Travelling North – Galway to Donegal

Glenveigh National Park Armed with the fantastic Bridgestone Guides and some recommendations, we headed up the country from Dingle in search of good food, good scenery, and a bit of a break in the bleakness of January.

RouteAlthough the weather can be bad and some places closed, Winter is a good time to travel, since nothing is booked out, you have the countryside to yourself, and there are real bargains to be had in terms of lodgings.

Since it’s the quiet season in the world of ice cream and the workload is diminished, it’s a perfect time to explore parts of the country one doesn’t usually get to…

The first stops were in Galway – deliveries of ice cream to Ard Bia in Galway city (sadly we didn’t have the hunger to enjoy their lunch menu due to too much snacking) and to the multi-award-winning McGeough’s Butchers in Oughterard.

We pushed on then, heading up through beautiful Connemara for a stroll around Westport, then on to Sligo, where we had booked into Cromleach Lodge.

Cromleach LodgeThis highly-rated establishment has been recently refurbished, and it was very comfortable.

I think we were the only people spending the night, and there were only two other tables booked at the restaurant. Perhaps because the kitchen was so quiet, the meal was a bit of a let-down. The breakfast in the morning, however, was fantastic.

The next day we drove to Donegal, stopping for the cliff walk before Bundoran to take advantage of a break in the rain, although the high winds made things a bit difficult. In Donegal town, we visited Aroma and were not disappointed in the cakes. Top class baking.

Green Gate ArdaraWe decided to spend the night in Ardara, having heard great things about the rustic Green Gate B&B, where there’s no TV or phones, and where the legendary ex-Parisian bookstore owner Paul had made headlines after cancelling all his American bookings (he had one too many head elsewhere after seeing how basic it was). And yes, he is accepting Americans again, but be warned – it is as basic as it is charming…

Nancy’s Bar in Ardara sadly does not do food in the off season, as I’ve been told they do the best chowder in Ireland, but it is definitely worth a stop. The Guinness was mighty, the atmosphere homey, and the conversation great…

Donegal CastleThe next day we drove around the coast, then headed into Glenveigh National Park for a walk. Although we ended up drenched from the rain, it was a good stroll, and some tea in Glenveigh Castle helped to warm ourselves.

We spent the night in Castle Grove House in Letterkenny, which we loved. On a quiet, restful site, it has tasteful furnishings, high ceilings, tasty food, and two drawing rooms with huge roaring wood fires to warm the bones.

The following morning we filled the van with diesel and headed toward the border…

(Part 2 to follow – Antrim, Belfast and Down)

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Off License – Gourmet Shop

Castle Off License One of the new developments in the Irish gourmet food world is the emergence of off licenses with a selection of gourmet foods. The new Castle Off License in Castle Street, Tralee is a good example of this. Besides a good range of booze, they sell local smoked salmon, Irish cheeses, chocolates, and our ice cream among other things. It’s definitely worth a visit.

I think this trend makes sense, especially if the off license specialises in fine wines or upscale spirits, for those customers would tend to be interested in unique foods as well. There certainly are other off licenses around the country that are doing the same – the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin was one of our first customers…

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Sheridan’s @ Arnotts

Sheridans at Arnotts With all the excitement of going to Paris, I forgot to write about a new development in the Dublin food scene. The most excellent Sheridan’s Cheesemongers have taken a space on the lower ground floor of Arnotts department store, and I visited before I flew out. As well as their tantalising cheeses, they have a great selection of tasty treats (including our ice cream!) Anyone on the North side should have a look in…

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Out and About in Dublin, Part 2

I have taken another day in Dublin, and it has been quite a bit of fun! A bit of business and a bit of pleasure. It started with a visit to the new Donnybrook Fair on Baggot street, where I was happy to see our ice cream in the freezer and bought a bar of Godiva chocolate for breakfast.

Off then to the WB Yeats exhibit at the National Library and then brunch at Fallon and Byrne. Their salmon blini topped with an egg hollandaise was supurb, and the fresh orange juice was delicious.

Next stop in my rather haphazard tour was Mortons, where I picked up a snack of organic chocolate by Vivani. Now I will follow the advice of Caroline and eat at Ho Sen before heading to the Gaiety for a bit of Kerry theatre with John B. Keane and Year of the Hiker.

I love a (mostly) free day in Dublin!

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