The Falls Hotel Provides A Comforting End To A Wet Day In Clare.
|Hake & Gubbeen Chorizo at The Falls, Ennistymon|
Three Days In Clare
(Day 3, Days 2 & 1 below)
Our final day in Clare wasn’t the best weatherwise. It just got worse as we drove around and we were glad to end it in the comfort of the magnificent and spacious Falls Hotel with its splendid elevated site over the Cascades.
After that lovely breakfast at Hazelwood Lodge, it turned out to be a misty morning as we took the coastal route towards Doolin and then it just got worse. Hadn’t really intended to visit Doolin Cave but we were glad we did as it took us out of the rain for an hour or so and we got to see again the magnificent Great Stalactite which, at 7.3 metres (23feet) is the longest free-hanging stalactite in Europe, third in the world.
Before the guided cave trip, we enjoyed a light lunch by Wild at the Cave. It was outdoors of course and we, and others, found some shelter at the tables that were close to the building and had some overhead cover as well.
Wild at the Cave, whose parent company are Wild Catering, now run the café here. Wild’s menu offers soup and variety of salads, sandwiches and desserts and supports local eg cheese by St Tola, teas by Guru and coffee by Anam.
The Cueben toastie, with real ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and Tarragon mustard, came with a helping of two side salads (rocket, chickpea) and was a welcome tasty boost on a miserable misty day. The same two side salads accompanied another very welcome toastie, the roast chicken with mature cheddar and basil mayo, another fine pick-me-up for the second half of the day. Each toastie came in a box and two large cups of excellent tea completed the meal.
After the cave, we said we'd head on down to Doolin Pier to see if any dolphins were following the ferries in. It seems they don’t like the rain either! But there were ferries coming and going and no shortage of customers either.
We had a call to make in Lisdoonvarna and noted that the Roadside Tavern and its store next door has quite a bit of outside seating, most of it under cover. Hard going here for all the hotels in the town with the matchmaking festival having to be cancelled yet again but still they’re keeping the bright side out!
In Ennistymon, we had hoped to enjoy the cooking of Ash Gribben (ex Little Fox) who this summer is doing her own Middle Eastern food at Pot Duggan’s but the constant heavy rain ruled that out. Byrnes is another popular place for outdoor dining, as they have a terrace over the famous Cascades, but while they have some overhead cover, the night was just too bad.
|The Cascades from our dining room at The Falls|
We had the considerable consolation of dining in style at our hotel, The Falls, a very large building alongside the Inagh River. We had a choice of two venues, the Cascades Dining Room or the Dylan Thomas Bar (essentially another restaurant).
We picked the bar and got a table with a great view over the Falls (which, considering all the rain, were a little disappointing) I’ve seen them in a more magnificent flow on previous occasions - you can’t have everything!
What we did have was an enjoyable meal with excellent service. Starters were Thai style Fish Cakes with kaffir lime, ginger and chilli served with coriander, garlic and sweet chilli dip and the Confit Silverhill Duck and Asian Vegetable Spring Rolls with a soya and chilli dipping sauce were also excellent, well cooked, the little bowls of sauce spot-on.
And so were the mains. The Battered Fish and Chips (sustainably caught fresh haddock in a light crisp craft beer batter served with home cut chips, mushy peas and sauce gribiche) was better than expected while the Seared Fillet of Wild Hake Gubbeen chorizo and potato hash, grilled asparagus, bell pepper relish and citrus crème, was another excellent combination. Disappointingly, they had no craft beer, not even the local Western Herd.
|Reception desk at the Falls|
For breakfast, served in the lovely Cascades room, you picked your juices and cereals from a buffet (one way system) and the hot dishes (aside from a few that you could order from the kitchen) were also buffet style but here you handled nothing as the staff put it on a plate for you.
Plenty of space to lounge about in this magnificent hotel and they also have a popular spa area. Our room was very comfortable indeed and we enjoyed the visit. After that hearty breakfast it was time to say goodbye to County Clare (for a while) and we headed back to the south.
Highlights Galore, including Hazlewood Lodge, as Clare Trip Continues
(Day two of three, Day one below)
Our stay at Hazelwood Lodge was one of the highlights of the second day of our late June trip in Clare. Hazelwood is just outside of Ballyvaughan, on the same road as Aillwee Caves, and is very highly recommended indeed.
We got the warmest of welcomes from Victor as we were shown to a large and well-equipped room. The interior of the building is very well designed indeed - it had the benefit of being on the Brennans makeover TV programme and you could the influence of an interior design, especially on the bright and airy dining-room where colourful Le Creuset teapots matched the napkins and the light shades.
Attention to detail means happy customers and the breakfast menu was superb. You don’t often get waffles in B&B’s or even hotels but Victor had two on the menu, both made here, one packed with strawberries, the other with bacon. It was perhaps the best breakfast we’ve had. Add in that warm welcome, lots of local info and a warm farewell also and you can see why we enjoyed our night in Hazelwood. Check it out here.
Overall the day went very well indeed, even the weather improved as the day went on and we were able to dine outdoors in the evening sunshine at Monks in Ballyvaughan. Monks is rather famous for its fish dishes, it strength mainly in shellfish and molluscs; in fact they had hardly any fin fish on the menu that evening. No matter. I enjoyed six of the best oysters in a long while, supplied by Kellys whose farm is located at Killeenaran, a small beautiful inlet of Galway Bay, about 30 minutes drive from the Monks front door.
No shortage of prawns here and another good starter is their Chilli Prawns, with leeks, peppers and sweet chilli sauce. We also enjoyed The Monks Scampi; the mains dish included Nobashi prawns, panko crumb, lemon pepper, Espelette aioli, house slaw, and chunky chips. The colourful Prawn Curry with all its colours, and served with chickpeas and turmeric infused rice, was also very satisfactory indeed.
It had been a “busy” enough day, starting with a long walk on Fanore beach where a bunch of youngsters were getting lessons in surfing. Headed off then to Ballyvaughan thinking we might have a light lunch at The Larder but found it closed (opening only at weekends - that may have changed by now). Got a little snack instead at the Farm Shop Aillwee Caves; you can also watch as they make Burren Gold cheese here.
We had a tour booked for the Birds of Prey Experience. Had a stroll around the aviary first and saw the full range of eagles, owls, and falcons and more in their cages. Soon we would see two of them in the arena. First up was Batty (a Bateleur eagle), a common resident of the African savannah. He swooped in low over our heads to land on his handler’s arm and claim a treat and demonstrated his amazing eyesight when unerringly retrieving little crumbs scattered (when his back was turned) in the gravel.
Simon, the Lanner Falcon (Africa, SE Europe, Asia), was next “on stage”, amazing us with his speed of flight as he tried to retrieve a treat that was spinning at high speed at the end of a rope. He didn’t quite succeed though but came very close on occasions. His speed was amazing and apparently his eyesight is incredible. The caged birds all get a run in the demo from time to time and can escape of course (the arena is not enclosed). But they are usually spotted and we are told some of them like the drive “home” in the handler’s car.
Then it was time to drive up to the Aillwee Cave for a masked and socially distanced tour. Maybe not as exciting as the birds but, aside from stalactites and stalagmites (stalactites hang from the ceiling of caves, whereas stalagmites grow from the ground), it has an underground river and waterfall.
|A white-tailed sea eagle.|
Thought we deserved an ice-cream after all that and headed to New Quay to find Linnalla, well-known ice-cream producers. What we found instead was Linnane’s Lobster Hut - the Flaggy Shore oysters are brought ashore here too. It was about 2.30pm at this stage and their outdoor area was packed with punters. But, with Monks on our mind, we didn’t hang around.
|Chilli Prawns at Monks|
Instead we got directions for the ice-cream and headed off. Eventually we found Linnalla miles away and isolated in the countryside. We asked our server about how the New Quay address covers both Linnanes and Linnalla but he wasn’t from around the area. After all that, the ice-cream was just about average. There is a hard path from Linnalla down to the Flaggy Shore so we took a walk and enjoyed the views before heading back to the car and set the Sat-Nav for the lovely Hazelwood Lodge.
Sweet Start To Trip to Clare 2021.
(Day one of three)
Our latest trip to County Clare began with a visit to Kilkee and we got off to the sweetest of starts at Holly’s Cafe in O’Curry Street. Before that, I enjoyed an excellent Chicken and Pesto sandwich: Grilled chicken with roasted red peppers, Mozzarella & Basil Pesto on freshly baked baguette.
The highlight though came with the dessert. They have a short list of just three. If the Passionfruit and White Chocolate mousse is on - and it usually is - go for it. This is signature item here and one of the very best desserts you are likely to come across anywhere.
It consists of Valrhona white chocolate with passion fruit on a coconut sable with a touch of gold leaf, the perfect treat for any day. And they say “to glaze it with a shiny white chocolate mirror glaze … is oddly satisfying". Not as satisfying though as having one all to yourself!
|Down on the cliffs.|
After that delightful treat, we headed for another very popular café here. The Diamond Rocks was indeed also very busy but our purpose was to take the cliff walk that begins just here - there is a quite a large carpark.
One thing that catches the eye at The Rocks though is a sculpture of a player wielding a racquet. I was wondering who it was before finding out it was none other than film star Richard Harris, a very handy squash player in his day.
The cliff walk is quite spectacular. You may go down onto the rocks in places and in certain locations it looks like a moonscape. You’ll also pass the famous Pollock Holes, three natural and apparently safe bathing places here. And why Pollock Holes? Well, small pollock may be found therein for part of the year.
|Wild Atlantic Break, Doonbeg|
Felt like a cuppa as we arrived in Doonbeg. Didn’t make it to Trump International but refreshed ourselves at the blue painted Wild Atlantic Break. The rain had started by now and the tea warmed us up after a tasty tub of Glenown Farm ice-cream. They have a couple of long stools on the pavement but not much use as it was bucketing down by then.
If you’d like a drink in Liscannor then Vaughan’s have some partially sheltered seating for 20 or more outside the pub. Made another few stops, including Lahinch, before arriving in Doolin and checking into the Doolin Inn, on the road down to the pier and indeed overlooking the colourful groups of shops and bar that seem to appear in every article about the strung-out (talking about topography here!) village.
By then the rain had eased off and we went walk-about. Perhaps the most interesting place we saw was the Bow & Fiddle with lots of covered outdoor eating and drinking spaces. Very impressive and they also do accommodation.
Back then to our 22-room inn for dinner and that turned out very well indeed, not least because they had quite a selection of Western Herd beers in bottle. They have a nicely glass-walled open-air restaurant, with a view over that colourful terrace, but it is not entirely weatherproof and was unused as the night was wet and windy.
|Halibut at the Inn|
Inside, aside from the local beer, we enjoyed a couple of excellent starters. Fish feature also and the mains of Poached Halibut, Connemara crab salad, pickled courgette, delicious heirloom tomato, quinoa, avocado cream was that bit different and excellent. The Moroccan spiced cod fillet vegetable couscous tomato and rocket leaves was also well up to the mark. Good too to see they support local food producers at the Inn.
Breakfast too, even with Covid restrictions, was quite good. Nothing overly adventurous but we did enjoy the Eggs Benedict and the Pancakes with Maple syrup. Ready for road after that and Day Two saw us on the way to beautiful Ballyvaughan.