Burren Food Trail

Calling all food lovers, the Burren Food Trail is one of the most enchanting food destinations in Ireland.

Irish Winner of the 2015 EDEN (European Destination of Excellence) Award, the Burren Food Trail invites visitors to this beautiful region in Co Clare to taste food grown and produced locally from a list of recognised establishments in the area.

We stayed three nights in the Wild Honey Inn, a charming establishment with stylish accommodation and award winning restaurant that includes a Michelin Bib Gourmand award for good food at a moderate price. I also learned that it is the first pub in Ireland to receive this award. Perfectly located in the small village of Lisdoonvarna and about a 15-minute drive from the Cliffs of Moher.

It was late in the evening when we arrived but just in time for dinner – our first taste of the Burren! My starter, an Endive and Roquefort salad, was incredible followed by probably the best steak I’ve ever tasted, finished with the gooiest, yummiest chocolate fondant dessert I’ve ever experienced. We shared a bottle of red and found our surroundings easy and relaxed.

Owned and run by Aidan McGrath and Kate Sweeney, their passion and love for Irish food and hospitality is obvious. Our room was delightfully quaint and an absolute steal at €40 per person, per night, which included breakfast. Kate also offered her advice on things to do in the area.

For our second day we set off early for a tour of the Burren National Park with Tony Kirby, recommended by Kate. A lovely tour, which we followed up with a visit to the Burren Perfumery for some tea and cake. You can read more about our experience here.

For dinner on our second night, we opted to stay close and walked five minutes up the road from our accommodation to the Roadside Tavern, winner of the 2016 Best Gastro Pub Award at the recent Restaurant Association’s Food Oscar Awards for the Clare and Munster regions. (The Wild Honey Inn won Best Restaurant in Clare).

The Tavern is legendary for its live music and friendly atmosphere. We were seated immediately and kept nicely entertained by a live acoustic session until our food arrived. Forming part of the Burren Food Trail, the Tavern’s restaurant ‘Kieran’s Kitchen’, is also associated by family with the Burren Smokehouse (located just beside the Tavern). Several of the dishes on the menu feature smoked salmon from the family’s award-winning Smokehouse. I went for the baked ‘Hot Smoked Salmon’ dish, which was fresh and tasty.

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On our third and final day, a storm was headed our way. We decided to chance the walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, which was about 8km and took about 2 hours each way. One of the most stunning walks I’ve ever experienced. Read more about the walk here.

Although we wanted to check out another restaurant along the Food Trail on our final night, our bodies told us to stay put. We spoiled ourselves once again in the Wild Honey Inn. I went for the scallops this time.  Amazing.

By morning the storm was in full force, an orange weather warning was in place. The drive to Dublin seemed daunting. Kate offered us tea and cookies and time to relax and read our newspaper in the drawing room until the worst of it was over.

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Finally the weather cleared and there was one more place we wanted to check out – the Tea and Garden rooms in Ballyvaughan and one of their house specialities, home baked berry cheesecake. The cheesecake was made famous in 2011 when Hollywood director, Steven Spielberg flew in to Shannon on his private jet en route to Monaco to pick up a slice! He had sampled the cheesecake during a visit to Ireland two years previously. He travelled the 70km from Shannon airport with his family to pick up the cheesecake and returned to his private jet to continue to Monaco. I totally understand why he did this! Delicious cakes and a lovely end to our Burren Food Trail.

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Choice of homemade cakes in the Tea & Garden Rooms, Ballyvaughan

The Burren is a magical place in Ireland with so much to see and do to excite the senses. Find out more about The Burren here.

 

 

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Doolin to Cliffs of Moher

As far as cliff walks go, Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare is pretty spectacular.

Ranked the best ‘cliff-view’ on the planet by Conde Nast Traveler, the Cliffs of Moher are the second most visited attraction in Ireland after the Guinness Storehouse. Over 1.2 million people visited the cliffs in 2015.

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When planning a trip to Co Clare and the Burren Food Trail last year, a friend of mine suggested I include a walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher. He knew I’d love it!

During our trip, we stayed in the fabulous Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna, which was about a 10-minute drive from Doolin. The weather wasn’t great but we decided to do the walk regardless. It was dull when we arrived in Doolin but the colourful shops and pubs lining the main street made it brighter. We parked up opposite Gus O’Connor’s pub (famous for its traditional music) and headed for the cliffs.

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Looking back at Fisherstreet, Doolin

It was a bit of a steep walk up out of the main street and following the road to the right for about half a kilometre until we reached the sign for the Cliffs!

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From this point the walk was generally easy with the Atlantic ocean on our right and the tranquil, rural landscape on our left. We could see the gradual rise of the cliffs as we followed the track along the cliff edge. The beautiful pinks of sea rose dotted our path, which was a lovely contrast against the dull sky. The views were spectacular and we hadn’t even reached the highest point yet!

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The track took us a little inland for a couple of kilometres until we had made our way closer to the highest point of the cliffs, which stand at 214m high. From here, we joined up with the hundreds of people visiting the centre. Words can’t describe the beauty at this point. It was simply breathtaking.

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We followed the legions of people walking the main path. It was quite surreal how close we were to the edge. Really incredible. My heart was in my mouth as I watched the brave couple (pictured below) shuffle their way as close as possible to the edge for a ‘cliff selfie’. Successfully thank goodness!

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It was too busy to stay for coffee so we decided to keep going and return to Doolin before the rain started. The walk back was just as stunning, passing some curious bystanders along the way too!

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The rain held off for most of our journey, which was about 8km each way, four hours or so in total. I was glad to see the colours of the main street as we made our final descent into the village. Our last stop was the Doolin Chocolate Shop for some well-earned fudge and a triple chocolate bar! Sweet and delicious, perfect after our lovely, long walk.

 

 

 

Burren National Park

It’s hard to beat a holiday in Ireland when the sun shines, especially a place like The Burren in Co Clare. A magical area of 18,000 hectares of exposed limestone stretching across northern Clare, a truly spectacular sight.

The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boireann” meaning a rocky place. Filled with a unique mix of Alpine, Arctic and Mediterranean wild flowers, it’s also one of Europe’s most important botanical regions.

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Last year we spent a couple of days in Clare staying in the Wild Honey Inn sampling the culinary delights of the Burren Food Trail. During our stay we wanted to learn more about the rich cultural heritage of the region so we arranged a tour of the Burren National Park with Tony Kirby. He came highly recommended and he didn’t disappoint.

We arranged to meet Tony at the Burren Centre in Kilfernora and he drove us to the National Park. It was a tricky route to navigate as we got closer to the Park, so we were happy Tony was driving!

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A mine of information, Tony’s knowledge of the landscape, wildlife and history of the area is incredible. As we walked through the park, Tony also pointed out the various wild flowers, unique to the region, providing information on each.  Apparently we were lucky to spot the Spring Genitan, otherwise known as the Alpine wonder and icon of the Burren. My favourite flower was the cat’s paw, which looks and feels like a cat’s paw!

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The Spring Genitan – the icon of the Burren
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Cat’s Paw

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A nature lover’s paradise, the tour took around two hours. To find out more, check out Tony’s website here.

Tony dropped us back to our car and after all the talk about exotic flowers, we decided to pay a visit to the Burren Perfumery.

Located about 2km from Carran, the Perfumery produces perfumes, oils, soaps and creams onsite inspired by the surrounding landscape. The small family-run facility is tucked away behind trees and rocks in the heart of the Burren. The approach to the car park is quite magical and the scents of its flowers and herb garden fill the air the closer you get.

The rain started to fall again so we headed straight for the Tea Rooms for some tea and cake before taking a little walk in the garden. A beautiful place to visit, good for the soul.

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The Burren is a truly spectacular place and just earlier this month, The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark was recognised as a Global leader in sustainable destination development, a scheme that honours tourism companies, organisations and destinations regarded as leaders in sustainable tourism best practice. A well-deserved accolade for this wonderful eco-friendly tourist destination. Read more about it here.