Showing posts with label Bunratty Castle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bunratty Castle. Show all posts

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Coast of Clare

The Coast of Clare
Bridges of Ross near Loop Head

Before the crow came...
The coast of Clare provided the backbone for our journey in May, beginning on the Clare-Galway border, calling to the Flaggy Shore and the Fanore Beach, a quick trip inland to Lisdoonvarna, then the pier at Doolin, skirting the cliffs of Moher (we had been there a couple of weeks earlier), then a call to Ennistymon and its cascades, roadworks meant we didn’t get near Doonbeg; then we visited Loop Head Lighthouse (just about able to see in the fog) and we did call to the Bridge of the Rosses before continuing on via Carrigaholt and Kilrush to end up at Bunratty.

Lots of good food and good lodgings over the three nights and four days and more on that later. We left Cork early on day one and our first stop was about noon at the amazing Hazel Mountain bean to bar chocolate factory

In Ballyvaughan, I saw a crow walking behind a heron who was stalking prey in seaweed at the edge of water. Each move that the heron made was “copied” by the crow. The heron seemed to get fed up of the unwanted company and flew across a narrow stretch of water to the opposite shore. On the ground, the same scenario happened again. This time though the crow got even closer and the heron flapped his wings at his “shadow”. Still, the crow stayed close. Eventually, the heron took off on a longer flight out over the water and parallel with the shore. The crow followed suit but only for a brief spell before turning back and landing on terra firma. Perhaps he wasn’t too happy with the flight over the bigger expanse of water. I reckon the heron was happy to have seen off his tormentor.
Tea and Garden Rooms Ballyvaughan

We had provisionally noted Ballyvaughan for a lunch stop but were in no mood to eat anything after all that delicious chocolate! The Tea and Garden Rooms were closed for the day (May 1st) but the Monk seemed to be getting takers for its lobster offering (49.50) and its promise of a taste of Irish beers.

At the Flaggy Shore, we had a view of Galway across the bay, not the clearest as the day was getting duller. Does anyone know how it got its name? I couldn’t see any reason to call it flaggy. After passing the Black Head we arrived at Fanore Beach. Here, there is no shortage of flat rocks. The dunes are of some importance though that doesn’t seem to hinder the congregation of caravans and mobile homes. Some fine walks around here also, starting in the beach car park. The River Caher, the only river in the Burren to run its entire course overground, enters the sea here.

As we drove down the coast road (R477), we thought we’d make a visit to Lisdoonvarna to see the Curtins. Birgitta was not at Burren Salmon when we called. Here, all visitors have the chance to see a short video on how they produce their famous smoked salmon. We enjoyed that and the tasting that followed. Couldn’t make our minds up between hot and cold smoked so we bought both along with some trout and mackerel.
Mural in Burren Smokehouse

Since we were so close, we decided to walk up to the Roadside Tavern to see Peter and who did we meet on the way only Birgitta. Had a small tasting of their amazing no-hops beer and then a wee chat with Peter who was asking for Jack Lynch, his fellow micro-brewer from Mayfield (Cork). More on Peter’s beer here.  
Roadside Tavern

Back then towards the coast and our base for the night, the absolutely splendid and very highly recommended Sheedy’s B& B in Doolin. And also highly recommended, for dinner, is the Oar Restaurant (a short walk from the B&B).
Doonagore Castle, with the islands in the distance

The following morning, after a delicious multi-choice breakfast at Sheedy’s, we spent a short spell on the pier at Doolin, watching the ferries coming and going from the Aran Islands. Then a narrow road took us high into the hills, past Doonagore Castle, and eventually we had great views of the three Aran Islands. Soon we passed the Cliffs of Moher (again, we had been, as we had been in the Doolin cave, a couple of weeks earlier). See account of earlier trip here.
Poet Brian Merriman in Ennistymon

Time then for a bite to eat and we thought of the Little Fox in Ennistymon. Seating and tables are fairly basic here but the food is the luxury. Some lovely dishes on the menu including Campfire beans with garlic yogurt, basil oil, Inagh Free Range Sausages, with fried egg on Hugo’s Sourdough. Another dish to catch the eye was the Mohammad’s Flatbread, with roasted squash, crème fraiche, fried egg and garden greens. Alas, breakfast in Sheedy’s had been so good, we could only manage a cup of locally roasted coffee and a delicious lemon cake.
Cascades in Ennistymon

We almost forgot to check out the town’s famous cascades, just a very short walk from the main street. The water pours down a series of natural steps. Spectacular stuff in the middle of the town, well worth a detour. Speaking of detours, the next one took us well away from Doonbeg and the west coast, even down to Kilrush before heading back towards beautiful Kilkee. With the weather closing in, we headed for the Loop Head Lighthouse.
Loop Head

The rain stopped for a spell and then it got a bit brighter but the improvement didn’t last and it wasn’t at all good when we paid our fee (a fiver, I think), for the tour. We were told what we could have seen! Very tantalising, having climbed over 70 steps. But that’s nature! She doesn’t have to perform just because the tourists are in town. The weather had eased somewhat as we walked, on a hard path mostly, over by the Bridges of Ross, a spectacular coastal landscape, amazing rocks and at least one big arch.

Back then to village called Cross where we had booked into the Old School B&B. Here again we had a great host in Ian and also his wife Teresa (whom we had met earlier in her part-time role as lighthouse guide!). Headed up to Kilkee for the evening meal and the crab claws were the highlight of our meal in Naughton’s Bar in the town .

The following morning found us on the road east, close to the north bank of the mouth of the Shannon, the giant stacks of Aughinish Aluminium visible at almost every turn. Our first stop was to see the ruins of Carrigaholt Castle. A man was busy in the seaweed below, working hard shifting and shaking bunches of seaweed. He told me he was foraging for periwinkles and seemed to be quite successful on the sunny morning.

The sun stayed with us as we arrived in Kilrush to visit the Vandeleur Walled Garden (no charge). The Vandeleurs, planters in the 17th century, were well established here for hundreds of years but their reputation was severely damaged with mass evictions during the famine period. Now though, this is a peaceful colourful community place with that historical garden, a bistro, a garden centre and woodland trails. Well worth a visit.

After that, we headed up towards Ennis on our way to Bunratty where we spent the full afternoon enjoying the Castle and its Folk Park. . Our base for the night was the nearly Bunratty Manor. Here we enjoyed a superb dinner and a fine breakfast too before heading off home on the following morning. It was a terrific trip to Clare.
Naughton's Kilkee

Monday, May 20, 2019

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. Banquets. HB Ice Cream. Cahill’s Grocery. The Doctor and The Pawnbroker.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.
Banquets. HB Ice Cream. Cahill’s Grocery. The Doctor and The Pawnbroker.
Banquet Hall

Banquets. HB Ice Cream. Cahill’s Grocery. The Doctor and The Pawnbroker. You’ll come across all this and so much more on a visit to the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.

I’ve passed this County Clare attraction scores of times on my way up to Mayo, Galway, Sligo and Donegal, and to Clare itself. Never called. But remedied that recently with a deliberately planned visit.
Pygmy Goat

Didn’t plan to visit the doctor though. But that happens when you stroll through the “Village Street”, a street as it was over a hundred years ago. The doctor was checking the herbs in his garden and invited us, and some French visitors, into his parlour cum surgery. He showed us all his dangerous looking implements but it was too much for some of the French when he pulled his amputation saw out of a drawer and he emphasised the shock by saying no anaesthetic!

Bunratty is probably best known for its banquets. They are held all year round, twice nightly!  And that room was one of the first we visited when we reached the castle. The earlier Kings and Earls (of the O’Brien family) though dined in the Great Hall, also a place of judgement. Many other rooms, including the dungeon, to see in the restored castle and, when you reach the top, you have marvellous views over the countryside, including the Shannon.

Ardcroney Church
So out and about then to the park, with all kinds of old buildings, from a Weaver’s Shed to a Blacksmith’s Forge, from the one-roomed Bothán Saor to the late Georgian Bunratty House. Some of the buildings have been removed en bloc(k!) from different locations. The Shannon Farmhouse, for instance once stood on the site of the main runway at Shannon. The Ardcroney Church was moved, stone by numbered stone, from the village of that name in Tipperary.

All the walking around can make you hungry. And aromas of baking draw you in to the well-appointed Golden Vale Farmhouse where herself is baking a delicious looking apple-tart. To get yourself a slice, stroll over to the Tea Room and enjoy. You can also call to Mac’s Pub in the village for soup and sandwiches, an Irish Coffee, or a full lunch.

Hungry Piggies
It was also feeding time for some of the animals as we got to that part of the park. The pigs were really anxious, squealing with anticipation, as they saw the hens getting fed nearby. Their turn came soon enough. You’ll also see the hens around the place, some pygmy goats, some strange-looking sheep on your walk. And you’ll also spot a couple of impressive and friendly wolfhounds, either in their compound or being walked around the grounds.

You’ll see a collection of farming tools and machines in the Talbot Collection, small scale yet well constructed engineering works such as the working vertical and horizontal mills. There’s a Regency Walled Garden. The Village Street has a Post Office (with red post box), a hardware store, a printworks and a grocery etc.

And in that grocery, and also in a few other places, you’ll spot “foodie” reminders of the past like Irel Coffee and Chicory, Harrington’s and Browne’s Mustard, Daniel Dunne’s Teas, OXO cubes, Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil, Carnation Evaporated Milk, Riley’s Toffee Rolls. Not all household names but I do recognise a few of them. I also spotted a can of liquid Cardinal Red floor polish - I’ve been told that I once ate a tin of the solid version. Don’t remember it though. Or the resultant napkins!

There are a couple of large houses on the walk  including Hazelbrook House. Built in 1898, this was the home to the Hughes Brothers who started a dairy industry in the 1800s and later produced HB Ice Cream which went on to become a household name.
Hazelbrook House, home of HB Ice Cream

It is quite a park, especially with all those steps and stairs in the castle included. It has something for everyone and you’ll get three or four hours of interest here and while the €16.95 entry fee may seem a bit steep at first, you will get value.

After all that, you may feel you deserve a drink and Durty Nelly’s, the well-known pub outside the gate, has that for you. Always busy here methinks and had to inch my way to the counter for a couple of ales which were thoroughly enjoyed on the wooden table and benches in the sun outside. By the way, if you are feeling peckish on arrival, you can get some decent snacks at Mr O’Regan’s café at the entrance to the castle before you get your ticket. There is a also a large souvenir shop here.
Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Burren Gold Cheese
Henry's Bistro & Wine Bar Ennis

Red Cliff Lodge Restaurant Spanish Point
Oar Doolin
Noel's Restaurant at Bunratty Manor
Naughton's Kilkee
Coast of Clare