Originally Capella Castlemartyr, this luxurious East Cork hotel is now run by an Irish team.
It is a fantastically spacious, well-appointed hotel, built around a 17th century manor house and the ruins of an adjacent castle that belonged to the Knights Templar and dates back to 1210. It’s an impressive property by any standards. Entering through gates near the centre of Castlemartyr village and then skirting the edge of the 18-hole Ron Kirby-designed golf course, arriving guests get a hint of the lush variety to be found in the 220-acre estate.
The driveway leads past the ancient castle to the beautiful entrance of the old house, which was once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh (who later sold it to the Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle) and includes among its special features a ballroom declared ‘the best room in Ireland’ by the 18th century travel chronicler Arthur Young and now fully restored.
Just eleven of the hotel’s 103 guest rooms and suites are in the old house and very lovely they are too, in a timelessly classical style. The rest are in a new section alongside it which is uncompromisingly modern, yet sits surprisingly comfortably beside the elegance of the old; however, due to the low-rise design, corridors are extremely long and any guest with mobility problems (or a tendency to leave things in the car) should ensure a room as near reception as possible.
Accommodation is predictably luxurious - the rooms are vast, ranging from a mere 500 sq ft to a Presidential Suite of over 3,000 sq ft and they sport correspondingly enormous beds and fully marbled bathrooms, all with separate bath and shower – and an exceptional array of technological bells and whistles, including a central computer system that controls all the room functions from the bedside. (You have to be careful not to attempt to draw the curtains by hand, however, or disaster may follow.)
Resort facilities include an impressive leisure centre and spa and numerous activities are offered, both onsite and nearby. The hotel has close links with the Old Midleton Distillery and other highlights in the area include Cobh ('the Queenstown story'), Fota Island (Fota House, Arboretum & Gardens; Fota Wildlife Park) and the East Cork Food Trail, which includes the Ballymaloe Cookery School & Gardens.
The Castlemartyr Resort has luxurious amenities but value for money is a feature and this is a place for real people, where families (and their pets) are made welcome. Although the standard of service can suffer from lack of training, staff are very willing and helpful, and the atmosphere is relaxed.
Rooms 103 (5 suites, 20 junior suites, 72 executive, 6 family, 8 disabled); room rate from about €150. Lift; room service (limited hours); turndown service; children welcome (under 12s free in parents’ room, cot available without charge); laptop safe; broadband; business centre; secretarial services; conference/banqueting (250/200); golf; leisure centre (incl gym & pool); spa. Dogs permitted in certain areas (charge). Heli-Pad. Parking (200).
Self Catering In addition to the accommodation and amenities offered at the hotel, the Castlemartyr Resort offers guests the option of staying at the 42 contemporary Golf Lodges (built within the old walled garden, and with direct access to the golf course) and 10 cottagey Mews Residences in the 'Old Bawn' area of the castle (click this link Self Catering Lodges for details). NB: The self catering accommodation is run separately from the hotel and, unfortunately, pets are not allowed.
While many key staff at the hotel changed with new management, Executive Head Chef Kevin Burke (who joined the hotel in 2009) is still in charge of the kitchens and the good food produced under his supervision remains a high point for guests.
The choice of dining options ranges from evening fine dining and Sunday Lunch in The Bell Tower restaurant, to family meals in the informal Franchini's restaurant, an all-day lounge menu in Knight's Bar (the restored ballroom) and informal meals at The Castlemartyr Links at the clubhouse. Traditional Afternoon Tea is popular, and can be served on the Garden Terrace in fine weather.
A dinner in the elegantly appointed Bell Tower restaurant is normally included in the various breaks offered by the hotel. The menu offers perhaps seven dishes on each course, including the expected popular dishes – scallops, and pan-fried foie gras may be among the starters for example, and there is sure to be a good steak – but there will also be some more unusual choices; main courses will include several imaginative fish dishes and, perhaps, Skeaghanore duck from West Cork and roast Slaney Valley lamb.
Each dish is individually garnished, with combinations carefully considered, and it is good to see local suppliers credited - Roy Kingston and the Heaney Brothers for beef; the Walsh Family of Ballycotton Seafood; Keelings Irish Fruit & Vegetables; La Rousse Artisan Food Suppliers and the Byrnes family of Midleton Eggs among them.
Details, such as good breads, enhance the overall experience, although disorganised service can sometimes let down the good work done in the kitchen.