Croke Park has launched a new augmented reality app designed to enhance the experience of those who visit its Skyline tour. The Ericsson Skyline Tour Augmented Reality app can be downloaded for free to any smartphone and helps visitors make the most of the panoramic city views as well as offering extra insights into Dublin’s celebrated landmarks, all at the touch of a screen. For more see crokepark.ie
A 18th-century mansion just six miles from Waterford city, Faithlegg House Hotel and Golf Resort has been a gateway to the sunny southeast for holidaymakers for years. Now thanks to the launch of the Waterford Greenway it offers cyclists the perfect place to rest and recoup after a day exploring the 46km cycle route that stretches along an old railway line between Waterford and Dungarvan. Stay with the Get Up & Go Greenway package from €320 which includes a two-night stay, breakfast on both mornings and dinner on one night of your choice in the award-winning Roseville Rooms Restaurant. Visit faithlegg.com to book your stay.