SETTLING in Cork was never the masterplan for Australian woman Colleen Phillips, but after wandering into the Rebel County 20 years ago, she is still here.
Now the proud owner of a sustainable glamping holiday resort in east Cork, which she runs with her Italian partner Fabrizio Vitali, Colleen, aged 44, says she could be here for some time.
Colleen and Fabrizio met after a gig at the Crane Lane 10 years ago.
Inch Hideaway, located just a mile from Inch Beach, was set up by the pair four years later in an effort to make use of their ample two acre garden.
“We bought the site, because it was a nice site!
“We never had any intentions of running a glamping site, but we were living in a yurt (circular tent) for a while, I think it was around two years, and we had a second one set up and one of my neighbours just said why don’t you rent out the other one? And that was it!”
The dynamic duo set about creating an artsy, hippy-centric haven for anyone seeking an escape from hectic modern society.
Each yurt has a private garden space with picnic tables and space for an extra tent.
There is a self-catering communal kitchen, built by Colleen and Fabrizio themselves.
The yurts are insulated, with electricity, and sit on raised platforms.
They are heated with a wood-fired stove or electric heater and furnished with beds and all kinds of extra comforts.
There is also a banquet dining area in a barn, barbecue facilities, a wood-fire pizza oven and campfire pit to keep people entertained.
The campsite has hot electric showers and compost toilets, in keeping with the sustainable theme.
“We started with two yurts and now we have five set up, we can house 28 people, and it is just perfect.
“We are never going to be millionaires but we are happy.”
The glamping site is used for a whole host of functions including wedding ceremonies, surf and yoga retreats, workshops or team building events for groups, varying from music to holistic health, sustainable building to crafts.
Presently, Colleen is looking to expand their offering by turning one of the yurts into an artist-in-residence hideaway and opening a therapy room.
“I have been studying massage at the College of Commerce with the idea of opening a therapy room on site as well.”
Since the lockdown, the pair have been working hard on improving the site for their guests, getting to jobs that had been on the long finger for some time.
“Financially, it has been brutal, with all the cancellations and refunds, but in another way, it has been a blessing.
“The weather has been great and we have been re-doing the garden, all the maintenance work and upskilling things. We can’t wait to show it off!”
Looking ahead to reopening, she said they had made a few changes to incorporate the Covid-19 pandemic and government guidelines.
“We are looking at a rota for the kitchen, so different groups are not in there at the same time and each yurt will have their own cooking implements as well and plenty of cleaning! Lots and lots of cleaning!”
Fingers crossed, Inch Hideaway is hoping to reopen in July.
“We have had a tonne of bookings over the last few days, our message is demand is high so book ahead and there is a full refund if things change.”
Colleen and Fabrizio live in a house at the front of the property and even in the winter, they are never short of company with a myriad of pets to tend to, including a pet pig named Doris, a tiny Shetland pony called Gary, two rescue greyhounds, Shadow and Tiger, and a brood of hens.
“None of our pets are very practical,” Colleen explained.
“We rescued Doris, she had been bought as a micro pig, as a piglet, and then grew up. We got the pony to keep the pig company, which kind of worked, they are friends, in their own way.”
Before setting up camp in east Cork, Colleen ran her own business, a “hippy shop”, selling handcrafts and clothes on Castle Street in the city.
The shop was called Andina which she set up after working in the markets, such as the Coal Quay market, for a number of years.
Every five years, Colleen heads home to Australia for a visit, but she said it is mainly to see family and friends, and she is not keen on the hot climate.
“I grew up in the hot tropics and I am done with that,” Colleen said.
Looking ahead, she doesn’t know what life will bring, but as long as there is adventure and challenges, she will be content.
“Who knows what’s next, I never meant to stay in Cork but I am still here and I am very happy.”