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Ireland’s Leading Independent Food & Hospitality Guide
Pubs with B&B are familiar in Britain but less so here, where you’re likely to find something nearer an inn, or perhaps a restaurant with rooms that also has a bar. But it’s an appealing combination and makes for an especially relaxing laid-back atmosphere – well worth seeking out if you like to keep things casual.
Wild Honey Inn
Lisdoonvarna Co Clare
Set in pretty gardens on the edge of Lisdoonvarna town, this old hotel was re-opened by chef Aidan McGrath and his wife Kate Sweeney in 2009, and the world wasted no time in beating a path to their door. It is full of character and it’s a true inn, offering rest, relaxation, refreshment and good company. But good food is the main focus and they are proud to be seen as a pub offering high quality food in an informal setting: Aidan’s superb bistro style meals showcasing local produce are served in the attractive high-ceilinged bar – a pair of semi-open plan rooms with real fires, comfortably set up for dining - and you can also eat outside in fine weather. A lucky few may also enjoy their very comfortable, reasonably priced accommodation, which provides an ideal base to explore the walking routes or enjoy a cycling holiday in this unique landscape - Lisdoonvarna is very close to The Burren National Park. Walking and cycling maps are available, and there are facilities to store bikes. Guided walks can also be arranged, with advance notice.
Beach Bar/Aughris House
Templeboy Co Sligo
Off the N59 Sligo/Ballina road, the coast road to Aughris Head and pier leads to the McDermott family’s picturesque and beautifully located thatched pub. It seems too good to be true when you first find it in this quiet and unspoilt place, but it has been there since the 18th century when, apparently, it was a shibín known as Maggie Maye’s. Today, after sensitive restoration, it has retained some of the best characteristics of the past and makes a lovely stopping place, with food served in the flag-stoned bar - and access to a beach just a hop across the wall from the car park. It’s known for wholesome, home-cooked meals - creamy Atlantic seafood chowder, great steaks, bangers and mash, and delicious home-made desserts – and, you can stay here too, at the family’s B&B, Aughris House. In this neat bungalow just beside the pub and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the McDermotts offer comfortable, inexpensive, family-friendly ensuite B&B accommodation, with complimentary tea and biscuits on arrival. A magic spot.
The Smugglers Inn
Cliff Road Waterville Co Kerry
The Hunt family’s clifftop inn is in a fantastic location, right beside Waterville Golf Links and overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay, with its miles of golden strand. It has smartened up a lot in recent years - changes to the exterior, especially, have been a huge improvement, and the ground floor areas, including the bar and an excellent seafood restaurant, are very appealing. It’s an ideal stop off on the Ring of Kerry, for a bite in the bar or, in fine weather, at garden tables that overlook beach and sea to the McGillycuddy Reeks beyond. The pleasant, unpretentious bedrooms vary in size, outlook, facilities (one has a balcony) and price; they have all been recently redecorated and are comfortably furnished in a homely style. There’s also a large first-floor residents’ sitting room, complete with comfy sofas and armchairs, books, television - and magnificent sea views. Good for families – and pets are allowed in some areas by arrangement too.
Belturbet Co Cavan
Although officially an hotel, the heart of this friendly place at the centre of Belturbet is the bar, which is full of character, with an unusual wattle hurdle ceiling, plenty of local history, an open fire for cold days and the pleasingly dim atmosphere that makes Irish pubs so relaxing. This makes it very popular with boating folk, who head up from the river for hearty home cooking served in the bar at reasonable prices: mixed grills, lamb cutlets and pan-fried plaice are just right for appetites fired up by plenty of fresh air. Upstairs, moderately priced accommodation is offered in simple, comfortably furnished modern en-suite rooms – and there is a well-appointed dining room where breakfast is served, and also an à la carte evening menu offering popular dishes like Caesar salad, steaks and roast duckling for guests who prefer something more formal than the bar in the evening. Not a fancy place at all, just unpretentious Irish hospitality.
The Square Baltimore Co Cork
In beautiful West Cork, the Jacob family’s bar overlooking Baltimore harbour is at the heart of an establishment that also has great accommodation (huge beds, seating areas, lovely bathrooms), and a choice of restaurants: above the bar, The Lookout makes a lovely breakfast room and informal restaurant, (now with elements of the original Breton seafood restaurant, Chez Youen, transferred from nearby premises) plus La Jolie Brise Pizza & Grill, on the square. It’s officially an hotel, but the lively bar and the indoors-outdoors layout around the square – La Jolie Brise and the Waterfront Bar spill into each other in summer – create more of a pub with rooms atmosphere. Front rooms have wonderful views over the harbour to Sherkin Island, while quieter back ones have their own charm.
McGrory’s of Culdaff
Culdaff Inishowen Co Donegal
An inn in the true sense of the word, offering rest and refreshment to travellers, this Donegal institution was established in 1924 and remains in the hands-on care of the hospitable McGrory family. Many visitors to the area will think of it mainly as a bar – it’s the perfect pitstop when touring the Inishowen peninsula, and they serve good casual food – but they have very nice, reasonably priced, accommodation too, plus an evening restaurant that has loads of character and ups the ante a bit without being too formal. It makes a comfortable base for a break – there’s great walking in the area, and golfers can have special rates at Ballyliffin Golf Club included. And there’s no shortage of craic: as well as traditional sessions in The Front Bar on Tuesday and Friday nights, Mac’s Backroom Bar is a major venue for live shows featuring international names (live music Wednesday and Saturday; events listings on the web).
Market Square Kilrush Co Clare
Right on Kilrush’s great central square, Crotty’s is a fine early nineteenth century building and established as a pub in 1914 by Miko Crotty and his wife, Lizzie, a famous traditional musician; today, her spirit is alive and well as Crotty’s remains one of West Clare’s foremost traditional Irish music bars. It’s now owned by Rebecca Brew and Kevin Clancy, a welcoming young couple who enjoy introducing visitors to real Irish hospitality. It is a wonderful place, with a network of public bars and snugs, The Kitchen, Store and Tap Rooms, and all the features that make Victorian Irish pubs so special - old woodwork, ornate tiled and wide plank floors, pitch pine counters, old mirrors, shelves and walls awash with historical memorabilia. Good food is important at Crottys too, so you will be well fed - and they have five fine bedrooms on the 3rd floor, making it a good place to stay while exploring wonderfully away-from-it-all West Clare; the famous Vandeleur Walled Garden and the West Clare Railway are both nearby, for example, also the Shannon Estuary with its resident population of bottle nosed dolphins
The Huntsman Inn
164 College Road Galway City Co Galway
Within walking distance of the city centre and easily accessible by car, this busy spot looks like a pretty row of houses and, with its colourful hanging baskets, the façade cleverly disguises a large interior. Contemporary décor and muted colours complement an airy atmosphere, and the chic bar is a relaxed place to eat flavoursome food at a reasonable price - smart-casual dining is the main business here, and varied menus begin with a good breakfast then gradually change tone throughout the day. But there’s accommodation too, and the twelve smart, contemporary en-suite bedrooms make a great moderately-priced alternative to hotels in the area, off city centre yet convenient to everything on foot in fine weather. The rooms are very attractive and offer all the usual conveniences plus a good breakfast. If dining in for dinner, you’ll find menus reflecting a refreshingly down to earth philosophy, and care in the cooking.
Portmagee Co Kerry
Overlooking the harbour in this attractive little fishing port, Gerard & Patricia Kennedy’s bar, restaurant and accommodation is pretty much the one-stop shop in Portmagee these days, as they work hard to provide everything the visitor could need – they even have a lovely gift shop, "Cois Cuain", next door, selling unusual items, including local crafts, artwork and some artisan foods (anyone for Skelligs Chocolates?). Their Bridge Bar is a popular place to drop in to for a wholesome bite to eat when touring this beautiful area, and it’s also well known for music and craic, with traditional Irish music, set dancing and Irish songs on various evenings. Appealing accommodation includes four superior rooms and some family rooms; many rooms have a sea view and all are very comfortably furnished, with good facilities. They offer attractive packages, notably a 2-night Skelligs Package (April-September) which includes a pre-booked boat trip to the islands with packed lunch, then dinner in The Moorings restaurant.
Lusty Beg Island
Boa Island Kesh Co Fermanagh BT93 8AD
Situated on Lower Erne, between Kesh and Belleek (signed off the A47), this is an unusual place and worth a visit, if only to call into the pleasant waterside pub for a drink, a cup of tea or for an informal bite to eat. Many visitors come by boat, of course, but if you arrive by road, a little ferry takes you over to the island. It’s a popular destination for a day out, or for an evening meal, but you could stay much longer as both B&B and self-catering accommodation is available in lodges, chalets and a motel, all spread relatively inconspicuously around the wooded island. A great place for families, who enjoy the laidback atmosphere, good facilities and fun – there’s a good buzz, and barbecues and other theme nights are often held. Bar food is available daily in summer - booking is recommended for all food, especially in high season. It has good conference/banqueting facilities too - conferences, corporate entertaining, management training and all sorts of activity breaks are offered, and it’s also a popular wedding venue.