Taste of a place – County Clare
Taste of a place – County Clare
Brian has the great fortune of hailing from the fabulous County Clare (“God’s own county” – don’t you know!), on the west coast of Ireland. Having friends and family there, we are fortunate to make regular trips home and of course, sample all the best that the area has to offer….
Whenever we visit Brian’s hometown of Ennis, our first port of call is always The Old Ground hotel. Located at the end of O’Connnell Street, opposite the cathedral, this iconic landmark of a hotel with its friendly and bustling bar “the poets corner”, is perfect at anytime of day. Depending on the time we arrive it will be a pint of stout (After midday), or a coffee and scone (anytime before this).
The reason I make special mention of the freshly baked scone, (pronounced to rhyme with phone, in these parts), is that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so wouldn’t normally bother with them. But these are something else. Served warm from the oven (if you arrive at the right time). Reminiscent of a rock bun. They have a crisp icing sugar coated exterior and a soft cakey interior. Served simply with a pat of butter and a homemade preserve, they make a fine snack. Fortunately, in Ireland it is customary to eat a scone at any time of day. Indeed, the measure of a great B&B lies in whether or not freshly baked scones are served up at breakfast time!
The Old Ground is also a great place for a spot of lunch. One thing I love about it and Irish pubs in general, is that you can always get something to eat. Thankfully, the archaic 12 – 2 rule we see so much of in the UK does not apply here. You can rest assured that there will always be a bowl of homemade soup of the day (invariariably vegetable), and/or a ” toasted special” (pretty much always a ham, cheese, tomato and onion toastie).
On our second day in Clare we will always “go for a spin” up the coast. Our route is well rehearsed; we lived here together for a year and took all our visitors on “the tour”. Firstly, we will visit the Atlantic hotel in the surfers paradise that is Lahinch. We will drink coffee and eat some of their fabulous homemade brown bread (what we commonly refer to as soda bread, in the UK), usually in front of an open fire. Then, fortified, we’ll take a walk along the blustery seafront, marvelling at the sounds and smells of this great ocean.
(Between Lahinch and Doolin, you will pass the famed cliffs of Moher. The view is incredible and not to be missed. I once overheard an American tourist remark, “Cant you just feel the misery…”, not sure about that, but this a must do. Unfortunately, this stop off has fallen out of favour with the O’Donoghues, since they started charging to visit….)
Then, we will drive on to the home of Irish music, Doolin. Where we will visit the pier and watch for dolphins. Based on our success at dolphin spotting, we will most likely head to O’Connors for a pint of stout. More often, than not, there will be an open fire and you’re fairly likely to hear a song or two (though this may just be for the bus loads of American and Japanese tourists, I’m never quite sure!)
After that, we will continue onto to Ballyvaughan, a small and charming village overlooking Galway Bay, with picture postcard thatched cottages and the impressive backdrop of the unique Burren landscape. Here, we will muse a while at the harbour, before heading to Monks; where you can be assured of the freshest and finest seafood from crab claws, to mussels and oysters. All accompanied by their excellent homemade bread.
After this, tired and happy, we will wend our way back to Ennis via the lunar landscape of the Burren Karst region, home to flora and fauna that can only exist here. Past dolmens and ruins of castles, the silence is palpable. This is like no other place. Of that, I can promise you.