We were so excited to visit Ireland. It was our first time there and we had heard for years and years about the natural beauty which spans over its lands. The exact reason why we were going. We were going to become one with nature, to go hiking, to roll down luscious green hills and stare at the sea from the top of the highest cliffs.
When it came to our trip that’s exactly what we did. However, a few weeks before the trip we realised we didn’t want to be completely at one with nature, in a tent. We wanted a hot shower and a loo, which wasn’t a hole in the ground, plus food which wasn’t cold baked beans out of a tin – so, the hotel search began.
We looked at a lot and I mean a lot of hotels. We were planning on road-tripping around such a big area it didn’t actually matter where we stayed. However, we kept been pulled back to Cork. Something about the rustic, Irish charm of city. The ease in which we could get to all the places we wanted to go and a gem of a hotel which kept catching our eye.
Fast forward three weeks and we were driving into the secure underground car park of The River Lee Hotel, Cork. Now, when we said we just wanted a little bit of hot water and a loo exceeding a hole in the ground… well we exceeded that criteria by quite a bit. The River Lee Hotel blew our socks off. Although we were still at one with nature when we were out and about, we were in the hotel with a little slice of luxury. Plus, when we were at the hotel we felt very far away from the howling wind and drizzling rain outside.
The first tick was it’s only a 15-minute drive from the airport. The second tick was the free, secure underground car parking which led straight into the hotel via a lift so you don’t need to get your hair wet when it rains (we found out it does that quite a lot in Ireland actually.) The third big tick is the huge front desk which meant check in is quick and efficient. Finally, the fourth and biggest tick of all – the decor. Oh my. Oh my my my! The hotel is beautiful! Having only been renovated recently the entrance and all common areas are stylish, slick, individual and quirky. It was right up our street.
After we’d checked in, we were led straight up to our room and crashed pretty quickly in some ridiculously comfy beds. However, not before devouring some delicious treats and mocktails gifted from the hotel.
The next morning, after a dreamy night sleep, we were more awake and ready to take in our plush room. It had a lovely view out over the city and hills, crossing the River Lee itself (we had found out how they had got their name – Hello Sherlock!), and everything which you could ask for in a comfy room. We also got huge separate beds which Camilla is always chuffed about because she’s not in the immediate area of my snoring.
Disclaimer: the beds aren’t actually pushed up against the window like below, you wouldn’t get any sleep if they were – but, it made for a good photo so shoot us.
Now, one of the most important parts of a hotel stay for us is breakfast. If they don’t have a decent breakfast then it’s a no from us. However, luckily The River Lee Hotel had this down to a T.
Not only does breakfast take place in one of their beautifully designed (potential wedding venue) functions rooms, so you feel incredibly fancy eating it, but the food is divine. There is a continental buffet with an entire fresh honeycomb for your natural yogurt and fruit, alongside sweet French pastries and freshly baked bread. Step one complete. Then, there’s hot food from the kitchen, which has everything from a full vegetarian cooked breakfast to pancakes. Quick heads up; they don’t scrimp on the smoked salmon! Step two complete.
The River Lee Hotel sets you up perfectly for the day. They even give you bottled water when you’re heading out, keeping you hydrated for your adventure… after your millions of orange juices at breakfast.
After breakfast it was time to head out and explore. We were so excited! However, after a long day out in the elements we were equally excited to get back to our home away from home.
While we were staying at The River Lee Hotel, we were also lucky enough to dine at The Grill restaurant. Now, this had to be our favourite room in the whole hotel. The walls were painted a deep turquoise, there was light brown leather seating and gold rails which gave the room an elegant 1920’s vibe and the art work was incredible.
We only found out at the end of our stay that the art work in The Grill was commissioned by the head of the Doyle Collection, from an artist called Heather Chontos. Her fascinating story includes her loosing her sight for part of her childhood, only to regain it a year later. Regaining her sight gave her a completely new perspective on colour and light. Her artwork is vibrant and nonconforming, plus a great dinner discussion topic! If that’s the only reason you head to The Grill, it would be a worth it.
When we had dinner at The Grill on the Saturday evening, it was full without feeling crowded. Plus, there was really fun, but relaxed and positive vibe. Topped off with some amazing food!
To start we had the harissa grilled Gambas and the Ballinwillin venison bourguignon with sage fleuron. Both were to die for! Plus, the plate of Gambas was as big as our heads! Then, we had the West Cork chicken supreme with dauphinoise potato, baby leeks and morel cream and the sirloin steak with mac and cheese on the side – obviously. Who doesn’t love mac and cheese!?
Now, we more than likely didn’t need desert at this point. However, in some cultures it’s rude to say no to pudding. We’re not 100% sure if Ireland falls into that category, but someone who does might have been listening. So, for desert we had the potted Bramley apple & pear oat crumble with vanilla gelato and the sticky toffee pudding with crisp honeycomb and salted butterscotch gelato. De-li-cious!
Plus, if you’re staying at The River Lee Hotel for more than one night, The Grill isn’t your only option. There’s also The Cocktail Bar. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, plus all the cocktails have a little Irish twist. We were lucky enough to have a sip… or two… or three after dinner. No regrets here! After our dinner, wine and cocktails we rolled back to our room in a wine and food induced coma.
But, it doesn’t stop there! The hotel also has a cafe outside on the River Lee. If we’re honest -and if we lived in Cork- we would spend every single summers day here. But, there is only so much two girls can eat in two days, so we unfortunately had to give it a miss.
After breakfast on our second morning we were sad to be leaving. Not only is the decor at the The River Lee Hotel stunning and the food delicious, the staff are super friendly. It may have been the difference of Irish people compared to Londoners -we’re often known as the grumpiest people in the world- but we don’t think we’ve met a friendlier bunch.
By the end of the weekend we knew we would never see a solemn face on the desk, at breakfast or even when passing someone in the hall. We even made friends with Kamilla in the restaurant -Kamilla with a ‘K’- Camilla was very excited!
We even heard on the grape vine we need to head back in October for the Cork Jazz Festival. The weekend of the year where Cork really comes alive. The whole city is taken over by jazz, with multiple venues holding different events, including The River Lee Hotel. It sounds absolutely crazy!
And finally, as we said before, we were in Ireland for a road trip. The River Lee Hotel was the perfect location for everything we wanted to see. So, here’s all the amazing places we were able to drive to in two days;
- The Lakes of Killarney
- Inch Beach
*This trip was gifted by The River Lee Hotel, part of the Doyle Collection.