Eggs, bacon, “bangers”, mushrooms, fried tomato, hash potatoes,“drisheen” (black pudding), Irish soda bread, baked beans (sometimes)… and lots of tea – perhaps the most telling sign of a good place to stay.
Am I wrong?
The ‘full Irish’ is a staple, served wherever you stay, and included here to reference the concept of… food.
Ireland has, in the last few decades, undergone a food revolution. From being a country mocked, it is now a food ‘destination’… which basically means that when planning your trip, and choosing your base, you should follow your taste buds.
Ballymaloe was started by Mertyl Allen, who also started the Irish food revolution. She pioneered the farm-to-table concept, championed the artisan food movement, and is, in short, a legend – the grandmother of Rachel Allen, the Irish celebrity chef.
So here at Ballymaloe, in the east Cork countryside, you’re at the roots of Irish country cuisine, and amidst woods, gardens and farmland as exquisite as the bounty they provide. Mertyl herself was hands-on, maintaining Ballymaloe’s 5-star standard until recently.
She passed away in 2018.
Her legacy continues in Ballymaloe’s sublime accommodations, that echo her food – simple, elegant and luxurious.
The menu is crafted from what comes out the fields and gardens, and off the boats that same day. If I was to recommend a dish… hmm… the pan-fried Ballycotton mackerel with nasturtium butter… with Guy Allion Sauvignon Blanc – as fitting an end to this tribute as I can think of.
The name ‘Sea Breeze Lodge’ sounds like the typical jaunty coastal B&B. But here in Galway, it’s more than that. It is a suburban stay that feels like posh country living. Being on Galway Bay, one is quite literally ‘in nature’.
The neighborhood is home to ferrets and foxes and squirrels… and bird species galore… which makes the patio a superb place to be – either with some steaming gluwein or a G&T.
Your full Irish is complemented by an array of cereals, pastries, fruit and all sorts of other delicacies. But it’s the eating space that makes the Sea Breeze Lodge stand out – coming down for breakfast one sits amidst an Irish garden. That might be kitsch elsewhere, but here it comes off as elegant.
The Lodge is rustic, in the sense of having wooded décor, but is thereafter sleek and modern. It’s what one expects from a front-line B&B, with that intangible something extra. The rooms are more spacious, perhaps? The TV picture crisper? Or maybe it’s the touches: the fresh flowers in the suites? The complimentary fruit bowls? The warm homemade bread?
No, the little things do add value, but ultimately it’s the human factor. The ever-attentive and generous Fred and Michelle....Exquisite hosts. Here's more on the Sea Breeze Lodge.
When driving the Beara Peninsula one comes across a number of cottages, nestling in valleys, half hidden by trees, or standing on bluffs. They look like jewels, for being painted in the brightest colors imaginable. If you’re anything like us, you spend a fair amount of time wondering what its like to stay in one of these.
Ardgroom is a single-street village with a scattering of colored cottages in and around. The Sea Villa is one – a jewel discovered at the end of a country lane, overlooking gorgeous Kenmare bay. The breakfast here is ‘artisan,’ and is an art perfected by hosts Mary and John; while lunch and dinner can be had in Ardgroom’s scattering of pubs and eateries that continue the Irish food revolution.
Your stay is complemented by any number of activities: walking the rugged Beara Way, angling, golfing, exploring historical sites, strolling around lakes… and when the time comes to turn in, the rugged experience, has had on Beara, gives way to en-suite TV, clean sheets and soft beds. Click for everything else you need to know.
What I love about Europe is its mix of old and new, as per Castledale B&B. The name is both telling and misleading. Yes, it’s a 19th century estate, retro-fitted for the 21st century guest.
No, it is NOT an everyday B&B.
You aren’t, for instance, stuffed into an attic on top of the pub. The old estate rooms are deluxe. Literally king-sized. Some even have en-suite spas.
You can, if you desire, be accommodated in a penthouse. Your balcony doors open onto impeccable grounds. You are surrounded by old, other-worldly opulence, yet are next to one of Ireland’s most modern, quirky and cosmopolitan cities – Sligo – brimming with history, adventure, cutting-edge restaurants, traditional pubs and iconic beaches.
Now consider that Castledale specializes in breakfast, and imagine the extent of the buffet.
Having read this account of our trip to Killarney, you’ll know my feelings on the Park Hotel. That link will give you a sense of their hospitality.
That you have the full suite of comforts goes without saying. Needless to say, it’s the complete 5-star experience… and being in picture-perfect Killarney does add a star or two.
Sure, the Park is expensive, but, as I say, how often is one here? Killarney almost demands that you ‘go to town,’ or at least spend a night ‘on the town.’
I’m tempted to wax on about the Park Hotel, and about Killarney, but in a way, the less said the better – it’s all too exquisite for words, better expressed by the old-world country spirit that endures here, and by the sights, sounds, aromas and of course… the tastes.