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IMGP9859My husband and I have just returned from holiday in beautiful West Cork.  We stayed at Inish Beg (Irish for “small island”), a private island estate just a few miles from the quaint market town of Skibbereen and the picturesque port of Baltimore.  I think my husband would agree when I say that we totally fell in love with the island paradise that Paul and Georgina Keane (the estate owners) have worked so hard to sympathetically restore. IMGP3449Inish Beg lies in the unspoilt tidal estuary of the Ilen River amid 79 acres of private subtropical gardens and farmland.  The local flora and fauna benefits from the mild climate influenced by the gulf stream.  Carpets of woodland flowers, blossoming rhododendrons and fuchsias.  Woodlands of beech, oak, ash, hazel, holly and sycamore combined with shoreline views make Inish beg a magical place for walking.  The gardens, orchards and woodlands have been carefully designed to encourage the many species of bird and wildlife native to the island and those that stop their annually during migration.  Ravens, lapwings, heron, mute swan, pheasant, grey wagtails,barn owl are just a few of the many species of birds we saw while staying on the island. Badger, hedgehog, fox, field mouse, otter, pigmy shrew and field vole can also be found on the estate if you are very lucky.

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Why Ireland you might ask?  My father is originally from Dublin, a city which has given the world such towering literary figures as Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, Shaw, Wilde and Bramstoker to name but a few.  I have visited the UNESCO city of literature many times before, and not just to visit the Dublin Writers Museum as some (husband) would suggest.  There will always be a special place for Dublin in my heart, but following what has been a very challenging six months for us we decided West Cork, the most unspoilt and enchanting part of Ireland was what we needed most. The Lonely Planet Guide recently declared that everything you could want from Ireland can be found in West Cork.

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At Inish Beg we stayed in The Garden Retreat, a luxury one bedroom holiday apartment situated at the west wing of Inish Beg House.  When I booked this holiday I imagined this property would be tiny.  But on arrival I was shocked to see it was pretty much the same size as our Edwardian cottage in Epsom.  The Garden Retreat is in a perfect location on the estate as it is adjacent to the walled garden,  home to the heated indoor swimming pool, steam room and exercise room.  The double-bedded room overlooks the walled garden and the sitting room looks out onto the croquet lawn.  Perfect for a romantic getaway.  There is a variety of self catering holiday cottages and homes on the estate to choose from if you have children or wish to travel in a larger group.

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We also made friends at the garden retreat with frequent visits from Ruby (a loveable 7yr old English bulldog) and Cookie (a stunning 13 yr old ‘nobody knows what’).  My husband and I are both missing them terribly now we are back in the U.K. One of the attractions of staying at Inish Beg for us was also the range of outdoor activities that can be easily accessed in the local area, from sea kayaking, to whale watching and horse riding.  We did an awesome moonlight trip with Atlantic Sea Kayaking to see the astonishing bio-luminescence which I will be telling you more about in a later post. The staff at Inish Beg were fantastic and really went out of their way to ensure our holiday was one we would remember. I am sure it will not be too long before me and my husband are booking another break at Inish Beg. We will be bringing you recipes from Cork and more stories from our holiday in future posts so keep reading!

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