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Ireland’s Leading Independent Food & Hospitality Guide
High summer draws us all to the coast and you can’t beat a break along Ireland’s dramatic western seaboard. So try to ignore the intrusively excessive motorway-blue Wild Atlantic Way signage and enjoy the glories that nature has supplied in abundance.
Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal
Situated in the picturesque village of Dunfanaghy overlooking the spectacular scenery of Sheephaven Bay in north-west Donegal, this nice old fashioned hotel is located in a traditional holiday area that many will have a soft spot for, while some will also recall happy family holidays at Arnold’s. It has been in the same family for three generations and, with a welcoming fire and friendly staff on the reception desk, it immediately conveys the warm and relaxing ambience that is so special to traditional family-run Irish hotels. Special interest breaks - walking, painting, fishing, golfing, cycling etc - are offered, with staff very happy to help you to plan the perfect holiday. This is a special hotel in many ways, and it's no wonder that so many guests often return.
Castlemurray House Hotel
St. John's Point Dunkineely Co Donegal
Martin and Marguerite Howley’s beautifully located clifftop hotel 20km 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.
Stella Maris Country House Hotel
Ballycastle, Co Mayo
In former a coastguard regional headquarters on the edge of the totally away-from-it-all village of Ballycastle, Terence McSweeney and Frances Kelly have created a very special small hotel with a warm and stylish interior where antiques rub shoulders with contemporary pieces - and a conservatory built all along the front takes full advantage of the location, allowing guests to relax in comfort and warmth while drinking in the majestic views of the surrounding coastline and sea. Dinner - cooked under Frances’ direct supervision - is a very enjoyable experience, based on local ingredients including organic produce from nearby Enniscoe House - and residents also have a treat in store each morning, as the Stella Maris breakfast is worth lingering over.
Clare Island Lighthouse
Clare Island, Co Mayo
Surrounded by sea, Clare Island Lighthouse makes an unusual and atmospheric place to stay on the largest island in Clew Bay, which is a unique destination for artists, walkers and nature lovers. The only lighthouse in Ireland to have two towers (both of which are in use), it dates back to 1806 and, having been recently renovated it to a high standard by its current owners, this Blue Book property opened for guests in 2013. The main living area is in the former lighthouse keeper's home and the style throughout is spare and arty, with open fires and stoves keeping all areas cosy. The six guest rooms are all very different - one room is named after the last lighthouse keeper, Jackie O’Grady, who still has a holiday home on the island, and his lovely book “The Green Road to the Lighthouse” is available to guests.
Strandhill Lodge & Suites
Strandhill, Co Sligo
Although officially a guesthouse (it has no bar and a light continental breakfast is the only food offered), Strandhill Lodge has the feeling of a modern hotel, with welcoming reception and lounging areas on the ground floor and impressively spacious and comfortably furnished rooms over three floors, some with balconies and all with ocean views over Strandhill village. Aimed at the budget-conscious yet discerning traveller, the Lodge is equally suited to couples seeking a romantic getaway, families who need the space and freedom not normally associated with hotels, and business guests who will especially appreciate the free wi-fi access, conference facilities and nearby down-time activities including golf. The rooms are finished to a very high standard and there are interesting places to eat and drink nearby, including The Venue Bar & Restaurant, next door. A great asset to Strandhill.
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) is renowned for showcasing Connemara produce, and a supervised playroom is visible to parents dining in the restaurant. All this, plus the scent of a turf fire and a comfortable armchair, can be magic.
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, where old traditions of farming, sport, and music are a large part of daily life. The de Blacams are true to the spirit of the island in every way. The building, although modern, is a hymn to local materials and blends into the surrounding limestone landscape, and the food is mainly sourced on the island - traditional currachs are used for fishing lobster and crab, and an impressive amount is produced by the couple themselves. 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.
Red Cliff Lodge
Spanish Point, Co. Clare
Now becoming established as one of the top destinations in West Clare, John and Brid O’Meara’s attractive thatched restaurant with accommodation overlooks Spanish Point Beach and offers not only delicious food but also six spacious and luxuriously appointed suites, which can be available as room-only or on a self catering basis as they all have a kitchenette. With its white-washed walls and a cobbled stone courtyard, the low U-shaped group of buildings sits well in its surroundings and combines the comforts and style of the new with a pleasingly traditional air.
Gorman's Clifftop House
Ballydavid, near Dingle, Co Kerry
Sile and Vincent Gorman’s well-named guesthouse and restaurant Clifftop House 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, with open fires, comfy sofas and armchairs in two generous lounging areas, and very comfortable rooms 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. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy delicious local foods, especially fish, and excellent breakfasts are served in this magnificent setting too.
Caherdaniel, Co. Kerry
If only for its superb location, this unassuming 1960s-style hotel on the Ring of Kerry would be well worth a visit, but there is much more on offer. The accommodation is quite modest but very comfortable and, under the excellent management of Mary O’Connor and her well-trained staff, this hospitable, family-friendly place provides a welcome home from home for many a contented guest. Activity holidays are a big draw - there are beautiful beaches, excellent fishing, and Waterville Golf Course offers special rates at certain times. Whether in the hotel or one of the luxurious houses in the grounds, it’s a great base for a traditional family holiday
The Heron’s Cove
Goleen, Co Cork
When the tide is in and the sun is out there can be few prettier locations than Sue Hill’s quietly situated restaurant with rooms overlooking Goleen harbour, on the Mizen Peninsula. It’s been a destination fish restaurant since 1985 and, as a Euro-Toques chef and Slow Food member, respect for the integrity of local ingredients is at the heart of Sue's food philosophy; in particular, her mission has always been to source the best sustainable fish and shellfish and prepare it in a simple and honest way. Other local foods like Goleen lamb and crispy roast Skeaghanore duckling also feature, of course, and both food and accommodation offer great value too. A hidden treasure.