The Cabin in the Woods
The cabin in the woods lurks large in our primal consciousness.
It’s the place you retreat to, so that you can recharge. It’s the place where you get space to begin your novel, or write those songs the way Bon Iver did for his debut album, the now-iconic “For Emma, Forever Ago.”
You can be Thoreau, exploring Walden Pond, and you can be liberated by the wildness and the wilderness. Thing is, of course, that luxury trumps rusticity, so your cabin should ideally be casually luxe. And that is where Leitrim’s Drumhierny Woodland Hideaway comes in.
Drumhierny has 14 cabins – they call them lodges – arrayed amidst 100 heavily forested acres, built in four contrasting styles, which sleep between 4 and 8 people. The ancient woodland has been superbly preserved around the lodges, so you look out the windows straight into native forest of oak, spruce and birch: the cabin in the woods.
But the woods have also come inside, because many elements of the lodges have furniture and fittings made from the wood, not least the vast and splendid dining tables. We stayed in a Birds of a Feather lodge, and the fit-out was exemplary: spacious beds; comfy sofas; and a kitchen set-up that was five star: serious cooks will be well thrilled by these ingeniously styled cooking spaces.
You would be happy to be alone here for a few days of walking in the woods and cooking, but the estate also offers the Wellness Sanctuary Spa which has seaweed baths, hot tubs and a sauna, and there is simple food in the Woodpecker Café. The project is ongoing: the Coach House and Manor House will be restored in time, and a further 10 lodges will be built, so at some point in the future Drumhierny will be a busy, buzzing destination.
So, we reckon the time is now to enjoy that cabin in the woods.
Drumhierny Woodland Hideaway Leitrim Village, Co Leitrim +353 71 93177777 • www.drumhiernyhideaway.ie
The Irish Country Boutique Hotel
Here’s one of the best West Cork jokes: in the Barrett family’s Dunmore House Hotel, out on the promontory close to Clonakilty, the hotel’s restaurant is called: Adrift.
This is funny because you could not find a more securely anchored dining room anywhere in the county. Dunmore House food is not just right on course and with the wind at its back, it’s also logical and fashion-free. Lobster bisque, and house black pudding with apple and walnut chutney, are amongst the starters – just imagine having the nerve to make your own black pudding in Clonakilty! – whilst the main courses offer sole on the bone, beef fillet, and lamb rack.
This sounds well familiar, but it’s the God in the detail that the Barrett family introduce into every element of this ICBH (Irish Country Boutique Hotel) that make Dunmore House an exceptional destination.
That detail starts at the source: Dunmore House sits on the edge of Clonakilty Bay, and between the hotel and the sea is one of the finest vegetable plots cultivated by an Irish hotel. The location is rather dumbfounding: how can you grow pristine vegetables right beside the salty sea?
You can, and the proof is not just the vegetables served for dinner, but especially the fresh kale served with poached eggs and sourdough toast for breakfast. The kale is so sweet-salty, so vigorous, that even just a few bites constitutes a spa experience. It tastes of soil and sea, chlorophyll and Gulf Stream tides, salty air and sunshine: it is exceptional.
Exceptional, but not surprising, because Dunmore is an archetype of the Irish family-run hotel where the family will go to any lengths to do their best for their customers. At one time, most Irish hotels were like this, run by the great hotel families – The Kellys of Wexford; The Foyles of Clifden; the Allens of Cork; the Doyle family of Dublin.
But the hotel landscape in Ireland has been largely made-over, and taken-over: corporate chains now dominate the field, and their relationship to their customer is quite different from the family-run hotel. In brief: the corporate hotel will do what is necessary. The family hotel will do everything they possibly can.
The Barrett family, Carol and Richard and their son, Peter, oversee this modest, cherishable 30-bed hotel with quiet command, because as a family they do everything they can for you. They also have good taste, they have amazing staff, and they can achieve semi-miraculous things, like growing vegetables by the sea, and serving bar food that restores your faith in bar food.
Together, the Dunmore team create an easeful West Cork enchantment that brings together all the best elements of the ICBH, and makes for a defining Irish escape. Adrift? Not likely.
Dunmore House Hotel Muckross, Dunmore, Clonakilty, Co Cork +353 23 8833352 • www.dunmorehousehotel.ie
The City Apart Hotel
It’s always the small things.
We loved staying in Dublin’s Staycity Aparthotel, their newest gaff on Little Mary Street. Why? Because we could make ourselves a cup of tea using cold water from the room’s kitchen, and didn’t have to use tired water from the bathroom, as you have to do in most hotels.
Nitpicking? Too right! We are just as fussy as you are.
For our money, the Aparthotel’s kitchen zone – which includes a dishwasher, a fridge, a microwave, a hob and a sink, along with a kettle and a toaster – is one of the smartest pieces of ergonomic design that we have seen in yonks. It’s tiny, but it has all you need.
And that is true of the rooms. We were three people, and whilst our 6-footer son might have liked a bigger fold-down sofa bed, we had as much room as we needed. The lighting was good, the artworks are snappy, and the public space downstairs is enlivened by extremely energetic and helpful staff.
Car parking for the Little Mary Street hotel is a walk away, at the Parnell Street complex, which is a bit of a hike with luggage. But the big bonus here is the close proximity to Capel Street, home of authentic Turkish pide, of proper pasteis de nata, of Camerino Bakery, of Bar 1661 and The Black Sheep and The Virgin Mary, of Brother Hubbard and Dash Burger.
StayCity Aparthotel Little Mary Street, D7 +353 1 5390909 • www.staycity.com
Thank you. I had a few months in Leitrim in 1990ish and really love its watery nature and this makes me want to spend another spell there pretending to be Thoreau/Iver