10 of the Best for Al Fresco Dining

Summer may be a long time coming this year, but when the sun is out and you’re off on a break there’s nothing that says ‘down time’ like alfresco dining. So here are just a (very) few of this year’s favourites to enjoy in lovely places on your summer travels around the country.

Ennistymon Co Clare

In a quirkily painted period house at the top of the main street in this old West Clare market town, the Byrne family’s stylish, high-ceilinged restaurant has views of Ennistymon’s famous cascading river from the restaurant - and from an extensive outdoor dining area at the back, which is the go-to spot in summer. Local seafood and meats star in the contemporary Irish cooking, but there are always interesting vegetarian/vegan options too – and tasty light daytime food, with terrific coffee, freshly ground to order. Friendly young staff create a lively, fun atmosphere – and there’s even a Vintage Shop on site.

Nano Nagle Place Cork Co Cork

An oasis in the walled gardens of the beautiful Nano Nagle Place overlooking Cork city, Clare Condon and Kristin Makirere’s much-loved sustainable foods deli and café is the perfect complement to this state-of-the-art educational and heritage facility - where Nano Nagle’s vision of empowerment through education, community inclusion and spiritual engagement for a changing world is celebrated. While not exclusively vegetarian/vegan, local and sustainable are the guidelines for their famously delicious modern plant-led cooking and both the indoor and outdoor seating areas are intrinsically linked to the magical setting. And a charming little sister, Nádúr Deli (also with outdoor seating), has recently opened nearby.

Muckross Clonakilty Co Cork

Home to the O’Donovan and Barrett families since 1934 and welcoming
guests since 1948, this beautifully located and immaculately maintained pet-friendly hotel on Clonakilty Bay enjoys panoramic sea views and is a real West Cork home from home. Local touches abound and hands-on family hospitality is the trump card, twinned with the holistic food experience. Adrift Restaurant showcases fish landed nearby in Union Hall, fresh produce from their own Organic Ocean Garden, just steps away, and other seasonal supplies from exceptional local producers - while their wonderful Sea Terrace is the perfect spot for cocktails or a Boatshed Pizza…

Pearse Street Kinsale Co Cork

Cheerfully presented in jaunty nautical style, this historic boutique hotel is kept fresh and lively with frequent refurbishment (and reinvention) by hands-on proprietor Ciarán Fitzgerald. And it’s quite the culinary gem, with appealing dining options to choose from including not only the acclaimed fine dining destination Rare by Chef Meeran Manzoor and the comfortably informal Bar & Bistro, but also go-to places for outdoor dining, the Moët Garden (small plates menu from Rare) and the fun indoor/outdoor ambience of Hamlets Street Food & Gastro Garden (great pizza and BBQ). Just the spot to meet and eat. Blue Haven Collection properties also at: The OId Bank Townhouse, Kinsale; Schull Harbour Hotel, Schull; The Black Barrel, Midleton.

The Harbour Bar Downings Co Donegal

With top Donegal producers name checked, there’s a real sense of locality at Tony Davidson and Lina Reppert’s atmospheric little seafood restaurant. And Fisk is very much its own place, so the beautiful seasonal produce is showcased in a way that you won’t see anywhere else – refreshingly simply cooked and presented, it’s flavour-focused food with the freshness telling the story in every bite. But they don’t take bookings and there’s no phone to call and plead, so get there early and be prepared to queue. No great hardship, as The Harbour Bar is delightful - and also shares its sunny seating with Fisk. A destination spot on the stunning north coast of this gorgeously rugged county.

Main Street Cahirciveen Co Kerry

Just a short distance from the marina (and a few minutes drive from the Valentia Island ferry), and with a striking modern zinc-topped bar and brilliant nautical photography setting the tone, Kate Cooke’s unique restaurant with rooms abounds with character. The ultra fresh local fish and seafood supplied by the family company Quinlan’s Kerry Fish, at Renard’s Point, has made QC’s Seafood Restaurant a favourite Kerry destination for many seasons, and - following imaginative development by Kate and her late husband, Andrew over the years - it is now equally sought out for its stylish accommodation and the atmospheric Garden Courtyard for summer dining, that cleverly links the restaurant and residents’ areas. Magic.

Sneem Road Kenmare Co Kerry

A wonderful waterside property overlooking Kenmare Bay, the Brennan family’s Dromquinna Manor is most famous for bespoke weddings, but the estate also offers a unique range of facilities, including gorgeous accommodation for wedding guests, families, couples, and just about any discerning travellers… And then there is dining at The Boathouse Bistro & Wine Bar, the atmospheric 19th century boathouse overlooking the harbour, where chef Mark Johnston champions fresh fish and produce from the Kitchen Garden - and Shutters on the Pier, with its wood-fired oven, serving pizza to private parties in summer months. Always a treat – and better than ever now, with John and Gwen’s son Adam Brennan also on the team.

The Village At Lyons Celbridge Co Kildare

Sister to the famed Cliff House Hotel, Co Waterford, this beautifully
situated historic estate beside the Grand Canal is a fascinating destination at any time. It’s luxurious in a relaxed ‘smart casual’ way and Chef Sean Smith creates memorable meals at the atmospheric fine dining restaurant, The Mill, and the romantic Mill Garden & Terrace which offers a variety of experiences throughout the week. And there’s excellent casual fare on offer too, including the deli/café The Pantry at CLIFF, with its delightfully rustic outdoor seating - a lovely spot to enjoy a light daytime bite in summer.

Main Street Cashel Co Tipperary

Behind a smart traditional pub frontage on Cashel’s main street, Mikey Ryan’s serves up some surprises - not least the numerous and varied but equally delightful spaces that lie between the front door and the back, including the fine old bar and a beautifully laid out garden area (where ‘friendly furry companions’ are welcome) adjacent to its sister property, the magnificent Cashel Palace Hotel. And then there is the food... delicious dishes based on excellent local produce from Tipperary and neighbouring counties, along with craft beers and cocktails. Well worth a detour - and the terrific new sister property, Sadlers, in nearby Fethard, is one for the SatNav too.

Ardmore Co Waterford

Christine Power and Geraldine Flavin’s delightfully bright and breezy café/restaurant is open for all the little lifts that summer visitors need – morning coffee, afternoon tea – as well as imaginative lunches and a more ambitious evening menu. Offering a good balance between traditional dishes and more adventurous fare, it’s equally apt for a reviving cuppa and a sweet treat from the luscious homemade selection on display, or a full meal. The cooking is consistently excellent and the pleasant and well-organised service is another reason that happy customers keep returning – and, as well as pavement seating, there’s a super courtyard alongside for al fresco dining.

Glasson Co Westmeath

Ray Byrne and Jane English’s unique shoreside lodge overlooking Lough Ree started life in 1993 as a restaurant and - although it now has beautiful accommodation and a spa - the lovely contemporary restaurant remains its heart. It’s always been about seasonal local produce here - and, whether in the restaurant, the sheltered Glasshouse or a romantic al fresco experience on the deck, a meal in this stunning venue is a special outing. But it’s also ideal for a casual daytime bite in the bar or deckside, and makes a perfect journey break. A very good reason for taking the Cavan exit off the M6 at Athlone…



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