Showing posts with label National Famine Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label National Famine Museum. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Friendliness. Food. Flowers. All, and more, at Keenan’s of Tarmonbarry.

Friendliness. Food. Flowers. All, and more, at Keenan’s of Tarmonbarry

Friendliness. Food. Flowers. You’ll find all three, and much more besides, in Keenan’s Hotel in Tarmonbarry on the Roscommon Longford border.

Indeed, the location is another plus factor for this family run hotel, the premises founded in 1865 and now run by the sixth generation of the family. 

This part of the restaurant overlooks the Shannon.

The historic pub lies at the crossroads of the mighty River Shannon flowing north to south, and the N5 linking the east and west coasts; the N4 is also close by. 

Tarmonbarry Bridge, built in the mid-1840s and probably tolled in the early days, made the location a strategic one for the new pub and it soon became a regular watering hole for travellers as it is to this day. In the mid-1970s the bridge was adapted so it could open to accommodate larger watercraft.

This salmon was a favourite!

Enjoyed this..
Waterways are important in this area of the country. Keenan’s are on the bank of Shannon, alongside that bridge (to Longford) were boats pass through and a few hundred yards down is the Tarmonbarry Lock, a peaceful spot (the only noise is when the lock gates operate!) with fine views and mooring spaces for boats.

Travellers come from far and near, by road, river and canal, to Keenan’s, especially this time of the year, “the queen weeks” as Annette Keenan called them when we chatted. Last Wednesday evening was busy there, scores of diners in the bar. 

..and this!

But there were even more present on the Thursday, yet they handled it all very well, finding tables for everyone. And the food was of a very good standard indeed and of course I was happy to see two craft brews on tap!

The craft beers available were the Scraggy Bay from Donegal’s Kinnegar and the Little Fawn by Sligo’s White Hag. Over the two nights, I sampled both and delighted to do so.They may well have had other local beers in bottle. Also, on the shelves, you’ll spot the distinctive blue gin bottle of the nearby Lough Ree distillery. I was kicking myself as I hadn’t known about it when strolling through Lanesborough earlier in the day - I must have walked past it! How could that happen?

Anyway, back to the food. They have quite a menu here. We enjoyed their Chicken Wings (with sesame seeds, Hot Sauce, side blue cheese mayo & celery sticks), Shredded duck confit in crispy filo pastry, rocket salad, drizzled with hoisin, lime & chilli jam, but our favourite was perhaps the classic Atlantic Prawn Cocktail With Marie rose sauce (no shortage of prawns!).

Rhubarb & plum crumble. Yum!

Lots of choice too on the mains menu, everything from steak to vegetarian. Dishes that we enjoyed were their Steak Sandwich (6oz Sirloin Steak on a toasted ciabatta bread with garlic butter, topped with sauté onions, served with a side of hand-cut chips & pepper sauce), the Roasted confit of Duck, crushed baby potatoes with bacon & onion, grilled asparagus & broccoli, orange sauce, and also Roast Chicken Supreme (with gratin potatoes, grilled tender stem broccoli & asparagus, celeriac apple velouté sauce, balsamic glaze). 

Panoramic shot as pleasure boat approaches the lifted section of bridge with traffic stopped on both sides on the N5. The boat had just come through the Tarmonbarry Lock, a few hundred metres back. A few boats came through
from the left as well.

We had a favourite here with lots of flavour and textures and that was the Fresh Roast Salmon with sauté pak choi, mixed peppers, courgette & red onion, grilled asparagus & broccoli, with mango salsa & baby potatoes.


Our dive into the desserts wasn’t quite that deep but we certainly enjoyed the two that we managed, the Mango & Passionfruit Pannacotta with Champagne sorbet and also the crunchy and very tasty Rhubarb and Plum Crumble.

A boat comes through the bridge and heads for the nearby
Tarmonbarry Lock.

In the morning, it was upstairs (for us) to the lovely breakfast room and another fine menu, full of choice. Again local producers were supported with eggs from Diffley’s farm, bacon and sausages from Dunnes farm and black and white pudding from Kellys of Newport. We enjoyed various combinations after starting with orange juice and cereals (including their own impressive granola). Hot porridge was also available. And a highlight was a really well made brown bread.

We were out and about most of the time so didn’t get to sample the lunch menu but it looks tempting and contains quite a few of the dishes available later on, along with a selection of sandwiches. You’ll be well fed here, no matter what time of day you call in!

More on Keenan's here

Part 2

Friendliness. Food. Flowers. You’ll find all three, and much more besides, in Keenan’s Hotel in Tarmonbarry on the Roscommon Longford border.

At your service! Father and son: Barry and David.

In Part 1, we spoke mainly about the food. Let us get back to the friendliness. Because of the seasonality of the business here, staff will change but the class of 2022 seems to me to be exceptional. Excellent teamwork all round, very friendly and also very efficient. And of course, family members such as Annette and Barry and son David pitch in and work as hard as anyone.

Keenan's looks well on its N4 side.

David, part of the sixth generation here, was appointed as general manager last year. The original pub, a more modest establishment, was opened by David’s great great great grandfather, Hugh Reynolds, on the same site in 1865. 

David’s parents, Barry and Annette Keenan, took over 25 years ago and were responsible for introducing the food service with which Keenans has become synonymous, as well as developing the 12-bedroom boutique hotel.

And on the river side where the rooms, with flowers on the balconies,
 overlook the mighty River Shannon.

The welcome here begins with the flowers, organised by Annette. The striking arrangement, both on the streetside and on the riverbank aspect, are bright and cheerful and beckon you to stop. After all, if people take such care of their public places, then I reckon the same care will be applied within the premises and so it proved over our two-day stay.

Indeed, the whole village looks neat and tidy. On our second day, the concrete faces of the bridge were getting a new coat of paint. Tarmonbarry Lock, a couple of hundred yards from the hotel, is also well kept, a good place to sit and relax and watch the boats come and go.

Teasels in Strokestown Walled Garden.

Picking Keenan’s as a location makes many interesting places very accessible indeed. Here are a few that we visited. Our first stop was Elphin, to see the famous windmill, the only one in Connacht. Well, we did get to see it but it wasn’t working as repairs were in progress.

Our next stop, a longer and a much more sobering one was at Strokestown House, to see the National Famine Museum. We then took a stroll through the Woodland Park and the huge walled gardens before a lovely light lunch in the café there. Unluckily for us, Strokestown House wasn’t yet open to the public so we missed out on further increasing the “experience" of the famine times. We’ll have to go again, for a third time, as we also missed out a few years when while staying in Roscommon Town.

Another stop was at Ballyleague (Roscommon) and across the bridge to Lanesborough (Longford). More scenic views and plenty of boats too.

At rest in the Hidden Ireland, on the Royal Canal in Cloondara

Then it was time to head to the hotel and soon we were strolling down to the lock. And yes there were a few boats coming in and heading for the bridge. From the lock, we could see a section of the bridge rising to allow the boats through and the following day, we got a close-up view of that operation, carried out by staff from the lock.

Walking the National Famine Way

On the second morning, we strolled over the bridge and walked a kilometre or so, maybe a little longer, to Cloondara in Longford. This little village is where we found the Royal Canal and quite a few boats. Here too the National Famine Way continues; it is a self-guided Trail detailing the ill-fated journey of 1,490 famine emigrants who walked from Strokestown Park to ships in Dublin in 1847, at the height of the Irish Famine.

This 165km digitally and physically waymarked historic trail following in the footsteps of the famine emigrants and particularly focusing on one of them, 12 year old Daniel Tighe. The National Famine Way™ runs from Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon to EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin’s Docklands, along country roads and the Royal Canal towpath. 

Bronze childrens shoes mark the National Famine Way.

An app is available free of charge from the App Store. The official pack and passport with OSI Map ensure an optimum experience for walkers and cyclists on the safe and relatively flat route. The trail is waymarked by 32 poignant sculptures of bronze 19th-century children’s shoes along the route.

This accredited Heritage and Arts Trail not only links two significant Irish museums but also makes the connection between Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East and echoes current day famine and migration. In addition to the health, historical, cultural and arts impact it offers an economic boost to local communities with cycling hire, cafés, bars, shops and accommodation all benefiting.

Much more info on the National Famine Way may be seen here. 

Our boat, the Blue Moon.

Having seen so many enjoy the lakes, rivers and canals, we headed for Carrick-on-Shannon and a cruise on the river in the Moon River, an all-weather “adventure” in a fully enclosed and heated cruiser, owned and run by Blue Moon. There is some limited outdoor seating at front and rear. The company highlights that the boat is a fun adventure and provides music and a bar. Later, we visited the quiet village of Leitrim.

Plans to visit the Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo didn’t quite work out so we’ll have to go again. And, with a base like Keenan’s, that won’t be any hardship at all!

Also on this trip:

Local Whiskey and Beers all the way from Mayo to Roscommon 

48 Hours in Roscommon and neighbouring counties