BESIDE THE SEA - TEN OF THE BEST
Whether for the enjoyment of a bracing walk along a sandy beach before breakfast, or the pleasure of a sea view from our dining table, we all love to stay and eat beside the sea...
Gorman's Clifftop House
Ballydavid, near Dingle, Co Kerry
Dingle is a fantastic all-year destination for lovers of the outdoor life, good food, and music – and, unless you want to be right in the town, the place to be is Sile and Vincent Gorman’s well-named guesthouse and restaurant Clifftop House, which is beautifully situated near Smerwick Harbour on the Slea Head scenic drive and Dingle Way walking route. It is, as they say themselves, “just a great place to relax and unwind”. And a very comfortable place it is to do this too: the atmosphere is welcoming and laid-back, with open fires, comfy sofas and armchairs newspapers and books in two generous lounging areas. And the rooms are very comfortable too; most have king size beds and four superior rooms have jacuzzi bath. Vincent Gorman is the chef and the restaurant – which is open to non-residents - has large windows commanding superb sea views and, on fine evenings, spectacular sunsets; this is a wonderful place to enjoy delicious home-cooked dinners notable for local fish. Excellent breakfasts are served in this magnificent setting too, setting you up handsomely for a day in the fresh air.
318 Clontarf Road Dublin 3
On the coast road from Dublin to Howth, this smart two-storey restaurant specialising in authentic Pakistani and Northern Indian cuisine has earned a loyal following, and was the Guide’s Ethnic Restaurant of the Year in 2004. And, although fans from a wide area congregate here mainly for the fine food (the kitchen team have over 80 years experience between them and the quality of both food and cooking is exemplary), attentive professional service and fair prices, the scenic location overlooking Bull Island does it no harm at all: fine views - especially from the first floor dining room - are a feature at lunch time or on fine summer evenings, and there’s a cosy upstairs bar with Indian cookbooks to inspire guests waiting for a table or relaxing after dinner. And great places nearby to walk it off afterwards too - St Anne’s Park is close by, as well as Bull Island, and the endless bayside walking and cycling route.
The Strand Portaferry Co Down BT22 1PE
If you’re tempted by a break in the North, the village of Portaferry on the Ards Peninsula could be a rewarding choice – involving a sea voyage too, if you arrive or leave via the highly efficient Strangford ferry. And, while not luxurious, the cosy 18th-century Portaferry Hotel on the waterfront is the place to be, overlooking the lough towards pretty Strangford village and the National Trust property, Castleward. The bar, a comfortable sitting room, and the restaurant have a cosy, well-kept old-fashioned feeling, good local food is served in both the bar and the slightly cottagey restaurant (where an excellent breakfast is also served); it’s a lovely place with personality, and friendly, helpful staff.
Castlemurray House Hotel
St. John's Point Dunkineely Co Donegal
Martin and Marguerite Howley’s beautifully located clifftop hotel 20 km from Donegal Town on the coast road to St John’s Point has wonderful sea views over the ruined castle after which it is named. With a cosy little bar, a residents’ sitting room and bedrooms that have all been redesigned recently, it’s a comfortable and relaxing place to stay, and there’s no shortage of opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors nearby. The restaurant – known for its local seafood in summer, with more red meats, poultry and game off-season - is on the seaward corner of the hotel overlooking the sea and the castle (which is floodlit at night), and an open fire makes for real warmth in this dramatic location, even on chilly evenings. Lovely breakfasts are served in the restaurant, and there’s an appealing bar menu too.
Rathmullan Co Donegal
Beautifully situated on the shores of Lough Swilly, the Wheeler family’s gracious nineteenth century house is fairly grand, but it’s not too formal - and there’s a cellar bar, which can be very relaxed. Bedrooms in the original house vary in size, decor, outlook and cost, but all are comfortably furnished in traditional country house style, and ten very desirable, individually decorated newer bedrooms include a pet-friendly room with a special couch for your pooch. Donegal in general and Rathmullan House in particular (winner of several of our Awards, including Country House of the Year) offer laid-back charm and a special sense of place - and you can look forward to excellent upbeat traditional food based on the very best of local and artisan foods too, in the famous Weeping Elm Restaurant and either of the bars. The Children’s Menu is a special feature too - a proper little person’s version of the adult menu – and their breakfasts are renowned.
Inis Meain Restaurant & Suites
Inis Meain Aran Islands Co Galway
Ruairi and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam’s stunning contemporary restaurant on Inis Meain is on the most tranquil and least visited island of the Aran group and was our Newcomer of the Year in 2008. Old traditions of farming, sport, and music are a large part of daily life here, and the de Blacams are true to the spirit of the island in every way. The building itself, although modern, is a hymn to local materials and blends into the surrounding limestone landscape; the food is mainly sourced on the island – including lobster and crab are caught by fishermen who use the local currachs - and an increasing amount is produced by the couple themselves, who aim eventually to source 95% of their produce on the island. Potatoes, vegetables, fruit and herbs are home-grown on the restaurant site – an amazing range including spinach, broad beans, peas, scallions and onions, carrots, parsnips and radishes, fennel bulbs, rocket, lollo rosso, masses of herbs, rhubarb, pears and soft fruits like raspberries, strawberries gooseberries and blackberries – and even the elderflower cordial is handmade in Cork by Marie-Thérèse’s mum, Breda Leahy. They have their own pigs and, as the island is a fox-free zone, free-range chickens too. Guests love the simplicity of the accommodation, where fishing rods, bicycles and books of interest are provided instead of TV, to help guests discover the peace and quiet of the island. A unique experience.
Renvyle House Hotel
Renvyle Connemara Co Galway
This wonderfully remote and romantic Lutyens-esque house has a fascinating history and is set in magnificently rugged scenery; once reached, the hotel seems to be snuggling down for shelter and, with its dark beams, rug strewn floors, has a cosy atmosphere - and a snug conservatory where guests can contemplate the healthy outdoor activity on site (trout fishing, a 9 hole golf course…) and the archaeological expeditions, horse riding, hill walking, scuba diving and sea fishing which are all on offer nearby. Head chef Tim O’Sullivan’s excellent food (in both bar and restaurant) features Connemara produce.... All this, plus the scent of a turf fire and a comfortable armchair, can be magic.
Duncannon New Ross Co Wexford
Highly-regarded Euro-Toques chef Billy Whitty and his partner Joanne Harding run their modern stone fronted dormer home as a restaurant with rooms; overlooking the picturesque fishing village of Duncannon, with lovely views of the beach and mountains, there’s a cosy seating area and Billy’s fine training shows through in the many delightful dishes on dinner menus which are changed daily. Four well-appointed bedrooms (one with full bath and shower, the others with shower only) are quiet and comfortable to - this can be a hard place to leave. (Aldridge Lodge was our Newcomer of the Year in 2006).
The Herons Rest B&B
Longwalk Spanish Arch Galway City
There can’t be a better location in the whole of Galway city than Sorcha Molloy’s delightful B&B - right in the centre, just seaward of Spanish Arch, it has everything within easy walking distance, yet is quietly situated with views across the river and out to sea. And the name of this charming house is far from fanciful – as likely as not you’ll find a visiting heron sitting on a car roof at the door… The sweet waterside rooms have had lots of TLC lavished on them, and there is care in everything Sorcha does, right down to the choice of natural toiletries and environmentally friendly cleaning and laundry products. Nothing is too much trouble for Sorcha when thinking of the comfort of her guests and how they might best be helped to get every ounce of enjoyment from their visit. She offers an extensive choice of delicious things for breakfast, and although there are no evening meals, afternoon tea and gourmet picnic baskets are both available on request – and most of the city’s top restaurants are within a short walk.
Jack's Coastguard Restaurant
Waters Edge Cromane Killorglin Co Kerry
If you turn off the Ring of Kerry road when you see the sign to Cromane, where the famous mussels are landed, you’ll find this handsome, smartly maintained stone building shortly before the quay. It sends out all the right signals from the outset, with an inviting traditional bar leading through to a bright and well-proportioned dining room promisingly set up with crisp white linen and gleaming glasses. Head chef Helen Vickers is well known in the area and her background is classical, including working at the Ryan family’s late lamented Arbutus Lodge Hotel in Cork, so it should come as no surprise to find a superb range of seafood including Cromane mussels, of course… It’s well worth building a visit to Jack’s into your plans when you’re the area - but booking is strongly advised, especially at weekends. And be prepared for Dublin prices.
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