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Fota opportunity

I've never understood the rise of the recession buzzword 'staycation'. It's as if we've only just discovered holidaying at home, when the reality is it was all most of us ever knew pre-Celtic Tiger.

Who doesn't remember being wedged into the back of the car between deckchairs and duvets, emerging hours later, stumbling like a newborn foal, into a bungalow not unlike the one you had just left, but somehow more exotic for being out in the wilds of Connemara or Donegal?

One such epic eight-hour journey to Cork turned me off holidaying in the county for far too long. It was, therefore, a pleasant surprise to arrive at our Fota Island destination in just three hours from Dublin.



comfort

We were staying in one of the self-catering lodges on the grounds of the five-star Sheraton Golf Hotel and Resort in east Cork, one of the many options available from Trident Holiday Homes nationwide.

Fota offers two/three and four-bed lodges divided into 'Courtyard' and 'Courseside'. The latter are larger and detached, but the styling and comfort in both is exemplary.

On arrival, our two-year-old son immediately wanted to grab his bucket and spade and head for the 'beach' -- which we figured out meant the bunkers guarding the 16th green.



beach

After the promise of a trip to a real beach the next day, we entered our three-bed lodge. All I can say is it was certainly a step up from self-catering holidays of old -- beautifully designed, great attention to the finer details and very spacious.

Lodge residents have the use of the hotel pool and fitness suite, with the hydrotherapy pool costing €25 extra.

The only gripe, and it's a minor one, would be that the trip to the hotel involves getting the whole family back into the car for the short drive from the lodges. There is a perfectly pleasant walk, but it runs too close to the golfing action for comfort.

The Sheraton has a number of eating options with bar food and an excellent children's menu in the Spike bar in the clubhouse and Amber Lounge in the hotel. Also, the Fota Restaurant opens every evening and The Cove offers fine dining on a Friday and Saturday night.

Special mention must also go to the Bramley Lodge, an Avoca-style cafe nearby, which offers breakfast, lunch and evening meals, as well as wonderful breads and takeaway dinners, perfect for the lazy self-caterers.

Speaking of the little ones, there are plenty of options close by to keep them happy -- chief among them, of course, is Fota wildlife park.

It offers a refreshingly different experience from Dublin Zoo. It may not have the same range of animals, but quite a number roam free in the park, adding to the thrill.

Further afield, there are a number of excellent and safe beaches only a short drive away, and Leahy's Family Farm outside Middleton (a bit rough around the edges it has to be said) keeps the kids amused for an hour or so.

For the golfers, Fota was host to the Irish Open in 2001 and 2002 and has 27 holes of championship golf. Special offers are available for lodge residents, with a golf academy on hand for fine-tuning your swing.

Fota certainly got the thumbs up from all the family.

It offers the convenience of self-catering without giving up any of those little luxuries which are essential to any well-deserved break.

Even better, Trident has a number of early-bird special offers, giving you the chance to save 10pc on your holiday in 2010.