This article first appeared on Scousebirdproblems.Com
When most people think of Ireland they think of drinking Guinness and partying in Dublin, singalongs in Galway or exploring the living history in Belfast but there’s actually so much more to the emerald isle. Ryanair now fly direct from Liverpool airport to Shannon, meaning you can be over on the West coast of Ireland in less than an hour. A prime spot for exploring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
I was invited by Tourism Ireland and Ryanair to go over and see what the rugged part of Ireland had to offer and here’s what we got up to…
Sitting on a top of a hill overlooking river rapids, this traditional looking hotel will give you all the instagram opportunities a girl could ever wish for. Picturesque gardens, a rushing river, winding staircases and chandeliers. This hotel 100% looks the part and is a perfect base for exploring the Wild Atlantic Way. The transfer time from Shannon airport is about 50 mins.
The owner of Wild Kitchen, Oonagh, took us on a foraging walk down to Lahinch beach. Oonagh is amazing – when the zombie apocalypse happens, I want her on my team. We would definitely survive. Not only would she be able to cook up a decent scran with a bunch of weeds she’s found but she’d also be able to lasso and cage the zombies armed with nothing more than a bit of goose grass and some nettles. Oonagh is solid.
There are thousands of edible plants in the world and we eat only a handful, except Oonagh of course. She grew up in the mountains and spent her childhood foraging plants and catching wild fish and rabbits, so setting up her business, Wild Kitchen, isn’t just a passion, it’s a way of life for her. She showed us wild sloe berries (yes the ones you make gin with), leaves that taste like lemon juice, sea peas (that a local restaurant charges €70 for) and even how they make beauty products with seaweed gel. The seaweed marmalade and hawthorn ketchup she gave us to sample were proper, proper fit and I’ve just reminded myself to go online and order some immediately. If you’re a foodie then a foraging tour with Oonagh would be right up your street. She didn’t even mind when me and Emma (from the Emasphere) had to hold up the tour to take our blog photos… The sweetheart.
You wouldn’t even know this restaurant was here, it’s so off the beaten track. It just looks for all the world like someone’s house. That being said, the locals love it and it’s always busy.
They have a set menu offering 5 courses for €40 – with it being so cheap, I wasn’t expecting much. I was just kind of expecting someone’s ma to come out with some fish and chips.
I was so wrong, it was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. You can choose either a seafood, meat or vegetarian surprise and that’s just what you get – a surprise. I was gutted when my dessert turned up and I had an Eton Mess and others in my party got a chocolate cheesecake; I needn’t have worried, it was by far the nicest thing on the table. To put that into context, the chocolate orange cake was the best chocolate cake I’d ever tasted and the Eton Mess beat it by a long way.
This restaurant alone is worth a visit to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. I was eating with several food journalists who proclaimed it deserved a Michelin star.
When you think of rural Ireland you think of rugged cliffs, wild coasts and greenery. The cliffs of Moher are basically your imagination brought to life. They’re the most visited natural attraction in the ROI. If you’re after your moody, staring into the distance Instagram shots to make all your friends back home jealous, then you have to put the cliffs on your itinerary. Plus it’s great for a walk to work off all that amazing Irish scran.
And as if the cliffs of Moher weren’t worth a visit already, they have a castle at the top and an amazing visitors centre built into the mountain like a hobbit hole.
The burren is an an ancient sea bed so the landscape is eerie and rocky – it’s almost like the moon. Our super enthusiastic guide, Marie, encouraged us to lie down on the bedrock and “connect with the earth”
I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel at one with nature or anything but the silence was creepy. The sea was next to us and there were cars going past but I couldn’t hear a thing.
What I wore: Sunglasses – style Cora – SB shop
We were exploring the beach on the burren when @theemasphere spotted a spine just sitting off on a rock. Turns out it WAS at some point in time, a basking shark (those sharks with the mouths like the Mersey tunnel). This is something you just don’t see every day.
If your idea of Ireland is a pub with ale and live Celtic music then a trip to the Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna should be on your itinerary on your visit to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. They’re famous for their smoked salmon (it’s even sold in the airport!) and the whole process is done in a building just a few doors down.
As well as the on-site smokehouse, there’s a brewery in the pub that makes award winning ales. I even managed to drink a whole glass of their stout and I can’t even stomach a sip of Guinness.
The live music they have on is almost surreally authentic. After our meal we went through to the bar and toe tapped along to two young Irish lads on the guitar and banjo and an older fella on the bodhran. They were sat in a window seat and the whole pub was gathered around watching them – so far so normal. In between songs they just went back to chatting amongst themselves as if they were just on a normal night out in the pub and suddenly you felt like you were gegging in on their night out. Maybe that’s just how they do things there. The atmosphere was amazing either way.
After that we had to retire back to The Falls Hotel and straight to bed to nurse our food babies and sleep off the fresh air knock out the Wild Atlantic Way dealt us. Slainté Ireland, you’ve been amazing once again.
Check out Steph's Blog here: Scousebirdproblems.Com
Flights to Knock
- Steph Bannister