It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is so special about Inchydoney Lodge & Spa but the stunning location is a good place to start.
Sitting (literally) on Inchydoney Beach, one of the stand-out parts of my recent visit was sitting on the balcony of my room, sipping a coffee and listening to the waves crash on the sand below. It's remote, serene and a great example of the rugged beauty of the Southern coast.
Now, let's be honest, this is not an easy hotel to get to if you're travelling from the other end of the country.
It's approximately a 3.5hr drive from Dublin and requires a train to Cork City, a bus to Clonakilty and a taxi to the hotel itself if you're braving public transport.
That said, it is absolutely and completely worth it.
Having heard amazing things over the years, I decided a bit of January R&R was in order and hopped into the car with my sister to check out the four-star resort for myself. We drove from Limerick and it took about 3hrs and 30 minutes to get there.
However, this included a few swift pitstops and the odd detour after forgetting to pay attention to Google Maps. We made it back in under 2.5hrs, which is probably a better indication.
One of the first things that struck me about the place is that the interior design strikes the perfect balance between welcoming and impressive. Slick modern design can sometime result in a cold, uncomfortable atmosphere but the subtle nautical theme really works at Inchydoney and we felt at home immediately.
Despite the fact that we arrived around 8.30pm, we were greeted by a warm welcome from the staff, our bags were whisked to our rooms and there was a welcome drink in our hand within 10 minutes. This attention to detail was apparent throughout our stay, with every member of staff going that extra mile to ensure that we enjoyed our visit.
This should be a given when staying at a premium hotel but sadly, this isn't always the case.
After a quick order from room service and a great night's sleep in our ocean view room, we were ready to check out what Cork had to offer. We had lined up a twilight sea-kayaking trip with Atlantic Sea Kayaking and despite the absolutely Baltic weather, it was one of the most amazing things I've ever done.
The super-friendly team filled us in on the history of the region and guided us through a trip around Lough Hyne as night fell. Watching the stars overhead while kayaking through glass-smooth waters was incredible, with a bonfire, hot chocolate and some tasty banana bread ready to warm us up once we returned to shore. I couldn't recommend it enough, whether for beginners or those who are well used to their sea legs!
There's surfing, golf and even whale watching available in the local area so you won't be stuck for things to do.
Next, it was back to the hotel for some grub at Inchydoney's Gulfstream Restaurant. We tried the tasting menu, which showcased the delicious seafood that originates from this part of the country. Think seared West Cork scallops, Ardsallagh Goat's Cheese panna cotta and native oysters with blood orange salad.
The food across the board was delicious during our stay, with tons of breakfast options (from a top-class hot buffet to pancakes, smoked salmon scrambled eggs and caramel muffins) and lunch dishes (try the seafood chowder).
The hotel also makes it's own breads (traditional soda and a really tasty walnut variation) and preserves, which you can stock up on at reception before you finish your stay.
Of course, one of the main reasons to come to a place like Inchydoney is to escape the hustle and bustle and completely relax. The hotel has an amazing spa on-site, with seawater pool, sauna, steam room, gym and a whole host of treatments.
The spa uses Elemis products, which any self-respecting beauty fan will know are fabulous, and we enjoyed a Muscle Melt massage and a body scrub during our visit. The highly-skilled therapists were so friendly and the whole experience was made extra special by the relaxation rooms.
You may have encountered relaxation rooms before but this was a whole new level, with ocean views, herbal teas, piles of magazines, cushioned loungers and, wait for it, soft woollen blankets to wrap yourself up in.
I spend about three hours there and it was still tough to get up and leave!
All in all, once you get past the journey, I couldn't recommend Inchydoney Lodge & Spa enough. The combination of sea air, beach strolls and relaxing treatments will chill out even the most stressed among us.