Our 2019 Trip To The Banner County...
Well, as the Ralph McTell song said “it’s a long way from Clare to here”. ….but wow is it so worth the trip. I’ve always had a soft spot for Co. Clare ever since I first visited on a student road trip with a couple of friends many moons ago. The beauty and wildness of the place is unsurpassed. The towns and villages are colourful and buzzing with life. In 2009, I was privileged to stay in Moy House for four nights over the August Bank Holiday weekend. At that time it was being run as a small boutique hotel/guesthouse just outside Lahinch with gorgeous views of Liscannor Bay.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a chance to relive that stay with the wonderful views as I caught up with “Smother” the suspense series (on Prime Video and Apple TV) which was actually filmed in the former Moy House. Sadly, I read here that Moy House will no longer be used as a hotel/guesthouse….but Clare us still a wonderful destination. This blog post is about how we got on and what we did there…Enjoy!
Moy House is a Georgian country house in County Clare, about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of Lahinch off the N67 road near the village of Moy. Originally set in 15 acres of woodland on the River Moy, it was built in the mid 18th century as the holiday home of Sir Augustine Fitzgerald. Later it was sold to a Major Studdert, who gave his name to the bridges over the road and the river in the West Clare Railway. The house was vacant for 10 years, but was purchased by Antoin O'Looney who undertook a three-year restoration of the property. It was voted Country House of the Year by Georgina Campbell's Ireland in 2003.
So, we arrived down on the Saturday after the drive from Dublin and were gasping for a cup of tea. We needn’t have worried because no sooner than we had been shown to the room than a tea tray with scones and jam was delivered to the room. Having devoured everything we went to take a walk down to the small beach and again were super impressed to see wellies and brollies at the back door for guest use. The scenery of the wild Atlantic here is indescribable….next stop Boston!
From the front, Moy House appears to be single level. However, it is built on an incline and there are actually two floors. On the lower floor, there was an elegant conservatory dining room and adjacent kitchen as well as a cosy library area and some of the bedrooms. On the upper floor, there was a cosy Drawing Room with an honesty bar, and more bedrooms. The honesty bar was the first I had ever come across in a hotel – where you self-serve from the array of drinks in the bar and write down what you drank in the book provided and are billed accordingly. Surprisingly our hosts confirmed that it was rarely abused!
We ate at the hotel each night for a fixed fee of €55 for a six course tasting menu that changed each night. The food was amazing featuring locally caught seafood and meat from Moy Farm and nearby butchers. Fresh scallops to die for. And we enjoyed the views of the ocean from the conservatory candlelit restaurant while enjoying dinner. Seamus Heaney wrote; “And sometime make the time to drive out west into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,” and that this spectacular coastline would “blow the heart open.” The views from Moy House’s restaurant certainly captured that feeling of the natural beauty of the coastline and the Atlantic Ocean.
They used linen tablecloths, Wedgewood crockery and Newbridge silverware. The executive chef didn’t use “farm to fork” as a gimmick for the restaurant - he meant it, and he worked in partnership with the Moy Farm gardeners to plan daily menus to include the best of what’s fresh and seasonal from the farm and gardens. Breakfast at Moy House was also a hearty affair, with a selection of pastries, breads, homemade jam and freshly prepared hot dishes. We tried the full Irish breakfast and the Eggs Benedict with eggs from Moy Farm.
Each of the nine bedrooms was named after one of Sir Augustine Fitzgerald’s townlands. They were all individually decorated, with every modern comfort. We were in the Cloonybree. And these are a couple of photos that Charlie took:
There is a lot to do in this part of Clare. Lahinch Beach is located a short drive from the Cliffs of Moher and is therefore very popular with locals and tourists alike. The flooding tide makes it ideal for surfing, sea kayaking and kite surfing and there are a few surfing schools in the local area. Lahinch is a popular resort town with many restaurants and accommodation. The beach is lifeguarded during the bathing season and more information can be found on the noticeboard located at the beach.
On the Sunday we were there, we watched people taking surfing lessons on the gorgeous Lahinch Beach. Being a land lubber, I was happy to sit on the strand eating ice-cream while watching the brave souls fling themselves into the cold Atlantic.
Cliffs of Moher
Next, we headed to the must-see Cliffs of Moher. Although we had both seen the cliffs before, their sheer size never fails to impress. However, that day the weather wasn’t playing ball so after a quick walk around the top of the wind-swept cliffs .....and a quick few photos (below), we headed into the shelter of the Visitor’s Centre!! But, here's a YouTube video that shows the cliffs in fine weather:
I know there was a lot of controversy surrounding the opening of this centre in 2007 but we were happy to have it that rainy day and have a cuppa in the Puffin’s Nest Café. Built into the hillside, its unique cave-like structure accommodates a full range of facilities and attractions underground. The eco-friendly design has minimal visual impact on the surrounding landscape and is complementary to the Cliffs’ natural beauty.
Since opening in 2007, the visitor centre has won numerous awards, including Best Public/Cultural Building at the 2007 Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) Awards; the Commercial Interiors Award at the 2007 International Federation of Interior Architects (IFI) Awards and the Exhibition Design Award at the 2007 and 2008 Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) Awards.
Heading away from the Cliffs of Moher we headed for the Doolin Cave. This is located 4 kilometres from the centre of Doolin village, in the heart of the Burren, County Clare. It has one of the longest Stalactites in the world!!
We took a fully guided tour of one of Europe’s most compelling cave attractions, and went 200 feet under the limestone of the Burren landscape. We got to travel back in time over 350 million years and got to see how the Burren was formed. We journeyed through a system of passages before emerging in a large chamber which is home to one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, the Great Stalactite – which was once beautifully described as “the palest gleam in the darkest deep”.
It is the longest free-hanging stalactite in the northern hemisphere! At 7.3 metres long and weighing an estimated 10 tonnes, it naturally suspends from the cave ceiling like a chandelier. It is hard to believe that this enormous calcite formation was formed from a single drop of water over hundreds of thousands of years. Doolin Cave is a truly authentic visitor experience, and is the only opportunity to see such a large free hanging stalactite anywhere in the world.
There are 125 steps into and out of the cave, every ten steps there is a landing and a handrail all the way down. The temperature in the cave remains a constant 11°C (52°F) so it appears cool in summer and warm in the winter. A light jacket or warm sweater will keep you cosy for the tour. All visitors must wear a hard hat, which is supplied at the beginning of the tour, as the cave passage is low in places. We really were blown away by it!
The Burren Smokehouse
No we weren’t inhaling anything illegal. On the Sunday, we discovered the mystery of salmon smoking and the secret of how smoked salmon is handcrafted. We also enjoyed the mosaics that are telling the story of the "Salmon of Knowledge". The Burren Smokehouse Tasting Room and the Taste the Atlantic - Salmon Experience are conveniently situated on the N67 in Lisdoonvarna, just a few miles off the Wild Atlantic Way. We got to sample the silky, smoky texture of the Burren Smoked Irish Organic Salmon.
Birds of Prey Centre
On the Monday, we headed to see the Birds of Prey Centre near the Aillwee Caves. Since 2008 they have been educating and entertaining visitors with dynamic flying displays set against the dramatic Burren Landscape. The mission of the Centre is to aid the conservation of Birds of Prey through visitor awareness and education, whilst actively fund raising for Raptor conservation monitoring efforts within Ireland.
We got to see flying displays where we could interact and get up close to the majestic birds. We saw Eagles, Falcons, Hawks, and Owls from all over the world. Information boards and audio guides provided us with a deep insight into all aspects of Birds of Prey. We got educated on the amazing world of Raptors, their biology, conservation and the ancient art of Falconry. We also got an awareness of conservation both in Ireland and internationally.
Sea View of the Cliffs of Moher
As I already said, the Cliffs of Moher (Aillte an Mhothair) are one of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions. However until you see them from the sea, you haven’t really seen them at all. They rise to a jaw dropping height of over 214 metres (700ft) at their highest point. We took a boat from Doolin that sailed right beneath this point just north of O’Brien’s Tower. The furthest point of the cliffs from Doolin is Hags Head in Liscannor. Here we could see the 1st century fort, Moher Tower, that it is named for.
The sea was very rough the day we took the boat and several times I feared I would be tossed into the sea. That said, it was still so worth it! It is hard to take in their magnificent heights until you see them from sea level. The people walking along the trail high above appear no larger than ants! Here’s a few photos above that Charlie took – I was afraid I’d lose my camera in the waves!
All too soon our trip to Co. Clare was over but as we headed back by car to Dublin we vowed to come back! It's no longer a long way!
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog 73
Number 59 - Travel - 80 HotelsNumber 60 (b) - Travel - Stay in each of the 32 Counties of Ireland
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Blog 30 - Alaska
Blog 31 - Everglades, Florida
Have you ever been to Co. Clare and the Cliffs of Moher? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!