It’s probably not how you remember it.
It’s much better now, Skibbereen.
The market town was always good for a ramble on a rainy day during childhood holidays in Crookhaven and Barleycove, but lately, it’s quietly upped its game.
In fact, there’s finally plenty to entice city folk to make it the destination instead of a stop-off on the journey. Key to all this is that it hasn’t yet been fully hipster-fied, so the vibe is old skool traditional Ireland, except with good coffee.
The main lure in this neck of the woods is the newly refurbished Liss Ard Estate, busily creating its own little buzz under the watchful eye of new GM, Greek luxury hotelier Alexi Argyris.
En route to the hotel, you can use the extra time you would have spent schlepping across the country to another staycation spot to park up, chill out and explore the place.
Here are our tips for a sneaky staycation down West:
Treasure hunters have long circled Skib’ on the map as an excellent spot for antique and vintage furniture shopping.
The town has a selection of shops to check out, but don’t miss The Mardyke Magpie on Mardyke Street, where you’ll find everything from old-fashioned clay hot water bottles to unusual chairs, baskets, ornaments and everything in between.
Driving from Cork you’ll also pass through Leap where RH Vintage stocks a varied and affordable selection of fabulous vintage finds. rhvintageinteriors.com
THE LUNCH SPOT
When you hit the road early enough, a luxuriously long lunch is the key to kicking off any overnight getaway.
Hit Dillons Corner on Bridge Street for small plates of caponata with Macroom Buffalo mozzarella and sourdough toast and tagliatelle with fresh tomatoes and confit chilli and garlic.
They only use organic, unbleached flours, and all house breads and pizza bases are sourdough, fermenting for more than 25 hours, for a more gut-friendly loaf.
If you’re in a hurry, pick up their flatbreads, salads and sandwiches to go – in a compostable takeaway container, natch. dillonscorner.ie
THE COFFEE STOP
If you only have 20 minutes, head for O’Neill’s on Street. Full of cosy nooks and crannies, it’s a dreamy little spot to sink into a West Cork Coffee mocha, all to a soothing soundtrack.
You’ve probably heard someone rave about it already, but Liss Ard Estate is one of the premier spots in Cork for a sneaky getaway à deux.
Check in (we recommend Room 2, previous guests include Mr Bob Geldof) and sink into the tub in your sumptuous room for an outrageously long soak.
Once you’re suitably wrinkled, head downstairs to the cocktail bar and cuddle up beside the roaring fire in the drawing room.
The cocktail list features a tasty selection of drinks to sip as the sun sets behind the majestic cedar tree that stretches into the sky beyond the window.
There’s plenty to explore on the grounds if you fancy some exercise, from the 12km of walking trails and 40-acre private lake to James Turrell’s renowned Irish Sky Garden, a giant earth and stone crater embedded into the landscape of the Liss Ard Estate gardens.
The artwork consists of an archway, a long megalithic-like passage, and stairs leading to an oval-shaped, grass-lined crater, where the visitor is invited to “lie back and look at the sky”.
Dinner is a treat indeed. Artfully dreamed up and plated by executive head chef Alex Petit and his team, and skillfully introduced by Liss Ard’s knowledgeable servers, much of the menu is hand-picked in the hotel’s walled garden, mere footsteps from your table.
Hot tip; order the chowder, a rich medley of wild Irish shellfish, Noilly Prat, trout caviar, and lemon. A spoonful is worth the trip alone.
Add a perfect plate of crisp ham hock croquettes to the party and you’ll soon understand what all the fuss is about… and that’s just for starters.
Luxe mains of duck and cod, both served with charred potatoes, spiced cocoa, and rosemary creme fraiche, washed down with a top-notch Malbec, make for a memorable meal.
HOW DO I BOOK? Call Liss Ard Estate reception 028 40000 or visit lissardestate.ie.