If you’ve ever been lucky enough to have a conversation with a native of Cork you may have heard that the country’s largest county has its very own ‘tropical microclimate’ – I swear, Google it.
And that’s why, during the current Covid climate of uncertainty, Cork was the perfect location to replace our scuppered European adventure this summer.
My girlfriend and I had wild plans to visit southern Portugal this year but a trip to the 4-star Carrigaline Court Hotel just south of Cork city was better than we could have imagined.
Sitting at the top of the town, the large hotel and leisure centre prides itself on being the gateway between the city and the county with great access to both city nightlife and the outdoor adventures on offer across the southwest.
Ideal for a romantic staycation, the Carrigaline Court has recently undergone huge multi-million euro refurbishments offering a stylish Bistro Restaurant and breakfast with a view, while also offering access to their 20m pool and gym facilities for a more active couple.
After a quick coffee to check out the bar set up, we took off for Kinsale to test out our skills at Foot Golf.
The course located just outside Kinsale – with beautiful views overlooking the River Stick – is the ‘first and only purpose built FootGolf course in the south of Ireland’, according to their website.
And for a pair of non-golfers, it was the perfect way to enjoy the positive aspects of golf without the rookie frustrations.
After thrashing herself over two hours with my footballing skills we made off for an evening meal in the Carrigaline Court’s Bistro restaurant.
With Covid regulations in full flow, we were given a table spaced nicely away from other guests and were made feel deeply comfortable as waiters in masks and visors served us our evening meal.
I opted for a pint of Beamish and a traditional fish and chips from the bar’s menu which had an average price of around €18 for a main course while my girlfriend chose the Supreme of Chicken.
There is an inclusive menu available for guests who choose it as part of their package with a choice of meals from the main menu.
In the morning we obviously tucked in to a full Irish breakfast which was served to your requests instead of the usual buffet.
This was one of the stranger changes to a normal hotel experience but the waiter was more than happy to serve us to our tastes.
A morning swim in the leisure centre was the perfect way to wake us up after breakfast with almost all aspects of the experience the same as pre-pandemic life.
Swimmers were asked to book slots to allow for sanitising and to avoid crowds in the changing area and if you ask me I preferred it this way.
Day two of our short getaway sent us in the direction of Farran Woods west of Cork city.
A 35 minute drive landed us in the huge forest where Zipit Farran is nestled.
The unique experience has been attracting more and more visitors each year since first opening in 2015, according to the team there, however numbers have greatly reduced this year to comply with Covid regulations.
Inspired by similar activities seen in France, two families built the first Irish high ropes course in a natural forest setting in Roscommon in 2011 before opening up their centre in Cork.
The centre caters for all age groups and has different levels depending on people’s ability.
And for couples looking to hone their communication and trust skills, this is the one for you.
Reaching heights of up to 50 feet we were seriously impressed by the staff at the centre who, from experience, could easily make a switch to counselling.
Both myself and Ciara entered the course believing we had no fear of heights but quickly found ourselves with our hearts in our mouths swinging from rope ladders and ziplines as we flew through the trees high in the air.
This was definitely the jewel in the crown of our experience in Cork and is something that deserves a lot more recognition for its unique experience.
One thing to remember if visiting the centre, though, is you have to bring change to access the car park.
Don’t repeat our mistake… Before a long drive back to Dublin and to normality, we stopped into Barry’s gastro pub in the “D4 of Cork” Douglas, on the edge of Cork city.
Suggested by the lovely people at Carrigaline Court, Barry’s of Douglas offers a unique experience for foodies looking to treat themselves to some stylish dining.
And that’s what we did with a few Heineken zeroes and a gin to settle the bodies after our zipline adventure.
The restaurant was special in that it was able to give different groups and generations a ‘ vibe’ that might suit them better.
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Separated into multiple areas the pub gives you a traditional feel in parts while catering for a more energetic vibe for those looking for a late bar atmosphere.
And for those looking to enjoy the sun and warmth brought in by that microclimate the Cork folk are so fond of, the restaurant offers a huge outdoor seating area too.
The menu rises slightly above your standard prices with main courses averaging around the 20 euro mark, but the food backs it up with taste.
After sharing a plate of goujons, I opted for the West Cork Fish plate -’When in Rome’ – while she chose the Chicken Pesto Pasta.
An ideal feed to send us on our way and the perfect way to say a final farewell to our staycation.
And as my girlfriend put it so eloquently – “If I were to head to Cork again, I would spend it doing the exact same thing.”
Prices for the Carrigaline Court Hotel start from €99 per room while short break packages including dinner, bed and breakfast starting from €149 for one night.
A visit to Farran Woods Zipit costs €35 each and lasts for around three or four hours.
And Foot Golf costs €12 per person.