The town takes its name from the ruined castle, built in 1210 by the Knights Templar under the leadership of Richard Earl de Clare, more commonly known as Strongbow.
And in the centuries that followed, the castle and lands changed hands many times, with Walter Raleigh and Richard Boyle, the first Earl of Cork, among its owners.
The entrance to the historic grounds of the Castlemartyr Resort is located in the town centre and once within the walls, the old estate sprawls throughout the natural woodlands in every direction and features a tranquil swan lake, the dramatic ruins of the 800-year-old castle, impeccably restored parterre gardens and a challenging golf course.
Castlemartyr Resort is a five-star country house hotel set in 220 acres of mature, rolling parkland and the old mansion house remains at the heart of the resort, with its cut-stone pillars and Georgian windows making for a very grand arrival once up the winding road from the entrance.
The hotel’s 103 bedrooms and suites include 11 rooms housed in the original and impeccably restored manor house with the remaining located in the contemporary new wing adjoining the old country house.
And the clever design and architecture of the resort ensures the stroll from traditional to modern remains almost seamless thanks to a tranquil light-filled space that houses the Castlemartyr art gallery.
The incredibly spacious and comfortable bedrooms include sweeping views of the parkland and lakes and are enhanced by traditional design with parquet flooring and impressive marble bathrooms.
My visit coincidentally coincided with one of the few sunny days of the summer and allowed me to really take advantage of all the outdoor activities available at the hotel.
Walking the extensive grounds and enjoying the fabulous gardens is a joy and a fine asset that the hotel possesses, where every shade of green is to be found, contrasted by the vibrant colours of the flowers, while the historic walls make a perfect backdrop for this very scenic setting.
In the surrounding region, there are a number of other walks including the Ballycotton Cliff trail, which is renowned for its bird life. For something a little more challenging guests can enjoy mountain hiking and trekking tours, which can be arranged in the nearby Knockmealdown, Comeragh and Galtee mountains.
There is also a wide choice of walking trails in the local area including Castlemartyr Wood, Marlouge Wood, Youghal Sightseeing Trail, Youghal Nature Trail and Glanmire Heritage Walks.
Another way to explore the grounds of the estate is by playing 18 holes of golf at the Ron Kirby-designed track, which was recently named Best Golf Resort in Munster in the Golfers’ Guide to Ireland.
The hotel is located inland, however, the design is very much in the links tradition, although the fairways are wide and forgiving and ideal for a resort, which would allow the casual golfer to get the most out of the experience.
The course itself is a stimulating and pleasing to the eye 6,790 yd, par 72 challenge and one of the undoubted successes of the golf course is the clubhouse, which blends into the natural landscape. It is also a fantastic piece of design, almost resembling a retro-television set, when viewed from the course.
And inside, the clubhouse bar and restaurant is filled with natural light thanks to the glass wall, which offers great views beyond to the resort.
The clubhouse menu is casual but very tasty and allows hotel guests a great option as an alternative to the fine dining on offer inside.
The Bell Tower restaurant, however, has to be experienced and the set menu option allows you to indulge in the very creative work of chef Kevin Burke, from Bandon, who produces food which is intended to echo the same relaxed, comfortable, confident feel of the entire hotel.
The AA Rosette restaurant is both relaxed and elegant and overlooks the gardens, while the food and service certainly matched the surrounding from the scallops starters right through to the memorable chocolate pave dessert that, to my shame, got the better of me with well over half remaining.
Traditional afternoon tea at Castlemartyr is also a firm favourite, served daily at 3-5.30pm in one of the lounges or, in fine weather, on the Garden Terrace overlooking the pretty beds of the restored parterre gardens.
Wellness at Castlemartyr Resort
The Golfer’s Massage appears to be a relatively recent addition to the Spa treatment list and perhaps a marketing ploy to increase the male users, however, I didn’t need to be convinced and took full advantage enjoying an ultra-relaxing head neck and shoulder massage following my round at the resort.
The Spa includes 10 treatment rooms, a jet pool, an aromatherapy sauna and steam room, Spa Café, relaxation rooms and vitality lounges. The wrap-around glass frontage surrounding the 20-metre swimming pool and Water Room offers great views out over the country estate. While the gym and fitness studio also boast stunning views from its setting above the pool, looking out over the manicured lawns.
There is also the option of personal training in the fitness studio with daily programmes of exercise and relaxation classes including aqua exercise, pilates and yoga.
Out and About in East Cork
Castlemartyr is only a stone’s throw from the famous whiskey town of Midleton where you can enjoy the Jameson Experience, while the town is also home to one of the country’s finest farmers’ markets and the famous cookery school at Ballymaloe is also nearby. Fota Wildlife Park is located just off the road into Cork City, near Cobh, while Leahy’s Open Farm (no relation) and several Blue Flag beaches are all just a short trip from the resort.
For more information about Castlemartyr Resort, visit www.castlemartyrresort.ie.