Showing posts with label Independent Brewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Independent Brewing. Show all posts

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)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Screebe House. A Connemara Gem

Screebe House

A Connemara Gem

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!


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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dingle Days. Glorious Food, Drink and Scenery

Dingle Days

Glorious Food, Drink and Scenery
Dingle has it all - glorious food, drink and scenery. It is a terrific visit at anytime and can be visited whether the sun shines or not. Nature doesn't have to perform at its best just because you’re on a visit. Indeed, sometimes Nature in a bad mood is as well worth seeing as it is on the days of calm and balm.

I was there for the Blas na hEireann tastings and the annual food festival and it was a marvelous few days. Tough enough start though on the Thursday with a full day of tastings for Blas in the Skelligs Hotel. Tough? Did I hear you say? Well try tasting nine blue cheeses in a row. Or, in the final session of the day, sampling 15 beers as the sun went down.
Savoury chocolates!

Venturing out in Ventry
But it has its rewards and the first came later that night in An Canteen when we sat down to a very local three course meal by the brothers Niall and Brian. Superb fish on the first two courses and those amazing savoury chocolates by Dovinia were a highlight. And I must also mention that excellent Connemara Pale Ale by the Independent Brewery.

Friday was largely a free day, so we headed west with the first stop at Ventry as the sunseekers were out in some numbers and, let me say, in their t-shirts. Also spent some time watching a group of kayakers getting ready and then sailing off into the haze. The weather had changed, duller and windier, by the time we got to Slea Head but we still got down to the sands and close to the rocks.

Lunch at Blasket Centre: Baked potato, tuna, cheese
The Blasket Centre is a great place to visit to get a feel for the peninsula and the islands and , as a bonus, it is a good spot to stop for lunch. Fueled up, we carried on and came to Clogher Head. Last time, our walk up here was stopped by a heavy shower but there was no such problems on this occasion. Great views out there, even if there was a little haze in the mid-distance.

On then towards Ballyferriter and a visit to Wine Strand before closing the loop - the sun was out again -  and cutting cross-county back to Dingle. We were keen to see the Conor Pass while the weather was still reasonable. By the time we got up though, the clouds had taken over. Still we had a fine view down to Dingle and beyond.
Ceann Sibeal from Clogher Head
Welcome to Wine Strand
Then an hour or two was spent at the awards by the Enterprise Office from the various counties (details here) and after that it was time to think about eating again. We were joined by some of the judges (lots of laughs with Susan and Judith Boyle) in the Global Village who came up with a terrific tasting menu, very popular too as empty plates went back every time. This was a selection of the peninsula’s finest produce over six tasting courses. Highlights were the fish (turbot, seaweed and fennel) and the meat (wild boar, scallop and raisins).

Saturday was a reasonably fine day and we were soon out and about after a good breakfast at the excellent and friendly Benners Hotel, so centrally located. Garvey’s SuperValu had their line of food already in place on the pavement outside. I had a look inside and was impressed. Outside, the market stalls on the various streets were busy and we called to quite a few.
Welcome to Dingle Gin & Vodka from Joe
Turbot at Global Village
Saturday though was mainly about the amazing Taste Trail and you may read all about that here. Caught up on the news from the award ceremony for Blas and delighted for the winners, particularly for those that we know. Taste trail or not, we were still up for a meal later that night and had booked in to the Grey’s Lane Bistro. It was a good call and a lovely meal.

Took it easy on the Sunday morning and, after yet another good breakfast in Benner's, two happy punters checked out and headed home. Dingle, we'll be back!
Smiling traders!