In Ireland, these four words often seem like our knee-jerk reaction to any scenario when the country presents itself in such dazzling summer splendor, you could be anywhere in the world – but at home. “Of course it’s like the south of France, Mary!” This would be an example, no doubt pronounced several times this week on Sauvignon Blanc in Kinsale. And I can be a little guilty of that too.
This week, as I arrived in Cabü, the last forest resort to reach the Hidden Heartlands of Ireland, maybe I was really transported to Sweden, Vermont or even Nova Scotia. But it would actually turn out that I was about to enjoy one of my most impressive stays in modest but beautiful County Cavan.
Given our dearth of native forests in Ireland (we have almost the lowest coverage in Europe), cottage culture has never really been part of our national psyche. But following in the footsteps of Center Parcs in Longford, which just announced ambitious expansion plans this week, fellow Englishman Cabü spotted a tourist niche in the Cavan market and opened his wooded estate in the heart of the county’s lakes. . last summer.
While their striking aesthetics may seem straight out of the Swedish forest, Cabü’s collection of 28 log cabins and lakeside houses were actually made from existing lodges, which were incidentally created by the OPW as holiday homes. exhibition to showcase the power of Irish timber. After serving as a short-lived vacation village in the 2000s, a luxury overhaul and some nifty cosmetic touches later on has resulted in a breathtaking chalet complex.
Checking in with a few travel writer friends and my madra, Vipp, I stayed in one of Cabü’s three-bedroom boathouses, which featured a spacious deck spilling out onto Lough Oughter surrounded by trees. The interiors were taken directly from the “Cabin Porn” coffee table book that lay casually on the ottoman in the living room; the well equipped kitchen was the perfection of the Pinterest board, this designer living room was cozy (although maybe a bit tight for a full six person occupancy) while the bedrooms were comfortable luxury hotel quality – even the bedroom with beds bunk at the bottom for which Vipp and I bagged convenient outdoor accessibility.
We kept looking for issues like competitors on Four in a Bed, but it was a world-class functional setup that courted with a mind-blowing factor that didn’t age.
In terms of vibe, Cabü was largely occupied by a friendly crop of families, many dog owners, when we visited, with a few couples also joining in the rustic romance of it all. The estate seemed to engulf residents well and it was a largely serene, unpretentious setting, and much lower than the Insta-shoot celebrity vibe I had seen a bit online when it launched.
Sure, the serenity might have been thwarted by a band from Northern Ireland offering a late night S Club 7 chant (maybe not what you or the surrounding wildlife want to hear around midnight), but the site was overall perfectly relaxing.
This unplugged vibe is undoubtedly organized by Cabü’s pleasant (but smart) car-free strategy, in that you unload your gear and then park 200m from your cabin, so you might easily be inclined to stay – and to spend – on the spot, were there is not much to discover beyond.
As for facilities, Cabü has a boutique general store selling everything from local steaks to chic cabin furniture, while most of the social life here centers around the park’s sitooterie – a gazebo in outdoor lantern lit with sheepskin furniture, private fires for grilling s’mores and games like the giant Connect Four or ping pong for some friendly competition.
The staff here are excellent; you can order drinks from them through the store bar and there is also a wonderful handful of hot tubs and four poster saunas, where you can have a glass of bubbles delivered to the bubbles. The resort restaurant remains closed, so most of the time you are in barbecue country.
Cabü, however, is of course only as good as its backdrop. The estate sits right on the shores of winding Lough Oughter, one of Cavan’s 365 lakes and a freshwater fantasy land. As well as kayaking with Vipp and diving off the pier for morning swims, our highlight was taking advantage of Cabü’s private boat rental and setting off for the elusive Cloughoughter Castle.
The 13th century keep tower sits on a small sequestered island a few miles downstream from the lake and landing on it was an absolute trip. Especially since it was our entire maiden voyage on a motorboat – but after our second failed landing and the help of a rope from a Polish family in a kayak, we were finally on dry land.
Reviews of Cabü were few and largely cosmetic: one of the upstairs bedrooms has an unblinded skylight, meaning anyone crouching in it will be inundated with natural light from around 4 a.m. What is perhaps more tangible is that while Cabü’s decor is truly impressive, there is a cookie-cutter feel to the finish.
I think additional localized touches, like maybe Cavan’s lakes art prints or even Coillte’s retro kitsch, would complement the core sense of the experience. After all, Cabü is a wooded wonderland and one of the best accommodation I have enjoyed in Ireland. But during your stay here you could be anywhere, sometimes you really want to feel like you are in Cavan.
Cabü offers one, two and three bedroom cabins with the best available rates at € 268 per night for a two bedroom cabin (for four people, minimum stays apply).
Guests get a free 30-minute dip in the hot tub and sauna, boat rental in Cabü is € 80 for three hours (four places) while kayaking and paddleboarding costs € 20 (€ 10 for kids).
Cabü quickly books up for the summer, but don’t overlook it as a fall or winter getaway either; it has serious appeal all season.
Cavan is full of attractions to discover both right next to Cabü and beyond. Killykeen Forest Park offers labyrinthine forest trails while the adjacent Killeshandra Greenway is a great addition for cyclists and walkers.
Elsewhere, and straddling the border with neighboring Fermanagh, is Cuilcagh Mountain’s hugely popular ‘Stairway to Heaven’, while the Cavan Burren is an unspoiled natural haven. Pot, the source of the mighty river, so get there now before the masses!
If you want to spend an evening away from the barbecue, reserve a seat at gourmet pubs like Derragarra Inn the Oak Room restaurant in Cavan Town, or for a gourmet getaway, Neven Maguire’s MacNean Restaurant in Blacklion.