I have to admit, I had never really thought of Ireland as my go-to destination for a weekend away. However, after spending an incredible 4 days there I have well and truly fallen in love. Ireland is beautiful, scenic and full of surprises. The people are so open and the friendly, and the accent is of course amazing. I specifically visited Cork and the surrounding area, which is in the south of Ireland and easily accessible from England. I took a Cityjet flight from London City airport, which was super quick and hassle-free … then the adventure began!
We arrived on Friday evening and headed to The River Lee in central Cork. I checked into my room and was greeted with the most incredible view of the surrounding area and colourful houses; I couldn’t wait to explore the next day. As it was late afternoon, we went straight for some nibbles and drinks. I tried a yummy juice from The Juicery and couldn’t resist the cakes… the banoffee pie was the bomb. Seriously. As if cake wasn’t enough, we then went for dinner and drinks at The Weir Room where there was cheese-a-plenty and I was left rolling to my room in a satisfied food coma!
On Saturday morning we woke bright and early, ate a speedy breakfast and headed out to the English Market. This is something everyone had been recommending I visit, so I was super excited! It was a food haven. Think mountains of cakes, chocolate, fresh produce and fruit. There were tonnes of health food shops too, more than I expected, and I loved exploring them. I even treated myself to a carrot, apple and ginger juice from Rocketdog, a healthy food spot which was recommended to me on instagram. The people working at the market were super helpful and friendly, and loved talking about the background behind their products, which were all locally sourced, handmade and delicious. Following this, we headed upstairs to the Farmgate cafe which had a buzzing atmosphere and an amazing view over the market. I dived head first into freshly made bread and a yummy chicken and veggies dish. I could tell that this trip was going to consist of one amazing meal after another!
After lunch we grabbed our suitcases and headed out of central Cork on a mini road trip through the beautiful surrounding countryside, which reminded me of my parents home in Yorkshire. We stopped off at Ummera Smokehouse where we learnt about the process of smoking meats, got to taste some delicious samples and I formed a new friendship with the owners cat! The adventures of the day didn’t end there though. We headed to Lough Hyne for some moonlight exploration with Atlantic Sea Kayaking. This was by far one of my highlights of the whole trip. We suited up in thick waterproof kit, got into pairs, jumping into our kayaks and headed onto the water as the sun set behind us. The atmosphere was incredible. We paddled out to the open water, sat back, and looked up to the stars. As the sky darkened they became brighter and brighter, and the only noises we could hear were those of the surrounding wildlife. The real game changer was the bioluminescent plankton in the water. This plankton is incredibly rare and I have had the pleasure of seeing once before in southern Thailand. It is sensitive to movement and every time the water is disturbed, the plankton lights up like tiny blue stars illuminating the water. It was breathtaking. After we spent some time absorbing our surroundings and the beauty of the situation, we paddled back to the shore in the moonlight and jumped back in the bus to finish our day at the Inchydoney Lodge and Spa. Here we were treated to the Taste of Cork menu, which includes 7 courses of delicious local food and yet again I was left rolling to my room with a food baby, satisfied and happy.
Sunday was a chilled day where we were left to our own devices. I had a huge deadline for the following day, so I have to admit that I spent my morning lounging in my bed, on my laptop, doing work (don’t judge me!). However, the incredible view from my room made working much more enjoyable and I couldn’t resist taking breaks to go out and explore the surrounding coastline. The hotels location couldn’t get more picturesuqe, with beaches surrounding it on almost all sides and incredible rolling hills in every direction. After a morning in my PJs I managed to get myself to the Island Spa at the hotel. Here I treated myself to a marine body polish and a muscle melt massage. The body polish was perhaps one of the most bizarre spa treatments I have had. I was coated in an algae mask from head to toe, wrapped in clingfilm and a heated blanket and left in this warm cocoon for 30 minutes. I am glad I tried it as it was undeniably relaxing (I fell asleep!!) and afterwards my skin was left super soft and smooth. The massage was exactly what I needed to release my muscles which are always tight from training no matter how much I stretch. I floated out of the spa on a cloud, headed back to my room to get changed and then we drove to Clonakilty, a small local town.
In Clonakilty we setup camp in a folk pub called De Barras. It is an award winning music venue where every inch of the walls is covered in fascinating memorabilia. The atmosphere is incredible with cosy alcoves full of pillows, gentle candle light and flowing Guinness. We treated ourselves to pints and Irish coffees, shared stories and discussed our travels. After a few hours of nattering, we headed back to the hotel and tucked into a huge platters of food at the Dunes bar and bistro. I swear these hotels were on a mission to feed us as much as possible! This was our final group meal of the trip, so we spent time reflecting on our adventures together. Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the trip and new friendships has been made. We headed to bed and the next morning packed our bags and flew back to London… and back to reality. The fun was over far to soon!
All in all, Ireland blew me away. My perceptions have shifted. I now see it as a destination I want to continue to revisit and explore into the future, and a place I want to show my family and friends. It has bustling cities, small local towns, beautiful countryside and friendly people. It is bursting with culture and unique experiences. The people, the places and the food were phenomenal! Ireland, its been a pleasure.
To see a video blog of my trip, click here.