By Judy Enright
Special to the BIR
Last month, we wrote about Irish bed and breakfasts and how many of the owners have elevated B&B accommodation in Ireland to an art form. Our favorites, as outlined then, include: Cahergal Farm in Newmarket-on-Fergus and Riverfield House in Doolin, both Co. Clare; Glasha Farmhouse in Ballymacarbry, Co. Waterford; Gearhadiveen in Kenmare, Co. Kerry; and The Heron’s Cove in Goleen, West Cork. We also added Heaton’s in Dingle to the list even though the owners actually list it as a guesthouse. We think it’s nearly a B&B because of the warmth and personal attention from the owners that you experience in many B&Bs.
True, some travelers prefer the anonymity of a large hotel where you are just a name on the books. I have a friend who teaches photography all over Ireland and, when he’s working, he prefers hotels so he can focus on his lesson plans and his thoughts and he doesn’t feel obliged to chat with anyone.
Myself, I like chatting because the local folks often share so much history and information about interesting and perhaps lesser-known attractions that you could miss if you were in a big hotel. Many of the larger hotels these days are not even staffed by native Irish but by foreigners who come to Ireland to work or learn English and they seldom make great guides for the area because they don’t know anything about it.
THE HERON’S COVE
We stayed for two nights last spring at the most wonderful B&B in Goleen, West Cork, called The Heron’s Cove.
If you have never visited West Cork, you have missed one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland. There are many nice accommodations all around that area and many great restaurants too – including The Heron’s Cove, where the food is locally sourced and exceptionally fresh, very well prepared and absolutely delicious. Both breakfast and dinner offered an extensive menu.
Sue Hill owns The Heron's Cove, which is near Mizen Head, Ireland's most southwesterly point. While you’re there, be sure to visit Fastnet Rock Lighthouse and the Mizen Head Signal Station Visitor Centre.
If you can’t find something to quench your thirst at The Heron’s Cove (which would be hard to believe because they have all sorts of beverages), there are four pubs in town and it is just a short walk away.
Bedrooms are spacious and en suite bathrooms are as clean as can be. My bedroom overlooked the cove and I enjoyed watching the changing light on the water.
We found Heron’s Cove to be a great place for a base as we toured West Cork’s lovely coastline. Be sure to book rooms and dinner ahead, though, as the B&B is extremely popular, has received numerous prestigious awards, and is recommended by many guidebooks. See more about this charming B&B at the website heroncove.ie.
And, believe it or not, there was actually one lone heron in the cove the entire time we stayed there. He – or she – changed locations and would be on one side of the cove or the other, depending on tide, but it was always there. I jokingly asked if the heron was a pet and trained to stay within sight of the dining room windows. The owner gave me kind of a funny look. Guess they’re not accustomed to American humor.
We met a young couple at a B&B in Co. Clare some years ago, who had just visited Co. Waterford and highly recommended Glasha Farmhouse (glashafarmhouse.com) in Ballymacarbry. Honestly, we were so glad they did because we made a point of staying there and found it to be a wonderful place to spend time and to dine. We loved every minute in that elegant farmhouse.
Olive Gorman is attentive, welcoming, and entertaining as well as an inspired cook. Her meals are truly edible works of art.
We stayed at Glasha on a chilly November night and welcomed a glass of wine and the warmth of a blazing turf fire in the living room fireplace before dinner. We ordered an appetizer of mushrooms stuffed with bacon and goat cheese and had poached monkfish in creamy red pepper sauce for an entrée. The food was perfectly prepared and the dining room, in a large glass solarium, offers a grand view of Glasha’s magnificent gardens.
The evening was especially memorable because it was election night in the States and we woke the next morning to learn that Barack Obama, who has Irish roots in Co. Offaly through his mother’s side of the family, was the new president.
Glasha is set in a lovely area with lush farming land around it, but it is probably far enough off the beaten track so that few travelers visit, which is a pity. Glasha Farmhouse is a great place to spend some time.
If the Dingle peninsula is a must for every tourist traveling around Ireland, then we think staying at Heaton’s, on the edge of Dingle Bay and the harbor and just a short walk from town, is a must, too.
We’ve stayed at Heaton’s twice now and had a wonderful experience both times. The breakfast there is hard to beat. Every morsel is fresh, delicious, and beautifully prepared! I ordered fresh fish, which I love to have for breakfast, and then helped myself to some of the offerings on the huge buffet – especially the bread and butter pudding. Utterly divine!
Meals are served in the bright and sunny Shore View Restaurant, which overlooks the water. The head chef is proprietors Cameron and Nuala Heaton’s son, David, who creates masterpieces from fresh, local ingredients and changes the menu daily.
There are 16 clean, well-appointed guest rooms at Heaton’s with every modern convenience including powerful showers, TV, telephone, coffee/tea-maker and we were able to get on the internet, which is not always the case in every hotel or B&B.
We highly recommend Heaton’s and if you’d like more information, please visit the website heatonsdingle.com
We were delighted to read in The Irish Times that the Dublin Zoo plans a major revamp of one of its oldest enclosures to create a gorilla rainforest.
The Times reported that “the new landscape will have streams, dense vegetation, small hills and rocky outcrops mimicking the animals’ wild environment. The zoo is also planning forest paths with special hidden viewing points for visitors to see the western lowland gorillas.” The two-million euro, year-long development was set to begin last month and will ultimately be home to five gorillas.
The Dublin zoo has been home to western lowland gorillas for many years and the current gorillas there are regarded as a functioning group and part of a breeding population of 400 in European zoos.
The Dublin Zoo is a lot of fun and a great place to spend a day.
Even though summer is over, the fall is a busy time in Ireland with all sorts of activities planned around the country.
There’s a national raceday and ladies day in Limerick Oct. 10 (limerickraces.ie) and an international poetry festival from Oct. 13-16, also in Limerick, celebrating contemporary poetry.
Hungry? Then, don’t miss the 34th Bollinger Kinsale International Gourmet Festival 2010, from Oct. 8-10 at eleven Good Food Circle member restaurants in this bucolic seaside town in Co. Cork. For more information, visit kinsalerestaurants.com
From Oct. 10-16, there will be tall tales, lies, legends and myths exchanged in the Slieve Bloom Mountains (slievebloom.ie), which rise from the central plains of Ireland, form a natural link between Counties Laois and Offaly, and are halfway between Galway and Dublin, Belfast and Cork, Donegal and Rosslare.
There will also be storytelling in Lough Gur, an archaeological and historical town southeast of Limerick city. When in Lough Gur, you can visit the Honey Fitz Theatre, which is home to the Lough Gur Dramatic society and gets its name from John Francis Fitzgerald (1863-1950) former Boston mayor and JFK’s grandfather. Fitzgerald was dubbed “Honey Fitz” for his singing voice. In its first life - from 1854 to 1966 - the theatre building was a national school.
The Great Pumpkin Festival is planned for Oct. 22 - 25 on Main Street in Virginia, Co. Cavan. The lakeside town is lit up with carved and lighted pumpkins, there’s a street carnival, arts and crafts, top international music acts and a fireworks display over Lough Ramor. Visit pumpkinfestival.ie for more details.
Traditional music, song and dance will be heard in the Co. Clare village of Doonbeg from Oct. 22-25 during a festival that honors the late set dancer Willie Keane. For more details, visit the website williekeanememorialweekend.com
Halloween is well celebrated by the Irish with a series of events all over the country including Halloween Fun and Games on Oct. 25 at Bunratty Folk Park in Co. Clare; a Halloween-themed children’s arts festival, Oct. 25-29 and Halloween in the Haunted Gardens at Birr Castle Demesne on Oct. 31, both in Birr, Co. Offaly; and a mystery Halloween party at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center in Co. Clare on Oct. 31.
Be sure to visit your favorite travel agent or the Aer Lingus website (aerlingus.com) for the latest direct flights and ground deals. Flights and deals are also offered by US Airways (usairways.com) and other airlines, but usually involve layovers in Chicago, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, or elsewhere, adding several hours to the trip but also reducing the cost.
Also check out autumnal and more Halloween happenings at Tourism Ireland’s website (discoverireland.com).