Fota Island Resort has so much to recommend it that I scarcely know where to begin. Let’s start with the island bit, shall we? Just 15 minutes from Cork City, the 5-star hotel and spa are situated on a small island, accessible by road, that also boasts a golf course, 18th-century Fota House and a 40-acre wildlife park with more than 70 species including giraffes, cheetahs, monkeys and (my favourite) meerkats. It is, in a word, amazeballs.
We'd been invited to try out the Serenity Massage, exclusive to the Fota Island Spa, which is almost an hour and a half of pampering from head to toe. Don’t let the name fool you: this is much more than your standard massage, designed to ease out every scrap of stress and tension and to leave you in that lovely, floaty, melty, happy place.
Starting with a foot soak and a calming herbal tea, the treatment progresses through a full body massage, using hot stones alongside the therapist’s soothing hands, before culminating with a blissful face and scalp treatment. I nearly slid off the bed, feeling wonderfully restored and like my tired old aging limbs had been massaged back into their teenaged heyday.
Grape seed oil is used throughout for its anti-aging properties, which left my skin feeling nourished and baby soft. I was loathe to rinse it off, but not loathe enough to forfeit the spa’s facilities, which I was very taken with – the hydrotherapy pool was too inviting to be refused. One of the largest I’ve lounged in, this features nine different treatment areas to be tried out – the foot jets were a favourite – before taking forty winks on the heated spa recliners.
The next day we paid a visit to the wildlife, where we could have spent hours watching the playful meerkats alone. We missed the feeding of the cheetahs, apparently a highlight, and were freaked out by the oddly threatening ostriches, but fell in love with the grey-cheeked Mangabey monkeys. This is a lovely day out and not to be missed if you're visiting the resort.
And speaking of which, if you can, I'd go soon - the Serenity Massage can be experienced for the reduced price of €110 until the 31st of March ( it's usually €130). An overnight package is available including accommodation and breakfast with a Serenity Massage each for €349 per room, per night based on two people sharing, or €224 for single occupancy. The offer's also valid till March 31st. Check out www.fotaisland.ie for more.