Showing posts with label Connemara. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Connemara. Show all posts

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: Best Places to Stay

Best Places to Stay 2016

Stayed in quite a few places this year. From Kerry to Meath, from Donegal to Dublin, from Limerick to Waterford,  from West Cork to Wexford. These were the best. Suggestions for 2017 welcome! 

 Screebe House, Connemara

Killiane Castle, Co. Wexford
Anyone for croquet at Killiane?

Cahernane House Hotel, Killarney.
Cahernane
Cork Recommendations
East Cork
Garryvoe Hotel, East Cork
Samphire Restaurant, Garryvoe Hotel
West Cork
 Celtic Ross Hotel, West Cork
Warren Beach, Rosscarbery


2016 Reviews - see also
Cafes by the side of the road.
Best Hotel Dining Rooms
Meals with a difference

Best Steaks & 3 Best non-Cork Restaurants 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sunny Days In Connemara

Sunny Days In Connemara
On the Connemara Loop, near Tully Mountain
Maybe it wasn't sunshine all the way but it felt like it as we enjoyed a couple of days in beautiful Connemara recently. There was that thundery shower as we arrived but the sun came out as we drove from Moycullen over the hills, past a wind-farm, to Spiddal.

A visit to the Craft Centre there is always worthwhile. Revived by a cup of coffee in Builín Blasta, we strolled up the village itself, taking a look at the stained glass in the church before going down to the rocks and the sea and the beaches, all very pleasant in the warm sunshine.

Beaches of Spiddal
We drove along the coast road then, passing TG4 headquarters, close too to the airfield for the Aran Islands, before checking in at Screebe House, our superb base for the next two nights. We had a very warm welcome indeed. The house, renovated a few years back, is situated within yards of the waters and our room had a wonderful view. You may read more about our hotel experience here.


Good views again as we drove over to Kilkieran and the well known Coyne Bar. Great to see a line-up of craft beer taps on the counter and great to sit outside and sip a little of the Cascade by the local Independent Brewing as two young ladies at a nearby table chatted fluently in Irish. More of the same beer after an excellent dinner at Screebe House.

Old graveyard in Spiddal
Day Two found us on the scenic way - a couple of sets of roadworks too! - to Letterfrack and a trip around the bay on a glass bottomed boat. Letterfrack Bay Water Tours give you the chance to see the fish that live on the floor of the bay. The boat has eight glass panels. Despite the best efforts of our skipper, we didn't get to see as much as both he and we had hoped.


But still, there were crabs on the bottom, including a couple of spider crabs scampering away together and lots of starfish who grow quite large around here. The Thornback Ray is common here but hard to find on the day and indeed we were lucky to see the one that did appear!

Pint of Independent's Cascade in Coyne's of Kilkieran
On board, they have lots of examples of the shells of scallops, whelks and so on. Apparently, those scallops can really move when need be. 

The big surprise though was when the skipper reached out the back of the boat and pulled a starfish from an enclosure that we didn’t know about. Had a good look and feel - didn't realise they are so big! By the way, the boat trip gives some lovely views of the surrounding land, including Diamond Hill and the Twelve Bins.


The tour takes an hour and after it (or before it, in our case) you can tour their little museum and modest aquarium nearby (all included in your ticket). This gives you a feel for the maritime history of the area, the shipwrecks (including some from the Spanish Armada), the advances in boats and equipment, how the people lived - there is a butter making churn and an very old Pye radio there. And your tour ticket also entitles you to a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits.
Craft village in Spiddal
You also get some friendly tips. And one such set us off on a beautiful local trip around the area of Tully mountain that yielded some spectacular coastal views before eventually bringing us back to Letterfrack. Here, we called to the National Park, not for a walk up Diamond Hill, but for a cup of coffee in the cafe.


By the way, admission to the Park is free and many, Irish and visitors, were taking advantage. I find it hard to understand why there isn't at least a parking charge. I don't think anyone would begrudge paying a few euro towards the upkeep of these lovely places. We came across another, Coole Park near Gort, on the following day.



Sky Road, near Clifden
 From Letterfrack, we headed in the direction of Clifden, all the while looking out for the famous Sky Road. We found that and some more spectacular views on the approach to the well known town. Then we saw signs pointing in the direction of the monument to Clifden founder John D’Arcy. We climbed up there - a short climb but stiff enough - and were rewarded with a great view of the town below and the mountains beyond.


On the road out of Clifden (the N59), there is a spectacular view to your left, a well known one that you’ll see in many photographs and it includes the mountains, the Twelve Bens, large lakes and a stand of evergreens. Think I’ve stopped here at least once on every visit to Connemara.
Clifden, from a nearby hill
A glass of Galway Hooker
in O'Dowd's, Roundstone





Dinner that evening was in the lovely old (1840) pub called O’Dowds in Roundstone, just alongside the harbour from where you have a gorgeous view of the Twelve Bens. Dinner was gorgeous too as you may read below.

A 2014 holiday in Connemara
O'Dowd's Seafood Bar & Restaurant (Roundstone)





Monday, June 13, 2016

O’Dowd’s Seafood Bar & Restaurant. Fish And Forage And On Your Plate

O’Dowd’s Seafood Bar & Restaurant
Dessert
Fish And Forage And On Your Plate


Once upon a time, fish was tolerated once a week, a kind of religious penance, and full of bones. Recent decades though have seen our fish shine on many a home and restaurant table. And our chefs are not stopping at that. Now they’re out foraging, checking the shore for a long overlooked bonanza.

I was recently in O’Dowd’s Seafood Bar & Restaurant alongside the harbour in Roundstone. This long established Connemara venue is one of 32 pubs, north and south, listed in the Michelin ‘Eating out in Pubs’ Guide 2016.
Salmon
No shortage of meat dishes here, curries and pastas too and vegetarian of course, but fish is king.  The results of the foraging can be seen in their starter of Seafood Hummus, a mains of Savoury Rice with Sea Veg, and a sweet of Carrageen Moss Pudding with Plum Compòte and cream.

Three years ago, I was in Connemara and found it quite difficult to get a craft beer. No bother this time. And they have a superb choice in O’Dowd’s with a full menu page detailing mainly local beers including beers by Independent, Galway Hooker, Corrib Brewing, Black Donkey Brewing and Spiddal River Brewing. They had the Galway Hooker Pale Ale on draught and that was my pick.
Turbot
I started with that Seaweed Hummus, featuring locally harvested Dillisk and served with Olive Oil and Nori Bread. Looked great and tasted even better! Delighted with that and across the table CL was making her way through a plate of Stuffed Cashel Bay mussels, grilled and stuffed with garlic butter, breadcrumbs and herbs. Not bad but she knew she was second best at this stage!

Just like the two starters, our two mains came from the Specials Board. Mine were the Pan Fried fillets of Turbot served with the pub’s own (very tasty) Tartare sauce. CL’s pick was the Sweet and Spicy Baked Salmon. We had the usual vegetable choices: Chips and Salad or Mash and Veg. Happy punters at the end of that lot.
Hummus and Nori Bread

Indeed, there were quite a few happy punters around as both the bar and the two-roomed restaurant, while not totally full, was quite busy and with a good turnover between early and later diners, also a good mix of locals and visitors, quite the Bar of Babel.

Dessert, as sometimes happens, was shared. It was that delightful Carrageen Moss Pudding with Plum Compòte and cream, a smooth ending to a very good meal indeed. It is Michelin listed but prices are reasonable enough. For example, the Hummus cost €6.95, the turbot €21.59, the salmon €16.95, the dessert €4.95 and the Hooker was €4.70 a pint.
See also: A 2014 holiday in Connemara
O’Dowd’s Seafood Bar & Restaurant
Roundstone, Connemara, Galway
(095) 35809
Hours
Mon-Sat:
10:00 am - 12:00 am
Sun:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Screebe House. A Connemara Gem

Screebe House

A Connemara Gem
Scallops

Screebe House, spectacularly situated over Camus Bay in Connemara, has a dining room with quite a view and, to go with the view, some spectacular food by Limerick chef Damien Ring. We stayed there early in the week and enjoyed a gorgeous dinner as we watched the swans come and go on the waters outside, the sun too adding its magic to the mix.

A bottle of champagne was part of the deal that we picked up through the Rewarding Times scheme (via the Irish Times) and that was on ice for us at dinner but the hotel also stocks local beers and I enjoyed a taste (or two) of Cascade by Independent Brewing before the night was out.


Screebe House
The offering on the night was a four course set menu - it is a small hotel, just ten rooms - so no huge multi-choice menu. And the starter was a delicious Sweet Corn Soup with Basil Oil. Next up was Scallops with black pudding, pear and hazelnut. A pretty picture on the plate and good to eat as well; rarely indeed have I eaten scallops cooked to such a pitch of perfection.

The main course was also simply described: Chicken, asparagus, mushroom and egg. Seldom you see the chicken and the egg together but the combination of all the ingredients was amazing, the crisped skin of the chicken a standout.
Chicken & Egg
 We had Creme Brûlée for dessert. No big surprise here, just to say that it was top notch as we'd come to expect as the courses followed each other.


Service too was excellent and very chatty and friendly and it was much the same at morning for breakfast. You will see longer menus but this covered all bases: from Full Irish to Omelettes. I enjoyed local smoked salmon with scrambled egg on the first morning and the Mini-Irish on the second. For Mini, you can read large! We could also help ourselves to yogurts, fruits, and juices. Cold meats and cheese were also available and no shortage of bread and toasts either and one or two pastries as well. No danger of going hungry!

Later!



The rooms, most of them in the house and a few incorporated into the new Spa Lodge (alongside the indoor swimming pool - you may also swim from the private pier), are very good, the beds so comfortable with pillows that you’ll sink into. Some rooms, like ours, have views onto the sea outside. Indeed, the tidal waters outside look more like a calm lake as they in far enough in from the ocean. Great back-drop for wedding photos and yes they do weddings here too!



There are woods on the estate and you can even book a dawn stalk of some of their 500 deers. More serious hunting, with guides, is also available along with top class fishing. And Screebe is well located for touring beautiful Connemara, quite close also to departure points (air and sea) for the Aran Islands. 

And, at the end of the day, you'll be glad to come back to the restaurant and enjoy a meal by chef Damien. And maybe a well earned drop of their very own whiskey!


Screebe's own picture
See also: A 2014 holiday in Connemara
O'Dowd's Seafood Bar & Restaurant (Roundstone)2016
Sunny Days in Connemara 2016

Screebe House

Camus - Rosmuck

Co. Galway.
+353 91 574110
Twitter: @screebehouse




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Eating and Shopping in Connemara. Joyce Country. Day 3

Connemara Day 3
Coast Drive - Spiddal Shopping Spree - Joyce Country - Sky Road - Mitchell’s Fish Special


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A boat waits for better weather on the River Bealanabrack at Maam
P1150996a.jpgA super fish meal at Mitchell’s in Clifden, eased down with a beautiful bottle of Chateau la Brie (Bergerac), was the highlight of this sometimes misty day in Connemara. The wine is mistakenly listed as Bordeaux on the list but this mix of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc could easily pass among a bunch of the uppity neighbours to the west.

A very high standard was set with the starters. Mine was the fantastically flavoured Grilled Oranmore Oysters, with parmesan and cream, while CL raved over her Tian of local crab, avocado, caramelized apple, vine tomato salsa.


No let up with the superb main courses: Pan fried Wild Monkfish and mussels, cream cauliflower, spring onion, caper and lemon butter and the Pan Fried Haddock, Killary Mussels, Cauliflower puree, caper and lemon butter. And even the sides, boiled potatoes and vegetables, were superb.


The final decision of the meal was to to split one dessert and this was the most gorgeous Banana and Belgian Chocolate Nut Pudding with Lemon Meringue ice-cream and hot chocolate ganache.


Mitchell’s, where unusually all the front of house are male, regularly top the restaurants lists in Clifden and I'm now adding a Very Highly Recommended. And a warning to book early!


P1160010a.jpg
Tasty crumble at Spiddal cafe
Went on something of a shopping spree at the Ceardlann in Spiddal earlier. Started with a sweet pastry treat at the highly recommended Builín Blasta, the cafe in the craft village. Good coffee and a very tasty Plum Crumble set me up for the shopping.

Not all the shops were open but quite a few were and it was great to meet and chat with the craftspeople and artists. We did the rounds twice and ended up with a couple of bags of jewelry, glassware by Sue Donnellan and also some ceramic pieces from Sliding Rock. And absolutely no regrets.


On the contrary, it is fabulous to be able to buy local and support our hard-working talented craftspeople. Buying local is generally termed as buying local food but it should apply to everything we can produce, provided it is sold at a fair price. Buy local, buy fair.

Looking forward to giving out a few presents when I get back and also to seeing some of the stuff mounted on the walls at home. If you are in the Galway area, do try and visit. Very Highly Recommended.


It took us quite a while to get to Spiddal. After the sunshine of the past two days, we set off in a persistent mist. Still, that didn't stop us from heading to the limits of the coast. Drove around the loop from Glinsk to the sea and back to Carna. Tough country here. Fields of boulders and hard for the few cattle to find firm ground and a square of grass.


By the way, an attraction (it has many) of Galway is that it is one of the most accessible places in Ireland to see, close up, farm animals and their young: Cattle, Ponies, Donkeys, Goats, Sheep and, of course, lots of Connemara lambs.


After Carna, we headed off to the islands, at least the islands linked by bridges: Leitir Móir and Leitir Meallain. Quite spectacular, even if the drizzle was never that far away.


The mist was easing off after Spiddal and, instead of going underground (as originally planned) to the Glengowla mines near Oughterard, we headed to Maam Cross and up to the Joyce Country. Barren mountains and lakes surrounded us as we drove on past Maam itself and then down into Leenane, following the same valley whose flanking hills then enclose the famous fjord.


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Clifden in the evening
Back then to Clifden but not before taking one more turn (for old time's sake) on the Sky Road. It might have been dull but the drive was still a delight. A wee rest and it was off to Mitchell’s to enjoy the last big meal of the trip.

Must say also that our base in the Dun Ri guesthouse was excellent. Very central, very comfortable, and a good breakfast every morning and a friendly chat or two thrown in, sometimes with the owners, sometimes with the other guests (one a winemaker from Wisconsin), or with both. Check it out!

Connemara Day 1
Connemara Day 2
A different view of Kylemore Abbey


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spectacular Connemara

Connemara Day 2

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Killary Harbour
Connemara National Park - Kylemore Abbey & Walled Garden - Drive to Leenane - Lough Inagh - Roundstone - Ballyconneely - Mitchell’s Restaurant.
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Lough Inagh
An action packed day in Connemara. You could perhaps leave out the action but it was surely packed and we deserved our lovely evening meal at Mitchell’s in Clifden. When we left Clifden in the morning, a soft mist was falling but that had more or less vanished by the time we reached Letterfrack and pulled into the Connemara National Park. 
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A tangle of trees in Connemara National Park
Some impressive items in the Visitor Centre, including a pine tree trunk that has been carbon dated to 8,600 years ago. There are quite a few walks here, one that takes you right to the top of Diamond Hill. But we took a shorter one and admired that landmark from a distance. We also has some great views over to the sea, including Inishbofin Island.
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Part of Ireland's largest walled garden in Kylemore
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Salmon and Spinach Quiche at Kylemore cafe
Next stop was Kylemore Abbey, the scene of an 19th century love story between Mitchel Henry and his wife Margaret for whom he built Kylemore as a residence. But she died prematurely in Egypt and the fun and games (shooting, fishing, billiards, even Turkish baths) stopped. He built a gothic church in her memory and eventually joined her in a mausoleum that, like the church, still stands.

In 1920, the residence was bought by the Benedictine nuns and became an abbey. And the tour reveals many links between Ireland and Ypres in Belgium where the nuns came from.


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Well known Connemara scene, with some of the Twelve Pins behind.
The nuns also ran a boarding school (recently closed) and are now restoring the very impressive Victorian walled garden that Henry built. It is the largest such garden in Ireland and if you are caught for time when visiting Kylemore, make the garden your priority! It is a twenty minute walk but there is a shuttle bus. We had a nice lunch in the Mitchell’s Kylemore cafe and you’ll also find a spectacularly situated tea house up by the walled gardens.


On exiting the abbey, turn left and head for Leenane and a special drive, starting with lakes and mountains to your right. Changes then to bogs and mountains before you drop down towards Leenane getting spectacular views of Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord, on the way. Well worth the trip, even if you turn back in Leenane.


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Evening in Roundstone
We did turn back and picked up the road to Lough Inagh. Not very well known but many say it is a must visit. Surrounded by mountains, it is certainly a beautiful place. Continued on to the main road back to Clifden and found the well known waters, with the Twelve Pins behind, on the right. It is one of the most photographed sights here so I just added to the statistics as you can see above.

We then drove down to Roundstone and its harbour with the same mountains in the background. Lovely spot but the Post Office, on the main street, could badly do with a coat of paint! Next stop was Ballyconneely and its fish smokery. Soon we were back in our Dun Ri base in Clifden.


Dinner was firmly on the agenda and we booked a table at a pretty busy Mitchell’s in the middle of the town. This was a major step-up on the previous evening. We picked from the three course menu for 25.95. A massive bowl of well made chowder got me on my way while CL enjoyed a Cod and Salmon Fish Cake (Chilli, Fig and Apricot Chutney).

Good choice of mains and I was very well pleased with my Baked Hake, dressed Savoy Cabbage, Crispy Bacon and Mustard Cream with a side of boiled potatoes. Really top notch. CL appreciated the quality of her Mitchell's Fish Bake, locally sourced white fish "fused" with melted leeks and a light topping of house mash. Quite a lot of good stuff!

Desserts were nothing to write home about, so we won’t. Overall though, it was excellent and we booked again for the next night.
Connemara Day 1
Connemara Day 3

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Connemara. Day 1

Connemara
Day 1
The Sky Road - Clifden - Cleggan - Oughterard - Lough Corrib - Ross Lake
The Sky Road

Day 1


A drive along the Sky Road, out of Clifden, was the highlight of our opening day in Connemara. There is an Upper and Lower Sky Road (they form a loop) but it seems the upper one is more rewarding. Some spectacular views, under a mix of blue and grey skies, unfolded as we headed west and quite a few photo stops were made.


Decided then to head for Cleggan and saw the ferry from Inishbofin coming in. Had thought of having some food in Oliver’s in the village but it looks as if it’s weekends only for the time being so we headed back to our base, Dun Ri in Hulk Street in Clifden. Must ask our hosts how the street name came about!

Ross Lake, near Moycullen

The day had started under a grey sky in Cork and we saw hopeful streaks of blue as we headed north and west. The journey was quite uneventful and we reached our first scheduled stop in Oughterard on time. After a cup of tea and a scone at a local cafe, the Boat Inn, we headed for nearby Lough Corrib, the republic’s largest lake.


And very impressive it was. Coming from Galway, you turn right, in the middle of Oughterard, and soon you are on the banks of the lake. We made one or two stops but the best viewing point is about eight kilometres out the road. Here you get an idea of the size of the lake and see some of its many islands. This is a dead end so head back to the town which, by the way, is home to McGeough's, well known for their air dried meats.
Lough Corrib
If you look at the map of Connemara you’ll see that it is dotted with many small lakes.  We saw quite a few as we headed west to Clifden. A Thursday night in early April in Connemara is fairly quiet, as you might expect.


Still Guy’s Bar, where I enjoyed one of their Gourmet Pizzas (their breaded Lemon Sole wasn’t as well appreciated), was busy enough, with French and American visitors among the guests. Mannion’s was another bar serving food and here I sipped the final pint of the day before strolling down to Dun Ri and waking up the Apple Mac with these few paragraphs.
Connemara Day 2
Connemara Day 3
Pizza Gourmet: Caramelised onion, blue cheese and rosemary