Last week was spent in Co. Clare on the West Coast of Ireland. As usual in that part of the world we went from shorts to raincoats in a matter of minutes, from lounging on the beach to huddling by a peat fire. There’s no point in trying to fight it, you just have to go prepared! It’s a wonderful part of the world for walking along the coast, as the views are spectacular. And while the weather can make dressing for the occasion difficult, the light is amazing.
We also ate some pretty good food along the way, mostly homely sort of stuff on this trip. But there were definitely a couple of places I’d recommend:
The Bakehouse Restaurant, Main St, Miltown Malbay – A friendly and homely restaurant in a small Irish town where progression down the main street is inevitably halted by other drivers stopping to chat out of their windows. We had the Roast Nut Rissoles, which came with Ratatouille, a Creamy Leek Sauce and Basmati Rice. The rissoles were moist with a nice roast flavour, while the ratatouille and leek sauces providing contrasting accompaniments. Delicious and hugely filling.
Diamond Rocks Cafe, West End, Kilkee – The town of Kilkee isn’t much to write home about, but the beach and coastline certainly are. The horseshoe shaped bay is the centre of activity, and if you follow the coastal path around on the left of the bay (as you look out to sea), the views over the cliffs and stacks are fabulous. The Diamond Rocks cafe is very popular and usually full of people who have been swimming in the rock pools at the front of the cafe (I keep forgetting my costume to give it a go!). They do great pizzas here, but it’s the cakes that keep people coming back – the chocolate brownie was rich and moist, the rhubarb and strawberry crumble light, with intriguing layers of flavour.
Inisheer (Inis Oirr) – The smallest of the 3 Aran Islands is wonderfully other-worldly, with a small village, a ruined castle, wonderful walks and seemingly endless dry stone walls. There’s also a good selection of cafes and pubs. We caught a ferry from Doolin which takes roughly half an hour depending on the weather. Our trip was rough on the way out, but much better on the way back! We ate a hearty bowl of vegetable soup with homemade brown soda bread in An Maidean Mara, a cafe up the hill from the beach, which fortified us for a walk around to the shipwreck of the Plassy, a rusting hulk which came aground in the 1960’s, then up the hill to the 16th C castle ruins. We then headed back down to the Tigh Ned pub, where we tucked into a tasty roast vegetable wrap with chips.
The Falls Hotel, Ennistymon – We came here to use their lovely pool and gym on a morning when the rain really did keep us inside! The hotel has a spectacular location overlooking the Ennistymon Falls, a low, but usually fulsome, cascade over a set of rocky steps in the river Inagh. The pool overlooks a gorgeously wooded stretch of river and the sauna has picture windows to take advantage of the view, and an outdoor hot tub has the sense of luxuriating in a forest! It is well worth stopping off in the Dylan Thomas bar here for coffee or a drink and admiring the view of the Falls.