in may, I embarked on a two week road trip around certain parts of Ireland. starting in dublin, my itinerary took me to kilkenny, waterford, castlemartyr, and finally cork. the road trip also included day trips to the cliffs of moher, the ring of kerry, the copper coast, and the villages west of cork.
during the next several weeks I'm going to break down each destination, talking about the city, the hotels, the things-to-do, the food, and our itinerary. I'll give you an honest look at how safe I felt, how clean the city and the hotel was, insights on getting around, what was worth seeing and what to skip, and what I would do differently knowing what I now know.
I'll also be breaking down what it's like to drive in Ireland, particularly as someone coming from America, as well as advice on day trips while you're in Ireland.
we started our roadtrip in dublin, then drove through wicklow national park to our second destination, kilkenny, ireland, then we headed south to our third overnight, waterford, and next made our way to the countryside to castlemartyr...
the city at a glance
population - castlemartyr is a village about 25 minutes east of cork and according to wikipedia the village has 500 people that live in town, and approximately 2,000 in the immediate vicinity.
a brief history - while the vikings established most of the harbor towns, the normans were responsible for some of the development inland, including castlemartyr.
safety - very safe. the small village has barely any issues with crime and is in the well lit and safe area.
cleanliness - very clean, much like dublin and kilkenny.
vibe - tiny! castlemartyr is just one in a string of villages and small towns in the area. main street is just one small strip. when you stay in castlemartyr you're likely staying at castlemartyr resort and taking day trips, like we did.
walking around - easy and flat. castlemartyr is one small strip of main street and there is a path from the resort right out into main street making it a very easy trek.
location - castlemartyr spa & golf resort is located right off the main strip in the village of the castlemartyr. this 5 star resort is approximately 25 miles from cork and easily accessible via car or public transportation. the castle on the grounds was built in 1210 by the knight's templar, and the grounds used to house a church as well as the manor house of the third earl of cork.
the hotel has won many accolades, including (taken directly from the castlemartyer website):
- The Irish Hospitality Awards 2017, Resort Hotel of the Year
- Mrs2Be, Best Wedding Venue Co-ordinator, Jackie Day, 2016
- Trip Advisor, Family Vacation Critic, Favourite Hotel, 2016
- Trip Advisor, Certificate of Excellence 2015
- Johansens 2015 Awards for Excellence - Finalist, Best for Famillies
- National Hospitality Awards - Best Destination Hotel 2014
- Chamber of Commerce Digital Marketing Awards - Best Website/ Digital Marketing 2014
when you arrive at castlemartyr and check in you can self park or valet for no charge. a bell hop will bring you and your luggage up to your room and he's a wealth of information, so pay attention to him. he'll show you where all the restaurants are, the spa, the hours of everything, and he'll give you a rundown of how to use all the electronics in your room, including your in room coffee machine.
the grounds have many walking paths available and a map is available at the front desk. make sure you do take a walk if the weather permits; the grounds are absolutely beautiful!
and fun fact - kim kardashian and kanye west stayed at castlemartyr for their honeymoon, and bill clinton attended a wedding at castlemartyr. but most importantly, castlemartyr is where I got engaged! that's right - Dylan asked me to marry him here on the grounds of castlemartyr so this place will always hold a very special place in my heart :-)
the rooms - we stayed in a "standard" room that was absolutely gorgeous and perfect for the two of us. a king sized bed, large bathroom with a separate room for the toilet, desk, satellite television - we really didn't need anything super large as we weren't planning on spending too much time in the room. the lights, room shades, and do not disturb all operate from a touch pad that is found both right inside your door as well as on one of the night stands.
parking - you have the choice to self park or valet.
breakfast - you have the choice to order room service breakfast the night before (well, technically by 5am), or you can eat in the bell tower restaurant. see the 'food' section for details
cleanliness - well of course castlemartyr was was super clean. incredible. everything you should expect.
cost - the total cost of the room for four nights after taxes and fees was €707.00. we stayed for four nights, which breaks the nightly rate down to €176.75/night.
I want to note that that was just the cost of the room. like any resort that is not all-inclusive we had separate charges for our dinners, breakfast, and hotel bar. our cost was $554, but this cost will of course fluctuate depending on what you order (or how long you find yourself at the hotel bar).
food + drink
the hunted hog - we walked into town for lunch one day with the recommendation to stop at the hunted hog. we'd given ourselves one "lazy" day at the hotel so after sleeping in we got a late start to breakfast and weren't terribly hungry when the noonish traditional lunch time rolled around. that night we had reservations at the Italian restaurant in the resort, so we wanted something light when we finally arrived at the hunted hog around 2:30-3pm.
I thought the bruschetta sounded amazing - grilled goats cheese bruschetta (€8.50) with herb pesto, red onion jam, and slow roasted peppers - and you guys - it was SO. GOOD!
Dylan went for the starter portion size of the chicken salad - warm chicken salad (€7.50) with garlic roasted potatoes, cherry tomatoes, parmesan shavings, and a honey and mustard dressing - and it was also great! in fact, I now want to put garlic roasted potatoes in all of the salads.
the bell tower restaurant - the bell tower restaurant in the castlemartyr resort doubles as both the place to eat breakfast in the resort and a fancier dinner option.
for breakfast you have your standard cold breakfast buffet - fruit, breads/muffins, yogurts - then you can order a hot meal. the first morning we at at the bell tower I got a ham and veggie omelet. the second morning we ate there I got the eggs benedict. and if I'm being honest, it was so-so. my omelette was over cooked and there was little to know flavor in the hollandaise sauce on the eggs benedict. I've had way better omelette's and eggs benedict and for the roughly €35 per person charge I was expecting better.
for dinner, I ordered the tempura monkfish (€13.50) with roast heirloom tomato and cumin curry aioli for a starter, and filet of beef (€29.95) with cheek beignet, carrot and buttermilk puree, salt baked carrot, curly parsley and shallot for my main.
Dylan ordered the crispy hens egg (€11.50) with chicken wing and roasted artichoke as his starter, and pan fried sea bass (€25) with aubergine, caponata, celery and basil for his main.
the bell tower restaurant is a bit fancier, and though they like you to have reservations ahead of time we were able to make them the day before. the meal was great, though I enjoyed the meal we had castlemartyr's other restaurant francini's a bit more, which I'll talk about below.
francini's - francini's is a "casual restaurant" within castlemartyr that we made reservations at on our second night.
we each got a meal, ate half, then switched, so we could try two different dishes. I ordered the tagliatelle carbonara (€16) - pancetta bacon, parmesan and egg yolk.
Dylan ordered the chargrilled hereford steak (€25) - roast butternut & garlic, red onion, balsamic, and green peppercorn sauce, then we shared a side of roasted mediterranean vegetables with garlic oil (€3)
the meal was great, and of course I forgot to take a picture - sorry friends!
room service at castlemartyr resort - have you ever just knew that you were going to get to your hotel and indulge in room service? all I could think about around 2 days before we arrived at castlemartyr was that I was going to put on my comfy pants and order something naughty from the room service menu. and I checked that 'to-do' off my list on the first evening we arrived at castlemartyr.
as we left Waterford to head towards castlemartyr we decided to do a day trip out to the cliffs of moher. I'll talk more about that later in another post, but we spent pretty much all of the day driving and hiking, so when we arrived at castlemartyr around 6pm I was ready to relax. we went through the process of getting checked in, getting a mini tour of the hotel from our bellhop, settling in the room, and then it was time to order some room service. and I was h-u-n-g-r-y.
we each ordered the burger and fries, and then I also got a cheese platter, and Dylan got this chocolate molten cake that had melty hot fudge inside a chocolate cake and to be honest we were so busy eating it I totally forgot to take a picture of it.
the second time we ordered room service was for breakfast. we had a day trip planned around the ring of kerry so we decided to order a light and healthier breakfast the morning of our trip so we could eat and get ready at the same time.
when it comes to ordering breakfast to your room the cost is €25 per person and you simply have to fill out the breakfast card and hang it on your door before 5am the morning of breakfast. we went with a light breakfast - meats, cheeses, mini muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, coffee and juice. while we certainly did indulge the first night in room service, we definitely don't make a habit of eating like that on a regular basis, so the light breakfast was absolutely perfect so we didn't have something heavy setting in our stomaches as we drove across Ireland.
the knight's bar - the knight's bar is the hotel bar and there are a few things you should know. first, it's beautiful. it's an old chapel and it's evident from the ornate ceiling that this room was once a room of great importance.
the second thing you should know - and this is really important if you're going to be a guest - is that there is a wedding every Friday and Saturday. like literally every Friday and Saturday. so you may get kicked out of the knight's bar, but fear not - it's only for a few hours. you just go down a few doors to a big sitting room called 'the library' and folks will come down and serve you just as if you were sitting in the bar. once the wedding party clears out the bar needs about 15-20 minutes to clean and get themselves put back together and then you can go back into the bar.
interested in staying in the Irish countryside? I highly recommend splurging and heading to castlemartyr resort. it's close to cork and the coast, giving you plenty of great day trip options.
pin this travel guide so you know all about castlemartyr resort, and if you missed my '3 days in dublin', 'kilkenny travel guide', or 'waterford travel guide' posts be sure to check them out, and stay tuned for part of our trip as we move to our final overnight, cork (plus I'll be breaking down what it's like to drive in Ireland and the best day trips you can take!).