Nothing gets me more in the mood for Christmas than a winter weekend break.
I usually scout out the quaintest little Christmas markets in the snowiest of places but this November, I decided on a city break in Ireland.
Cork, Ireland – to be specific.
Just a hop, skip and an hour-long flight from Stansted, what it lacked in snow and markets it promised to make up for in incredible food, kind and hospitable people, talented musicians and a lively pub scene.
As I was in my second trimester I decided that to make up for my lack of participation in the last on the list, I’d find a hotel with a spa.
That’s how I stumbled upon Hayfield Manor.
A five star hotel and spa with a difference, in Cork city centre.
First impressions did not disappoint.
We were welcomed by roaring fires, a pianist and a tastefully (but generously) decorated interior adorned with sparkly lights and show-stopping wreaths.
I’m never leaving.
After one of the speediest but most helpful hotel check-in’s I’ve ever experienced, we changed into fluffy white robes and headed straight to the spa.
Hayfield Manor offers a range of pregnancy spa packages and we were able to book a couples room so that we could both enjoy our treatments at the same time.
After an hour of blissful pampering we spent the remainder of the day and evening in the hotel lounge enjoying festive, romantic piano music by an open fire, complete with endless scrabble games and free-flowing hot chocolates (for me) and Guinness (for him).
Day two in Cork
We woke early to a sensational breakfast of pancakes and pastries, and discussed whether to leave our beautiful Hayfield haven.
Reasoning that we had to tick off at least some of the sights, we slightly reluctantly decided to brave the Irish weather and head to Blarney Castle.
Armed with umbrellas and multiple layers, we roamed the impressive castle grounds.
Drawn to any bursts of colour we could find in an otherwise very grey day…
Of course, one great benefit of visiting in November is that we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
To pose for some very cold looking photos!
The famous Blarney Stone lies at the very top of the Blarney Castle so we mustered up some energy and climbed the winding narrow staircase to the top to enjoy the views.
We couldn’t leave without checking out the House and Gardens… dreaming of what it would be like to live here and reminiscing about our own castle wedding back in 2017.
We headed back to the warmth of Hayfield Manor to rest and unwind before heading out into Cork city centre for dinner.
Which delivered on yet more twinkly Christmas lights.
It’s a beautiful city that seems to somehow become more beautiful at night.
We wandered the sparkly streets in search of dinner (and photo opps).
Choosing to eat at a Lebanese / Mediterranean tapas bar called Orso, where we enjoyed some of the best hummus and Batersh of our lives, followed by chicken shawarma and the most indulgent chocolate board.
Orso do not take bookings so you’ll have to chance it, or put your name down on the waiting list on the night and head out for a few drinks beforehand. We left stuffed and satisfied – the theme of our weekend.
Day 3 in Cork
We leave today, but not before taking a walk to Cork city centre via the University and its pretty grounds.
Cork is a little bit like stepping back in time to an England that I imagine existed 60 or 70 years ago.
We visited the English market…
Picking up some much needed artisan chocolates to give us the energy we needed for the journey home.
It’s been a Corker.