Arrive at Capella Castlemartyr after nightfall and you will be greeted with a spectacular sight: the floodlit remains of a 10th-century tower. In daylight, the scene is no less impressive – in front of the 17th-century manor house is a slate-coloured lake with swans, and horses in the velvety paddocks.
Capella Castlemartyr opened in August, and is the newest offering from Capella Hotels and Resorts, headed up by former Ritz-Carlton supremo, Horst Schulze. It's certainly an ambitious project; if rumours are true, it cost €90m (£64) to develop the resort, which extends to a hotel, spa, golf course, golf villas and holiday apartments.
The centrepiece is the manor house, with its magnificent Rococo stucco ceiling in The Knight's Bar. Bolted on to the main house is a contemporary wing containing most of the guestrooms, a spa, gym and restaurant.
Service is clearly the mantra at Capella Castlemartyr. A Private Assistant is also on hand – a sort of super-evolved concierge, who is assigned to guests before they even set foot through the door. Guests may explore on retro-style bicycles and there is the cosy Living Room, stocked with newspapers, books, tea and coffee. Capella's Bell Tower restaurant serves sophisticated fare, using as much local produce as possible.
A whole quarry's worth of stone must have been used to create the Auriga Spa. It uses Organic Pharmacy products and most treatments are based on the lunar cycle. It might sound more like lunacy to sceptics, but there is no denying that standards are high. When it is completed next year, Capella's biggest draw will undoubtedly be its Ron Kirby-designed inland-links golf course.
Interior design preferences aside, Capella Castlemartyr is hard to fault. Yet I couldn't quite shake off the feeling that I was in the middle of some designer's idealised version of the Irish countryside. Still, Capella's Americanised take on Irish hospitality, with its horse-drawn carriages and Irish setters, will appeal to both holidaying Hibernophiles and homegrown Celtic Tigers.
Capella Castlemartyr, Co Cork, Ireland (00 353 21 464 4050; www.capellacastlemartyr.com). The hotel is set in 220 acres of rolling parkland on the edge of the village of Castlemartyr, 25 minutes from Cork City.
Time from international airport: Cork airport is 20 minutes' drive, which will set you back about €30 (£21) in a taxi.
The 109 guest rooms are divided into six categories: standard, deluxe, Capella, Royal Suites, Grand Suites and one Presidential Suite. Most are housed in the new contemporary wing and all are pleasantly decorated with soothing hues, wooden floors, reproduction antiques and marble bathrooms. The attention to detail extends to fresh milk in the fridge to have with your tea.
Freebies: Each room has a minibar filled with free soft drinks; Celadon toiletries; Irish-made rainwater-and-moss soap; and there are tea and coffee making facilities.
Keeping in touch: There are hi-tech touch-screen controls beside the beds, flat-screen TVs, wireless internet access and direct-dial telephones.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at €425 (£304) a night, including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Ballymaloe House (00 353 21 465 2531; www.ballymaloe.ie) has B&B from €220 (£157).Reuse content