Green With Envy

31st December 2007 (Last Updated December 31st, 2007 18:30)

Phin Foster visits Capella Castlemartyr, a lavish and ambitious country retreat located in the heart of East Cork, Ireland.

Green With Envy

In what is becoming an increasingly crowded market, the Capella brand – founded by the company’s CEO Horst Schulze, former president of Ritz-Carlton – is promising to deliver “the unique benefits of the finest boutique hotels”, combined with “the amenities of the world’s great luxury hotels and resorts”.

This is a lofty aim, but Capella Castlemartyr – the second of the group’s hotels to open its doors in August 2007 – might just follow through on the firm's pledge. The 109-room property is set in a 220-acre estate in the rural idyll of East Cork, in the Republic of Ireland.

“The 109-room property is set in a 220-acre estate in the rural idyll of East Cork.”

At its heart, standing in the shadow of a crumbling 1,000-year-old castle, is a 17th century manor house. This beautiful example of late Georgian architecture is the hub of operations – housing the reception area, two restaurants, a bar, the presidential suite, four grand suites and six deluxe rooms.

The food on offer boasts serious Michelin pretension; with Roger Ohlsson, a former sous-chef at London’s two-starred Pied á Terre, brought in to run the kitchen. The general
manager, Peter Bowling, has been recruited from his post of managing director at Jumby Bay, Antigua.

The quality of service throughout is impeccable, a combination of characteristic Irish approachability and five-star efficiency. This is underpinned by an integral feature of the Capella brand: the personal assistant, who is entrusted with tailoring the experience of each guest to meet their particular tastes and needs.

However, Castlemartyr’s main attraction will probably not demand much time away from the manor. A large proportion of the estate is taken up by an 18-hole golf course; operating at nine holes until mid-February, 2008, with the clubhouse due for completion later in the year.

Interior design has been executed with golfers in mind and never strays too far from the management’s Ritz-Carlton heritage. While all rooms are kitted out to an extremely high specification, those not housed in the manor building are located within a large, new development that is also home to the impressive Aruga Spa.

“A large proportion of the estate is taken up by an 18-hole golf course.”

This does throw up problems. Some rooms are almost a five-minute walk from the front desk and with the key card problems experienced during our stay, with no way of contacting reception without walking the length of the hotel, the sense of tranquillity that Castlemartyr goes to such lengths to cultivate was undermined. The in-room televisions were also offline and, considering that the hotel was operating at under half occupancy, housekeeping seemed a little lax.

One hopes these are just teething problems because Castlemartyr has genuine potential to move the Irish luxury market along. Considering the location, the pedigree of the people behind the venture and the fact that over $1bn in investment capital has already been pumped into the brand, it looks as though the Celtic tiger has lost none of its bite.

For more information, visit www.capellacastlemartyr.com.