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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Kinsale Hotel & Spa. A Hidden Gem With Stunning Views.


Kinsale Hotel & Spa. A Hidden Gem With Stunning Views 
Room with a view

In 1837, Rathmore House, the seat of J. Thomas Cramer,  was " a handsome mansion embosomed in flourishing plantations”. The house is no longer there but the splendid Kinsale Hotel and Spa far exceeds anything that Mr Cramer would have offered his 19th century guests. Set in the midst of 90 acres of Rathmore parkland, with terrific sea views, this hotel is truly an eye-opener, a hidden gem, and one that deserves to be better known.
20 metre pool

Now, with the previous staff enlivened by a new management team, renovation is ongoing and there is a spring in the collective step, according to Aoife Lohse, Sales and Marketing Manager, as she gave me the tour starting in the spectacular lobby.

The team here are happy to cater for weddings of any size, from 40 to 240 in the magnificent Rathmore Suite. And don’t forget they have an outdoor option as well, used as recently as May 4th for a civil wedding. And remember it doesn’t have to be a wedding. Any large function, even a party, can be accommodated here.
One of the terraces, with another just above

Weddings though are well suited to the hotel. There’s a covered walkway for the bride and groom to use on arrival. And, with those 90 acres, there’s no shortage of scenic places to take those photos. “It is a one shop stop,” says Aoife.

Relax!
When you book a room in the Kinsale Hotel, you are sure of a view. On one side, you’ll wake up to the sights and sounds of running water, a beautifully landscaped area on a steep slope between the main building and the lodges (more on those later). On the other side, there are splendid views over the Oysterhaven inlet.

And the rooms are excellent, from the Classic through the Executive and Superior to those extra-spacious and supremely comfortable Suites. Something for everyone, for couples or families. The Classic sleeps up to 2 adults and 2 children and has everything you need for a truly relaxing break away. 
The woodland view

The other rooms will have more equipment, better views over the bay perhaps, but all are excellent with something in the range to suit most budgets.  Besides, the Kinsale offers Accessible Rooms giving you the same level of luxury, complete with peace of mind. These  are designed for wheelchair access and feature accessible bathrooms to ensure that you're comfortable and secure during your stay.

Spa
In addition to the hotel itself, there are some twenty self-catering lodges in the grounds, quite close to the hotel and reached by a covered walkway (you can do B&B if you prefer!). These are very family orientated, very popular for extended family gatherings and also for hen parties. The lodges are of various sizes and are being refurbished.

If the fully equipped gymnasium is not enough for you, or if you find all the gear too daunting, why not take a walk in the grounds. Lots of space in  the 90 acres of parklands and over 5 kilometres of paved walkways.


Like a swim? You’ll enjoy the amazing 20 metre pool here. It’s got a huge window running on one side with great views out over the countryside and the inlets. And the sauna and steam room are among the most generously proportioned around. The facilities here are very popular and the gym and leisure centre has some 700 members. There is also a fully equipped Elemis Spa, quite an experience, from initial contact through the various stages and finally the rest room!
Preparing for a wedding

The Rockpool Restaurant has been renovated recently. Those of you who have been there previously will be amazed with all the light streaming in from the side windows, the effect enhanced by the fact that the old partitions have been taken down. You’ll have great views as you look out those windows.

And some tasty stuff to look at on your plate also. A new dinner menu was launched just last week. Snacks include some tasty small plates ranging from a Chicken Kebab to an Oyster Bay Open Crab Sandwich. Starters include choices from Kinsale Bay Mussels to Oysterhaven Bay Scampi.
Enjoyed this lunch dish (Wild Atlantic Hake)

They offer quite a range of main dishes. The fish lover is well catered for with Wild Atlantic Fillet of Hake, Monkfish Fillet, maybe the Oysterhaven Bay Fish ’n Chips. No shortage of meat options either with Wagyu Beef Burger, rack of Irish lamb and Steak listed. You’ll also find Salads, Curry, Chicken Supreme, and a Homemade Vegan Burger.
Sautéed Chicken Salad at lunchtime

And you’ll have dessert, Of course! Pick from the Mango Banoffee Pie, the Raspberry Belgian Chocolate Ganache Tart (I’ll have that, please), the Almond and Pistachio Cake, the White Chocolate Cheesecake and the spectacular Kinsale Hotel Signature Sundae (maybe I’ll have that!). Choices galore.
Lemon posset

The corporate side is very important here and they have great relationships with local firms whether for entertaining, team-buildings (they have their own private beach) and more. They have not just one heli-pad, but two.


Lots of complimentary onsite parking for the motorist too! All the bedrooms have WiFi, Saorview TV, Tea & Coffee making facilities, Iron & Ironing Board, Elemis Spa at Home products and 32” flat screen televisions and more. 

The hotel not alone has lovely surroundings but is very well located, close to the airport and the city, on the doorstep of Kinsale and its renowned food culture, and West Cork is just a short drive away. So much to see and do in this area.

The Kinsale, as Aoife saysm, it quite a one-stop shop: Weddings, Spa, Girl's Getaway, Corporate, Family Breaks, Health Club, Active Retirement Breaks, Dining. Check it all out at www.hotelkinsale.ie 


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Clare: A County of Cliffs and Karst, Caves and Cheese. And so much more!


Clare: A County of Cliffs and Karst, Caves and Cheese. 
And so much more!
Ancient Poulnabrone

You think of Clare, and the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren (a Karst landscape) always come to mind. They are indeed amazing visits but there is so much more as I found out in a recent two day trip.

There are two excellent cave visits. Aillwee is probably the best-known but this time we choose to go to Doolin to see the extraordinary stalactite there. We visited two cheese makers, the well-known St Tola and Burren Gold. Then there was the Burren Perfumery in an isolated spot but still managing to employ over 30 people in the season.
Superb packaging at Burren Perfume

Perfumery garden
As you travel between the perfumery and Aillwee you’ll the grey Burren stretching away at either side. And here too there are reminders of the past, a castle (Lemanagh), a fort (Caherconnell) and, most memorable of all, the ancient tomb at Poulnabrone. Just a few of the many attractions listed on the very helpful leaflet Burren and Cliffs of Moher GeoPark.

Okay, let us start with the cheese. We spent most of the first morning with Brian at St Tola and you may read all about it here. Our last call that afternoon was to the Farm Shop at Aillwee Caves where, if you’re lucky, you can see the Burren Gold being made. We had a lovely chat with Dave here  and an even lovelier tasting.

In between the cheese stops, we called to our B&B, the Fergus View, and got detailed directions for the afternoon from a very helpful Mary. And that was how we ended up at Poulnabrone. 

This is a Portal Tomb built, from great slabs of limestone, over 5,000 years ago (around the same time as the pyramids were being built) on the grey pavement of the Burren. The remains of over 30 people have been found on this ancient site. It is indeed much smaller than the pyramids but still you look at it in awe. 

And that awe continues as you eyes take in the extent of the grey pavement  (formed 350 millions years ago) all around as it stretches into the distance and you pick it up on the flanks of the distant hills.
Moher

Moher ??
And we got more great views of the unique landscape as we made our way to Sadie Chowen's Burren Perfumery . This  small company is “making cosmetics and perfumes inspired by the landscape around us. Everything is made on site, by hand, in small batches”. They include perfumes, creams, soaps and candles in the portfolio. We enjoyed  a little tour there through the perfume area, the herb garden and the soap room. There is also a Tea Room with homemade local food. The perfumery is open daily all year round.

The following morning we headed for Doolin on the coast, not to take a boat to the Aran Islands and not to take one along the Cliffs of Moher, but to visit the cave there. It is privately owned, by the Browne family. In addition to the cave, there is a café and a nature walk.

Mike Dickenson and Brian Varley, from a Yorkshire pothole club, discovered the cave in 1952. They crawled in. You don’t have to do that nowadays but you will have to bend down in certain parts. We had a terrific guide in Cathy and first she took us down the stairs which is enclosed in a concrete shaft stretching some 80 feet down; then, with our helmets on, we continued down to 80 metres.
Doolin's amazing stalactite. 10 tonnes, 23 feet.

Now, we get “orders” to turn out all mobile phone lights and we are briefly in darkness. A few lights come on in the blackness. Next there are oohs and aahs as the great stalactite is revealed, all 10 tonnes of it, all 23 feet of it (the longest free hanging stalactite in Europe!).  Amazing!
Doolin sheep

As Cathy takes us around and then under it, we get to know it a little better. One side (the whiter one), with drops of water still dripping, is longer than the other which has no drip and has stopped growing, it is “dead”.

Above ground, the nature trail takes visitors on a short rural walk where you will encounter some farm animals including rare breeds of pygmy goats and Soay and Jacob sheep, ducks and chickens. The ducks and chickens weren’t there on our trip, having been decimated by a rogue mink. But replacements were due!

There is also a well-regarded café and a shop and an area where you’ll see some information (mainly on posters) about the cave which was opened to the public only in 2006. As part of the planning permission, there is a limit of around 50,000 visitors per annum.

We had one or two other visits in mind in the Lisdoonvarna area but with the weather bright and clear, if quite breezy, we decided to head for the Cliffs of Moher. And the guy on the parking gate told us we’d made the correct decision, that the views were great.

And so they were. We joined the crowds (11 buses and more than half a mega-car-park full of cars) but the people were well spread out over the area and no sense of crowding at all. We walked and walked and took in the outstanding views. 

Something struck us as we strolled around. Most of the visitors were speaking a language other than English and those speaking English had either American or English accents. Of the small group in the morning’s cave visit, we were the only two “natives”. I know it was a working day (Friday) but still we wondered do we Irish really appreciate what we have on our doorstep. 
Ball retriever.

Over the past few years, we’ve often been asked what did we do this year. And we’d mention Kerry, Clare, Waterford, Wexford, Mayo, Donegal and so on. And the response often is. “Yes, but where did you go on holidays?” Quite a lot of us don’t consider it a holiday unless we go abroad.

We finished off the afternoon by taking the coastal route, calling at Liscannor (birthplace of John P Holland, inventor of the submarine) and a very lively Lahinch where surfers and golfers were out in force before reaching Berry Lodge at Spanish Point. Here we got a splendid welcome from owner David.

Plan to head to Clare again fairly soon, perhaps starting in the southern part of the county. Anything I should see, visit? After that, I’ll fill you in on a few places to eat and stay.
Surfers get a lesson on Lahinch beach while repairs (following last year's storms) continue in the background.




Sunday, April 7, 2019

Delicious Food and No Plastic at Kinsale Street Feast

Kinsale Street Feast

The All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off will take pride of place in Kinsale today (2.00pm) but yesterday it was the turn of the Street Feast. Lots of good food and fun and a big "NO!" to  plastic. I got down there early but not early enough to get one of the 150 lobster rolls that Bastion sold out in an hour! But there were plenty of other excellent offerings to taste and enjoy.

Best in show. This superb bowl of Chorizo and Bean Stew was my favourite on the day, served up by Chef Daniel Horgan from Man Friday. It was full of flavour and helped lessen the chill from the wind and good value too at €4.00. Also enjoyed the Fish Crumble from Fishy Fishy, the Mussels with Thai style sauce from Finns' Table, and the Moroccan Lamb Stew from Max. Most restaurants had at least two dishes on offer.
Julie Finn (right) serving.

"Not too much of that street food down here!"

The Barrett burgers were popular!
High Tide

Claire O'Brien (Gan Gluten) greets an old friend

Fishy Fishy's Fish Crumble

Gubbeen chorizo and cheese from Black Pig Wine Bar.

Street corner musicians
Bastion Sold out their lobster rolls in double quick time. But they did have Prosecco on tap!

Gourmet Pantry


Choices!




Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Celtic Ross Hotel. A West Cork Jewel


The Celtic Ross Hotel 
A West Cork Jewel
Well placed to visit
the treasures of the West Cork coast

Situated between Clonakilty and Skibbereen, the Celtic Ross is a jewel in the West Cork coastal necklace. This is a gem that exudes warmth in every aspect of its hospitality: reception, touring help, accommodation, food and drink. 




The hotel overlooking the Rosscarbery estuary has a splendid location and not just for the immediate views. It is one of the most central places from which to visit the West Cork highlights, from Clonakilty to the peninsulas in the West.
And just on its doorstep it has the beautiful villages of Glandore and Union Hall and coastal walks galore. And if you like a bit of height as you stretch the legs why not head up to Carrigfadda where you get the most splendid 360 degrees views inland and over the sea.
Warren Strand, within walking distance

And another thing about the Celtic Ross, under manager Neil Grant, is their huge involvement in and support for local events, including A Taste of West Cork, the Clonakilty Street Carnival and the prestigious West Cork Sports Awards to name but three. 

And more recently, they have thrown their weight behind a new initiative, the West Cork Farm Tours, that gives you the chance to visit one of five farms in the area. We did a tour recently and you may check it out here.

There is a wide range of outdoor activities available in the area including horse riding, cycling, golf, pitch and putt, woodland trails, garden visits and water sports such as kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.
Dinner in the Celtic Ross

And after all that touring and walking and other activities, you might well like to relax in their leisure facilities.  Let the aches of the day evaporate in the steam room or sauna, take an invigorating swim (15m pool) or unwind with a hot stone massage. As they say: “When you visit us you’ll find everything you need to make your stay as laid-back or as active as you want it to be.”
Celtic Ross is an active participant in the delightful Clonakilty Street Carnival

They support local drink producers in the hotel bar. Whiskey from the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen and gins from the Beara Distillery are given pride of place here along with quite a few other Irish spirits. And local breweries too are highlighted with beers from Baltimore’s West Cork Brewery and Mitchelstown’s Eight Degrees available, some on draught, some in bottle. And when the sun shines, they have outdoor facilities where you may snack and sip.
Breakfast

And the food is splendid here, its reputation gradually built up over the past few years by hard-working General Manager Neil Grant and Executive Head Chef Alex Petit. Alex now has the considerable assistance of Head Chef Shane Deane. We enjoyed a terrific dinner here recently, details here. And we were able to choose between two very tempting menus indeed. Breakfast is excellent too, mainly from an assisted buffet where everything is kept at optimum temperature. 

They have 66 bedrooms and many enjoy beautiful water views over Rosscarbery Lagoon or Rosscarbery Bay. As well as the double, twin and triple rooms, they also have family rooms, interconnecting rooms and rooms with built in accessibility features.

During our recent stay (March 2019), our room had a view over the lagoon and had everything we needed, including tea-making facilities, iron, hair-dryer, safe. Of course, it had a splendid comfortable bed and was restfully decorated. The bathroom too was top notch. Indeed, the room was faultless, just like the well-maintained hotel itself.
You might see these two on a West Cork Farm Tour
You may check the room rates here at their website. It may be getting on in the year now but do keep an eye out for offers. I spotted my chance in a January Black Friday sale and the B&B cost me about fifty six euro. A very good deal indeed!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Always a Warm Welcome at The Trident Hotel Kinsale


Always a Warm Welcome at The Trident Hotel Kinsale

Always enjoy going back to the Trident Hotel in Kinsale. The views from the bedrooms, any of their 75 rooms, are striking. The hotel is spectacularly set on the water's edge in Kinsale, in a prime location for guests to enjoy the views of the harbour. And quite often the sun is shining! As it was last week when we called. The Trident has a private marina and onsite parking (very handy in the busy seaside town).

The hotel, under manager Hal McElroy, has been through an extensive upgrade and its interiors are now looking splendid as well. We stayed in one of those refurbished bedrooms and we had splendid views of the harbour. The decor is restful and the spacious room had all we needed, including hairdryer (well, I didn't need that!) and tea-maker.
Room with a view

The welcome here is always warm but it got that little bit better last Monday (18th) when we were told we were upgraded. We enjoyed that. While walking along the corridors, I was struck by the restful colour combination, mainly white and grey on the walls, blue and grey in the carpet, and a little extra colour in the curtains. All very peaceful throughout. A really lovely place to stay, good rooms, good food, and just about four minutes from the very heart of the town.
Sandycover, near Kinsale

Kinsale itself has quite a lot to offer. It has often been called the Gourmet Capital of Ireland. You’ll get some arguments from other areas no doubt but Kinsale was awarded The Restaurants Association of Ireland’s ‘Top Foodie Town’ in the 2018 competition. 

The Trident and its manager are key players in Kinsale, long-time members of the town’s Good Food Circle which believe it or not are now taking bookings for the annual Gourmet Festival. Dates this year, for the 43rd running of this famous and fun event, are 11th to 13th of October. 
Safe harbour
For more info, check "Kinsale Good Food Circle - 43rd Kinsale Gourmet Festival”. Before that though, the Good Food Circle will host the National Chowder Championships in April with a street food festival on the same weekend (6/7 April 2019). 
Charlesfort

If you visit the town, you’ll be assured of good places to stay and terrific restaurants and café, and you’ll be well set up for some fabulous sightseeing. Charlesfort overlooks the harbour and is perhaps the biggest attraction in the town. It is open all year and regular guided tours are available. Well worth a visit and you can also see it from the water if you take one of the popular Kinsale harbour cruises.

Desmond Castle, an even older building in the heart of the town, is open during the season. It is also known locally as the French Prison. Built originally as a customs house, it now includes a wine museum as one of its attractions.
Lusitania Museum and the Old Head

The nearby coast includes many small coves that are worth a visit (see here) and not too far away there is the large beach at Garrettstown, the waters here also popular with surfers. On the way, you may stop and admire the famous Old Head of Kinsale and visit the nearby Signal Tower and Lusitania Museum.

Kinsale, often called the gateway to West Cork (see my West Cork Package), is your starting point on the Wild Atlantic Way. It is hardly 30 minutes from Cork City, even less from the airport and not too far away from the ferryport of Ringaskiddy.
In the harbour

Our latest visit was prompted by Kinsale Restaurant Week, a very successful event that finished up on the 24th of February. We had a great meal, a great night indeed, in Finns’ Table, another member of the Good Food Circle. 
Blacks Ale

Breakfast view at the Trident
Finished the night with a pint of local beer (from Blacks Micro-Brewery and Distillery) in the Trident’s Wharf Bar. And said goodbye to the Trident after a hearty breakfast in Pier One, their main restaurant, used mainly for breakfast and functions. 

The lively Wharf Bar downstairs will keep you well fed during the day and evening. And in the good weather, at the water’s edge, the Trident have their self contained Foredeck Bar with some seating for your comfort.

Oh, the hospitality continued at the breakfast table when we were surprised with the gift of a bottle of wine from Anthony of the Trident and congrats from all the servers. He knew we had been been celebrating our 50th anniversary at Finns’ Table. Thanks to Anthony and the Trident. And, before you ask, we didn’t open the lovely Sancerre at breakfast!

Also on this Kinsale trip:
Dinner at Finns' Table
Surprise Mellot Sancerre Tasting at Finns' Table