The week before St. Patrick’s Day, I arrived in the small town of Midleton in County Cork, Ireland. I was invited by my friends at Jameson Irish Whiskey to explore not just their own story, but the landscape and culture of Ireland as well. I would ultimately learn just how intertwined they are — the story, the landscape and the culture — and it started on a large estate resort in Castlemartyr, Ireland. I brought my camera, a few lenses and a strong sense of curiosity as I explored Ireland in pictures. Join me below for day one, with an itinerary that included the 5-star Castlemartyr Resort and the Blackbird Pub in the seaside village of Ballycotton.
Images and Captions by Michael Seamus Payne for TheCoolist.com Castlemartyr Resort. Three generations of architecture span the structure from old castle ruins to the restored main building, above, to the new modern wing where I was accommodated. © 2014 – Seamus Payne After nearly 16 hours of travel and no sleep in the process, a five-star bedroom is a welcome sight. I spent the next two-and-a-half hours under the covers before the itch to explore woke me from my sleep. © 2014 – Seamus Payne My friends at Jameson were kind enough to offer me a spa package for the afternoon, but I politely declined. I’d have rest when I returned home, but for now, exploring the architecture and grounds of Castlemartyr was my aim. © 2014 – Seamus Payne The first step was a tour around the Castlemartyr grounds with the “owners” of the estate, Earl and Countess, a pair of Irish Setters who live in the hotel year round. © 2014 – Seamus Payne Of the two, Countess was the least camera shy. Here, Countess shows me the golf course where guests can explore the landscape of County Cork over a round of 18 holes. © 2014 – Seamus Payne Countess peers off into the golf course in the distance. © 2014 – Seamus Payne After dropping off Earl and Countess, I explored more of the Castlemartyr grounds on foot. This arch from the old castle ruins framed the horse fields in the distance beautifully. I stopped and stared for minutes, waiting for the horse to calm and pose for my shot. © 2014 – Seamus Payne The hike around Castlemartyr’s grounds inspired an appetite, so I headed to Knight’s Bar near the lobby for lunch. The room was ornate, grand and relaxing all at once. © 2014 – Seamus Payne The waiter recommended the club, which added egg and traditional bacon cuts to the style I’m used to. I left no scraps on my plate. © 2014 – Seamus Payne The door adjacent to Knight’s Bar led to an outdoor patio overlooking the grounds. Jameson Irish Whiskey barrels sat between each column, a place where I and my media colleagues would rest several drinks of the same brand later in the evening. © 2014 – Seamus Payne The state of the architecture and the grounds was quite impeccable. Everything was clean, carefully manicured and visually pleasing. © 2014 – Seamus Payne After lunch, the fog returned and the air turned crisp, blanketing the landscape in a quiet calm. © 2014 – Seamus Payne Horses raced through the fog without riders, chasing one another and enjoying their wide open land. © 2014 – Seamus Payne As the sky began to darken, it was time to prepare for dinner. I returned to Castlemartyr’s entrance to meet my new friends at Jameson and my fellow media. © 2014 – Seamus Payne My group took a short drive to Ballycotton, a hilly seaside village with cliffs and lighthouses overlooking the ocean beyond. The Blackbird was to be our host, a small bar built into the ruins of a former post office. © 2014 – Seamus Payne Inside, The Blackbird was small and comfortable, heated by woodfired stoves and the Jameson we were served. © 2014 – Seamus Payne The rear patio at the Blackbird was where the magic happens, an open space that features the ruins of the old section as a primary design element. The sun had just set, with a bit of dusky blue in the sky, which filtered through the empty windows of the old ruin. © 2014 – Seamus Payne Old in design but young in spirit, The Blackbird features a food-truck-style kitchen in the rear, serving up fresh fish and chips from cod that was caught that afternoon, a matter of miles away. © 2014 – Seamus Payne After the sun had set, the group retreated indoors for live music from a pair of local musicians… and several more Jameson drinks. © 2014 – Seamus Payne Toward the end of the evening, the manager of The Blackbird invited a few of us for an impromptu tour of Ballycotton. We hopped in his car for a tour around town, stopping to see the lighthouse, the docks and the hills that overlooked the town. He carried a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey in his trunk with four thimble glasses for sipping while overlooking the foggy sea below. None of this was scheduled or suggested, it was entirely impromptu, a sign of how welcoming and friendly the Irish can be. © 2014 – Seamus Payne Upon returning to Castlemartyr at the end of the night, the fog was the thickest I had seen. A ghostly oak tree barely peeked out from the thick fog, and I spent some time photographing it in long exposures. © 2014 – Seamus Payne The next morning, I would awake for a trip to The Jameson Experience and the Irish Whiskey Academy in Midleton, where I would spend my day learning about the story, the craft and the people behind every bottle of Jameson. © 2014 – Seamus Payne As we celebrate with all of our friends who make St. Patrick’s Day great, we raise a glass to Jameson for sponsoring this story. Exploring Ireland in Pictures: Castlemartyr Resort and The Blackbird Pub | Gallery