Rachel Gaffney’s Letter From Texas - Doolin

The famous foodie who’s flying the tricolour for us in Texas is always planning for the groups she’ll bring to Ireland. This summer she took more time than usual over her research in Co Clare, around Doolin and the Aran Islands – and it was time well spent.  

I have visited the Cliffs of Moher many times. I have dined in the village of Lisdoonvarna many times. Yet, each and every time, I was merely passing through, always on my way to some other town or county, never really taking my own advice and spending time in the area.

So this summer I booked a room at Fiddle & Bow Hotel in the village of Doolin, County Clare, a mere 8km from The Cliffs of Moher.

‘Let all the world ferment
There things are permanent
You’ll wonder where your troubles went
way below in Doolin’

Verse from poem by Seamus McGrath (uncle of Evan Butler, Sales Director, Trump Doonbeg)

I was heading to Caherconnell Stone Fort and Sheepdog Demonstrations. The narrow and winding roads unfurled before me. Ferns and fuchsia swayed and crawled over the low stone walls. The radio was on and I sang like no one was listening (and thankfully they were not!) It was a delight. I love to drive these roads. I think when I die, I would like to return as Formula 1 driver. I digress.

Caherconnell Stone Fort exceeded my expectations. This is always a good thing. Here I was, out in what seems like, the middle of nowhere and there before my eyes was, not only a family owned farm but an enormous 1,000 year old Fort. The farm and all the surrounding land is owned and operated by the Davoren family. I was greeted by father and son, John and Michael Davoren. Michael took me on a tour of the fort and I learned about all the important archaeological digs and partnership they have with visiting archaeologists. This was followed by a sheepdog demonstration to beat all demonstrations.

My visit really and truly deserves an article all by itself so for now, all I can advise is that you go to their website and plan a visit to Caherconnell. Please visit. You will not be disappointed, but please, allow at least 3 hours. This is not a drive by attraction. It deserves your time and full attention.

From here I made my way to my hotel. It took a leisurely half hour to reach my destination. Upon entering the lobby, I was immediately struck by how they had indeed brought the outdoors inside and the decor reflected the mood of the area. The decor was bright, clean and neutral. Vases with large branches adorned the table. Wicker baskets were filled with Voya products from nearby County Sligo, Geometry roasted coffee beans from Galway and Cashmere hats and gloves from Ekkotree Cashmere Knitwear in Doolin to name but a few. It was a beautifully curated collection and I knew I had to learn more about Ekotree (which I did 2 days later!)

Later that evening, I was meeting a friend and together we wandered down to the village to see where we could eat. Ordinarily I would book restaurants in advance for my clients, but on this particular night we were both conducting our own research so we were looking at everything. After crossing over the iconic bridge in the village, we happened on The Ivy Cottage. We were in luck, we managed to get a table for two. Set back off the magically lit courtyard, this little restaurant did not disappoint. The food was simply delicious. By this, I do mean simple and delicious. My favourite kind of food, great ingredients done well.

I meandered back to my hotel and admittedly I was too tired to visit one of the many pubs. Most people would regard Doolin as the home of traditional Irish music. As I walked past the pubs, it was clear the sessions were just getting started in these pubs, but alas, my bed was beckoning me.

Breakfast the next morning was just wonderful. I particularly loved their individual pots of overnight oats, my new favourite item to have when I visit Ireland. After a fresh pot of coffee and two poached eggs on toast, I was ready to make my way to Doolin Pier, to take the ferry to Inis Mór, (the largest of the three Aran Islands). I was lucky. Extremely lucky. The day was bright and the seas were calm. The 45-minute crossing with Doolin Ferry Company was so easy and enjoyable. We arrived around 11am. More stone walls, a lot more stone walls, opened up before us. Memories came flooding back as the last time I had visited was in 1990. It was as if time had stood still. Nothing had changed, yet some things had changed. The juxtaposition of the sight of the famine walls, along with the menu behind said wall for oat milk lattes, signified change has also arrived on this island.

Four of us walked to the top of Dún Aonghasa, the stone fort perilously perched atop a sheer cliff. This fort is over 3,000 years old. We stopped for lunch in the pretty thatched cottage café, Teach Nan Phaidi and I finished off my afternoon with a swim at Kilmurvy Beach, which overlooks Galway Bay. Before boarding the last ferry, a stop at the coffee hut was a must for us all. As we sailed further and further away from Inis Mór, I stood and watched and thought, yet again, I did not have enough time on this island. I would return (And I did, 2 weeks later.)

The following day I was driving to Cork, but was not in a hurry. Remember I mentioned Ekotree earlier on? The sumptuously soft hats and gloves just spoke to me. I wanted to visit this design studio and so I did. This is an example of a very luxurious sustainable brand. All the fibres are dyed using plants, herbs and berries. The genius behind the brand is Diarmuid Neilan. He is passionate about the environment and it shows. I knew I had to buy some gloves for my clients. These would be the perfect to give them when they boarded the ferry to the Aran islands. I purchased them, had them packaged nicely and two weeks later, when all 10 of us boarded the ferry for Inis Mór, the sun was splitting the stones. Ah well, the thought was there and they now had a souvenir from Doolin, something that told them this small village definitely punches way above its weight.


24th November 2023
newman osborn
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