Showing posts with label Wild Atlantic Way. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wild Atlantic Way. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Coast, Cliffs and Chocolate. The Iveragh Experience: Killorglin to Ballinskelligs.

The Iveragh Experience

Killorglin to Ballinskelligs. Coast, Cliffs and Chocolate.

A special at Nick's Killorglin
Near Blackstone Bridge
Part Ring of Kerry, part Wild Atlantic Way. Part Ring of Skelligs. Mix them all up and enjoy the trip from Killorglin to Ballinskelligs, with a side visit to the lovely Blackstone Bridge and the Caragh River. 

If you are looking for a place to stay, there is no shortage. But I can heartily recommended the Carrig Country House, a lovely Victorian house on the shore of Carrig Lake; great hospitality and excellent food (including one of the country's best breakfasts). 

Just after one of those breakfasts, we set off on an inland spin, towards Glencar, a pretty place at the foot of the local mountains. If you don't climb, then there are many walks in the area, especially in Lickeen Woods.

Here too is where the Caragh River flows over the black stones that give the bridge its name. It is a picturesque spot and some fishermen were on the backs at the time. Later, we would drive up the narrow road to the Ballaghbeama Pass. It looks bleak on a grey day but splendid when the sun is shining. You can make a U turn at the top or continue on down between the mountains to Sneem.

The Kerry Cliffs
We came back and headed to Killorglin, passing the large statue of King Puck on the bank of the river near the bridge. There is a big car park just off to the right of the one-way (up) main street. We parked there and walked downhill with the church to our left. Then up a slope, again on the left, as a metal bridge loomed overhead. Up on the bridge, the old railway bridge, there are very good views of the River Laune and the road bridge that we just crossed.

Time then for a snack. We were in luck. Had spotted a sign for Jack’s Bakery & Deli, on Bridge Street, and it looked good. We were the last customers! It was just past one o'clock on a Sunday but they were about to close up, having sold out! But they did feed us, a couple of well filled baps (the last of morning's baking) and, as we sat down at the outside tables, a big slice of chocolate cake was added as a bonus! Thanks Jack!

On the Bolus Walk

By the way, if you are in Killorglin of an evening, you might like to try the well known Nick’s or their younger sister next door, Sol y Sombra. Nick's A la Carte prices can be a bit stiff yet one of our starters, Garlic Marinated Pan Seared Prawns with pickled cucumber and a herb vinaigrette, was one of the very best I've come across and worth the €12.50 price tag. You may also find good value in the set menus, including one that offers three courses for €28.00.
Mussel boat

You’ll see Cromane mussels on many a menu locally and the village is close to Killorglin and worth a detour. Here, you’ll see the flat-deck boats used for the purpose. No work though when I called on a Sunday. Would like to have seen them in action as I did in various parts of France, especially in Marennes-Oléron on the west coast.
Skywalker!

The Red Fox Inn seems to be a very popular spot with tourist buses. And, if you have 20 minutes or so to spare, you might be interested in seeing the adjacent Kerry Bog Village (fee) for “a snapshot of Irish life in the 18th and 19th century”. The few bog ponies and the Irish wolfhounds weren't overly animated and there were no mountain goats on our visit. There are a number of cottages, containing lots of interesting everyday memorabilia and, in one, the turf fire is blazing and the room is full of smoke!

On then to Glenbeigh. We took a walk on the nearby beach of Rossbeigh. It was windy and the wind sports enthusiasts were out in force. Didn't do Cahersiveen justice (another day!) as we drove quickly through heading for Renard Point to the south of the town to take the ferry to Valentia Island. No shortage of activities on the island as you may read here …
Bolus Walk
In preparation for your drive on the Skelligs Ring, you might like to visit the Skellig Experience (fee) on Valentia. It has a cafe but the offering is limited and average. Pick up the Skelligs Ring in Portmagee and make a visit to the Kerry Cliffs your first stop. There is a small fee but you get a good walk and a few excellent viewpoints over the impressive cliffs.

Continue to the coast and soon you'll see the signs for the Skelligs Chocolate (no fee). Here, you’ll get a warm welcome and get to sample their various offerings. If it is a working day, you'll see the produce being made. Lots of it for sale of course and I got some Strawberry and Champagne and also a white citrus (lemon and lime) chocolate. And they have the Puffin Cafe here as well. No sandwiches or anything like that. Just a treat for yourself. I enjoyed my tall glass of hot chocolate and a chunk of Rocky Road.
Skelligs Chocolate
Back to the road then, for a short spell. There is a great walk nearby, with views over the bay and the famous Skellig Islands. We drove to the trailhead but didn't have time to do the full walk around Bolus Head (it takes about three hours). But we did enjoy our hour in the sun with the blue sea on one side, the hard fields full of sheep and their lambs on the other.

Old Bog Farm
Kells Garden
Time then to turn around and head for Kells Bay and our final visit. Kells Bay Gardens is one of Ireland’s foremost Victorian Gardens and contains a great selection of southern hemisphere plants. The hairy fern tree plantation is impressive and there are lots of tree carvings around to amuse both kids and adults. The highlight - and it is a new feature - is the Skywalk, a shaky rope bridge over a stream. You’ll need your two hands here, so be careful with that camera.

After all the exercise, you’ll now be thinking about a well deserved dinner in the Lakeside Restaurant at Carrig House!
See also: Visiting Valentia Island
Lovely Dinner at The Lakeside 
Calm and Comfortable at Carrig House

Monday, May 8, 2017

48 Hours in Westport. Sightseeing. Eating. Drinking.

48 Hours in Westport. 
Sightseeing. Eating. Drinking.
Keel Bay
Taking the long way round is a regular habit when I'm on the road and so, to get to Westport from Cork, I head to the Galway village of Leenane, at the inland point of Killary Harbour, as I want to drive from there to Louisburgh by the spectacular Doolough route.

Leenane
By the time we reached Leenane or Leenaune (you will see quite a lot of spelling variations of place-names in both Galway and Mayo), we were feeling peckish. The well-known Blackberry was still closed (at 12.15pm) so, after a stroll, we dropped into the nearby Sheep & Wool Centre for a bite. 
And we got a right good one.  They had a Soup and Sandwich offer. For €7.75 we each got a big bowl of soup and a sandwich. And not just your usual veg soup but a Tomato and Roasted Pepper (there was a choice of at least two soups). Great choices (12) also of sandwich fillings and dressings (7). 

For instance, I had tuna with salad and pesto on brown bread while Clare had chicken, roasted peppers, red onion marmalade. So they are not dishing out the same old same old. We thought the quality was very good as was the price.
Aasleagh
We noticed the Blackberry was open and busy as we walked back to the car, Minutes later, we passed the Carraig Bar, the last pub out of Connemara and then, all of a sudden, we saw the Aasleagh Falls in off the road. Walked in for a view and then drove on.
Doolough Famine Memorial

The beautiful Doolough area was, in 1849, the scene of one of the darkest events of the Famine. On a bitterly cold day, some 600 people in Louisburgh were seeking food or a ticket to the workhouse in Westport. They were told to contact the Poor Law officials who were, for some reason, in Delphi, about ten miles away. Some died overnight and the rest struggled over hills and mountains (no road then). The officials rose from their lunch and told the people they could do nothing for them and ordered them back to Louisburgh. No one knows how many died by the wayside.

Still incredibly sad, after all those years.

The Reek
 It is of course a short journey by car and soon we were passing through Louisburgh and on our way to Croagh Patrick. We had no intention of going to the top but did get about a third of the way up. It is rough enough with lots of big rocks and smaller loose stones but the views out over Clew Bay are magnificent, even on a cloudy day.

We stayed in the excellent Westport Plaza Hotel that night and enjoyed a lovely meal in their Merlot, a destination restaurant. Visited the bar afterwards. Didn't see any craft beer on tap. But they did have a fridge full of Mescan beer, 330ml bottles of local excellence!
 Mescan, by the way, was St Patrick’s brewer and no doubt the odd conversion was facilitated by a jug of his brew. The beer is still cloudy! Their Westport Blonde (5.5%) is superb.

But it was their Westport Saison (6.2%), more cutting, more fizzy, with clove and citrus notes, that I really enjoyed. Saison beer is a Belgian style brewed for seasonal workers. Reckon I'd appreciate one (or two) after a hard day’s labour or even after an idle day.
Westport House

 Day two was mostly an Achill Island affair. The sun came out and the lure of the Atlantic beauty was irresistible. We did the main drive, all the way through to Keem Bay. There were detours, of course. We took the loop to the south on the way out, the one to the north on the way back.


There were many stops to admire the stunning views over the cliffs and the seas, though the first stop was at the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley castle, near to the lifeboat station.
The Pirate Queen's castle in Achill
For lunch, we dropped into the lovely Craft and Coffee shop called the Beehive in Keel. The food was excellent and very well priced (as it had been in Leenane). For just less than twenty euro, we each had a Chicken Bap (with a lovely salad) and tea, all served on beautiful ware by Shannon Bridge Pottery (Offaly).


Just made it back to Westport House about an hour before closing. The house, by the way, now has new local owners who have promised investment and improvements. We had a quick enough look-around upstairs and downstairs. Even visited the dungeon though spent more time in the extensive wine-cellar (now unfortunately empty, aside from a few old wooden markers).

Achill, above and below

We wouldn't be short of wine though when we visited the excellent Black Truffle Bistro in the town centre for a smashing dinner, a dinner that included one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten.

Time then for another taste of the local brews and we headed up to the lively McGings. I passed the night - we had music by DramaCode later - with Clifford's Connacht Champion, or 3C for short, a refreshing golden ale (4%), one of the beers from the Clew Bay Brewery. 


Westport House, in the wine cellar
CL settled on a very nice and refreshing Achill beer, made using water from a local corrie lough and Carrigeen moss. 


Each beer came in its own proper glass; McGings don't do things by halves. Staff there are brilliant, very helpful if you are not acquainted with the beers (they include Franciscan Well Chieftain Pale Ale in their selection). The perfect end to another good day in Mayo.




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!


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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