retreat yo self | 

We finally got to unwind at the Insta-friendly Cabu by the Lakes in the heart of Cavan

Cabu has become a mecca for those looking to completely unwind

Cabu has become a mecca for those looking to completely unwind

Cabin fever: the warm cosy bedrooms

Cabin fever: the warm cosy bedrooms

Deirdre about to take the plunge in one of the resort's outdoor hot tubs

Deirdre about to take the plunge in one of the resort's outdoor hot tubs

Deirdre Reynolds takes to the lake

Deirdre Reynolds takes to the lake

The cabin interiors are even more impressive than the gorgeous exterior!

The cabin interiors are even more impressive than the gorgeous exterior!

The stunning sitooterie at Cabu by the Lakes

The stunning sitooterie at Cabu by the Lakes

Deirdre Reynolds

BACK in the 1990s, there was one compound word that struck fear into the heart of every Irish Mammy each summer - 'self-catering'.

Long before luxurious Airbnbs and hotel lodges were available at the click of a mouse, ours can't have been the only family to painstakingly pore over the classifieds in search of a suitable holiday home to escape it all before going back to the daily grind of school runs and ham sandwiches each September.

Looking back, some of my best holiday memories involve piling sideways into the backseat of a too-small car across my older siblings to Newport or Kilkee, before unloading the bikes and shopping bags, and freewheeling around the countryside in between downpours for the rest of the week.

Between the vomitous journey and all the packing and unpacking, I suspect they were some of my mother's worst.

It's amazing the things that come flooding back when you're rooting through the kitchen drawers of a log cabin in Cavan for a corkscrew.

Deirdre Reynolds takes to the lake

Deirdre Reynolds takes to the lake

Suffice to say that despite being fully self-catered, things have moved on quite a bit at Cabu by the Lakes, a cluster of high-end cabins and lake houses in the heart of Killykeen Forest Park, which today come better equipped than most homes - with crockery, cleaning equipment and even a cocktail-making station.

Our two-night stay in one of the elegant two-bedroom woodland cabins proves a trip down memory lane for my friend too, a Cavan native who remembers coming to the former Coillte campsite as a fellow child of the 1990s when it was known as Killykeen Holiday Park.

Although she assures me it definitely didn't look like this back then.

Perched on the shores of Lough Oughter, about five minutes from Cavan town, the site was snapped up in 2017 by the UK modular home specialists, who splashed about €5m on jooshing up the existing 28 cabins and facilities before opening last year.

The company also has a sister property called Cabu by the Sea in Kent.

If it hasn't popped up on your Instagram feed yet, it will.

Cabin fever: the warm cosy bedrooms

Cabin fever: the warm cosy bedrooms

We were a day too late to catch television cook Donal Skehan taking a dunk in the Japanese hot bath hidden among the trees and - worse luck - a day too early to spot Love Island star Greg O'Shea braving the cold water bucket following a sauna session.

Surviving three lockdowns has, ironically it seems, given us all cabin fever of a different kind.

Although by no means the only wilderness retreat to spring up here as the nation embraced the great outdoors, Cabu is fast becoming the country's most sought-after escape among celebrities and civilians alike.

Happily, getting in is set to become a little easier in the future, after the company recently got the green light to build a further 15 chalets.

Deirdre about to take the plunge in one of the resort's outdoor hot tubs

Deirdre about to take the plunge in one of the resort's outdoor hot tubs

If you're looking to get back to nature, without having to dig out a sleeping bag and a billycan, the 100-acre hideaway is certainly the most stylish way to do it.

There's wild swimming, woodland walks and cycle trails, of course, but what could boost mental wellness more than curling up in front of a huge, outdoor fire pit with a good book. Oh all right then, it was Wordle.

Hygge in a holiday, the Nordic-style lodges - ranging from studio cabins perfect for couples up to three-bed cabins for larger groups - also boast a log burner, piles of snuggly blankets, books and games, as well as a barbecue out back.

The cabin interiors are even more impressive than the gorgeous exterior!

The cabin interiors are even more impressive than the gorgeous exterior!

But while you can go 'off grid' in the rural retreat, crucially for nomophobes, you don't have to, thanks to high-speed broadband and a smart TV complete with Netflix.

By the same token, while it's definitely more pocket-friendly to swing by the local Aldi or SuperValu before withdrawing to the woods, an on-site shop stocked with everything from bamboo toothbrushes to locally made ready meals means that, unlike my poor mother all those years ago, you don't actually have to pack everything but the kitchen sink.

Extra beds, baby baths, bikes, boats and paddle boards are all available to rent too.

With the red wine finally breathing, some soothing piano music spinning on Spotify and fresh spaghetti bubbling away, we've got pretty much everything we need for a relaxing midweek girls' getaway without leaving our cabin.

A blissful Forest Bathing experience the next day just makes sure of it.

Set on the forest's edge to nature's own playlist of chirruping birds and swishing leaves, an outdoor hot tub and sauna session is included for every guest aged over 16. While those staying a little longer can add on extra sessions for €20 or supersize their spa experience with the Japanese hot bath for €50.

The Breffni County famously has a lake for every day of the year, and after taking out a boat, we later find ourselves navigating a maze of them towards Cloughoughter Castle.

Dating back to the early 13th century, the lonesome castle on a tiny island, accessible only by boat, served as everything from a fortress to a prison and a royal castle before being abandoned in the 17th century, with its incredible history well worth getting your sea legs for.

There's a minimum two-night stay at the fully cashless retreat, but that shouldn't pose a problem, not least as four-legged members of the family are also welcome in a number of dog-friendly cabins.

Ahead of the summer holiday season, back on dry land we're told that some anxious parents have already called ahead pondering if there's enough to keep young kids entertained for a week.

Admittedly, there are no heated indoor pools, water slides or bowling alleys, like a certain other family-focused park not so far away.

The stunning sitooterie at Cabu by the Lakes

The stunning sitooterie at Cabu by the Lakes

But there isn't a child in Ireland who wouldn't be thrilled by playing giant board games or toasting their own marshmallows on a grill table with their family while making new friends in the communal Sitooterie.

Who knows, in another three decades, maybe it'll even be their favourite holiday memory - only this time round it'll be their parents' one too.

FACTBOX: Cabu by the Lakes has a minimum two night stay. Prices start from €350 for two people for two nights. Boat hire starts from €40 for three hours; all day bike or kayak hire costs €20 for an adult and €10 for a child or teenager. For advance booking, email bookings@cabubythelakes.ie or call 049-489 4027.


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