Inchydoney, Clonakilty and an unrivalled sense of community: A Young Dubliner's first trip to west Cork
A trip to west Cork makes for the perfect weekend getaway in Ireland.
But the weather didn't have any effect on the staff, who greeted each arrival with a smile that warmed the entire room and a sweet drink that shook the cobwebs off after a lengthy drive. But more on the hotel later.
I was there along with other members of the media to get a taste of the Rebel County, and that is exactly what we got on a weekend that incoporated food, drink, music and the type of hospitality this part of the world is famous for.
Before arriving at the hotel on our way from Dublin, we stopped off in Cork city and paid a visit to Mutton Lane pub, a great spot for a few drink. It's located right beside the famous English Market, which locals and regular visitors will know can easily occupy a few hours.
At 4pm, Mutton Lane was a cheerful, quiet spot that was perfect for chatting away in. By 8pm, a completely different story.
Packed to the rafters with Corkonians, it made for an ideal start to the weekend before we were ferried to Inchydoney, a good hour's drive to the south.
In the dark of night, the views could wait until the morning. Inside, it was no less impressive.
The lobby was lovely - quiet and serene - and the room was just as nice. Home comforts are important even when away from home and my room was equipped with a large TV with Netflix and YouTube installed, which come in handy if you find the bed too comfy to leave.
The following morning, the weather hadn't improved all that much, but I could finally see out the window. The view was gorgeous.
A picturesque beach that runs for miles, with dozens braving the windy weather and walking along the sand, and the occasional lunatic even hopping in for a dip.
I could have sat on the balcony all day just enjoying the view, but breakfast was calling. The best part of any hotel trip, as we all know.
A fine feed and with the sun beaming through the windows on the Sunday morning, it somehow managed to put the room's view to shame.
Part of the weekend package was the spa treatment, two words that will bring a smile to my face for a long time. Out of a long list of options, I went for a muscle melt massage - essentially an extensive full body massage that lasted for over an hour.
I went in with a back injury that had kept me out of football for a month, and was hesitant as a result, but I had absolutely no reason to be.
The combination of the music, the aromas, the lighting and, of course, the actual massage itself resulted in most satisfying experiences I can remember.
A week later and my body still feels looser as a result and I'm already dreaming about the next one.
An hour after the massage ended, I visited the therapy pool, a place that I have missed since the second I left, and headed for the changing rooms.
I could have stayed for hours enjoying the various different facilities the pool had, but a night in Clonakilty, as well as dinner in the hotel, was calling.
I ate in the Dunes Bar & Bistro, where the food was excellent, and the portions were massive. I even heard complaints that there was too much food coming with each portion, but this was not an issue with me.
A hearty feed was needed before we made my way into Clonakilty. Only a five minute drive from the hotel, it's been quite a while since I've seen so many good pubs in such close proximity.
An Teach Beag was one of the most Irish establishments I've ever been in, with trad music playing in a really confined space and conversations coming to a complete halt once the music started.
It was different, true to its name, and I'd certainly recommend it.
But it was Scannells that took the crown as the best spot on the night. It had live music - as did everywhere else in Clonakilty - but it felt different here.
A professional band played through the night, but their set featured regular cameos from people getting up to give their own favourite song a lash. Though a few pints may well have increased the chances of me giving them a generous review, every single one of them sounded great.
Some seemed more polished than others, but each performer gave it their all and had a unique, authentic sound, that made the whole place seem real.
Just walking around the town of Clonakilty and taking in the history and culture that came with it made this suburban Dub long for a sense of community like that.
But it's not something that can be manufactured or made. It just exists. And they have it in abundance in Clonakilty and west Cork.