accessibility matters at Castlemartyr Resort

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Good things come to those who wait! Like many people right now, our travel routine has gotten a little out of sync during the pandemic, so when Thom Breathnach from Irish Examiner approached us to write a hotel access review, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse!

Mike and I were thrilled to be invited to stay at the five star Castlemartyr resort as we were curious if five star luxury also meant five star affordability. After checking the hotel’s website, we found a category aptly titled “Access for All”, which stated that “Our resort facilities are designed to promote full access for our guests…” Reassured, we dusted off our suitcases, packed the car and hit the road for East Cork!

Arriving at Castlemartyr, we walked the long driveway past majestic oaks and cedars and the ruins of a 15th century tower house, hallmarks of Castlemartyr’s rich heritage and a telltale sign of a historic estate. We stopped at the designated drop-off area, to be met by George, who with his brass luggage cart took us into the hotel’s no-step entrance (wheelchairs and luggage carts share a common love for level access!).

At the front desk, Sales and Marketing Manager Sean Cooney and Guest Relations Manager Trevor Sheehan greeted us with a brief historical overview of the site and guided us to the elevator area. The desk was a little high from the perspective of a wheelchair user checking in – a common encounter in many hotels in Ireland, but not all. Along the way, we were stopped by an impressive mix of eclectic wall art by local artists and sculptures, all positioned along polished wooden floors, which made the flow of wheelchair navigation much easier. despite the distance to the elevator. Having our beloved Frenchie, Nala, back at base, we were also impressed to note the hotel’s ground floor rooms were dog friendly. Our own room was on the second floor – although for emergency access or in the event of a broken lift we generally preferred ground floor accommodation where possible.

Michael Hennessy Cullen and Leona Tuck


Follow-up discussion

We stayed in a spacious Deluxe King room, the first highlight being an exquisite birthday welcome on our dresser, complete with chocolate covered strawberries, wine and a balloon. It’s really the little things that make a customer feel special. Our first check was the en-suite bathroom, where we opened the large door to find a decadent, accessible space with a white marble roller sink and roller shower and lowered towel hooks, while the toilet was equipped with all the necessary accessories with a pull cord and grab bars etc. A mounted shower chair was found on the side wall next to the shower controls with an appropriate height for transfer – however, the seat itself was both hinged downwards and was quite narrow in width, which we observed could create a potential slip hazard. Shelves for toiletries were found on the lower level on the shower wall, but out of arm’s reach, on the other side of the mounted shower seat (a common oversight we see in hotel rooms ). Although popular in bathrooms, pedal bins are not the best for wheelchair users traveling independently.

Moving on to our cozy bed… as a general rule, in terms of hotel beds and accessibility, the higher the price of a room, the higher the mattress! High mattresses can make it more difficult to transfer from a wheelchair because you have to be more or less at the same level as the mattress to transfer on. However, traveling as a couple meant I could help Mick by giving him a hand to transfer onto the bed. Wheelchair users traveling independently would appreciate the option of a winch for extra support/leverage to aid in high mattress transfers. Our wardrobe had a sliding door but the rail was slightly higher than expected for a wheelchair user to hang clothes from. We found that the window handle for opening was also too high from a wheelchair user’s arm reach perspective. Many of these common oversights can be easily corrected.


At your service!

Once installed and unpacked, we decide to stroll around to get our bearings. Navigating around the hotel, we realized that the secret to Castlemartyr’s effortless flow of access was that the center of activity around the estate was on the ground floor. On the ground floor, the two accessible entrances to the spa and the swimming pool were next to each other. Next to the pool entrance we also found a wheelchair accessible changing room for the health club. A quick recon of the gym and we saw a range of weights placed on accessible racks suitable for those wanting to work the upper body.

We had pre-booked for a timeslot at the pool, but were politely informed that unfortunately there was no hoist by the pool. To avoid being separated as a couple on our evening, we opted out of the pool reservation, but did check the pool area for recliners etc. This was a disappointment given the website’s initial statement.

Moving on, we then peeked into Knight’s Bar, a grand lounge called ‘the heart of the restored mansion’ – and made a mental note to return there for a nightcap. Next, head to the garden terrace to soak up the last rays of evening sunshine and take in the historic backdrop of the Castlemartyr yews that keep the maze manicured. Further out, the paths around the gardens had varying grades of gravel so some routes were more accessible than others. Entry to the outdoor bar was effortless via a compact stone path and ramp where we enjoyed a cheeky pre-dinner cocktail.

The ecological walk in Youghal
The ecological walk in Youghal



Local information

While the rain put a stop to our plans to fully explore Castlemartyr Ancient Forest (an accessible entrance into the woods was noted), the friendly staff were happy to let us know of two accessible walks on the nearby beach , which was nice to hear, considering many ranges. around Ireland are inaccessible to wheelchair users.

For some fresh sea air, our first stop was at Garryvoe beach with accessible parking and a boardwalk overlooking Ballycotton Island. We thought this beach had a lot of potential for a beach wheelchair as lifeguards are on hand and there is a concrete ramp leading down to the sand.

The next port of call was Youghal’s Eco-Boardwalk – Ireland’s longest seafront promenade – where we met many other wheelchair users enjoying this new coastal experience.

We then stumbled upon Claycastle Beach Shop, an unassuming classic seaside kiosk tucked away from the boardwalk selling all sorts of buckets and shovels – childhood memorabilia. Here we tried their ‘Donut Surprize’, a treat consisting of a freshly made heated donut covered in ice cream with a flake and syrup of your choice on top which we have now labeled a Youghal dessert delicacy! One thing we noticed was that despite having many accessible parking lots in Youghal, we could not easily locate where the wheelchair accessible gate was among the many standard gates.


Accessibility:

Castlemartyr Resort shows how history and heritage can still be synonymous with accessibility.

However, throughout the hospitality industry in Ireland, it seems to be an accepted norm that pool winches are in short supply. This must change. Mick and I have used pool hoists everywhere, from public pools around Wexford to hotel pools in Tenerife to motels in America. Pool reels are needed to roll out pool covers so mechanical equipment next to a pool is nothing new and included pool access is crucial for couples and families – it can really do the difference between a restricted stay or an inclusive and memorable vacation. With a little more attention to accessible detail and investment in inclusive pool amenities for all guests, Castlemartyr Resort can pave the way to five-star luxury for all.

Travel Editor’s Note: Michael and Leona stayed as guests of Castlemartyr Resort for this review. The hotel currently offers B&B rates from €206 per couple. For more offers and packages see castlemartyrresort.ie

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