IRELAND OF THE WELCOMES
FOR THE PAST many years the Irish Tourist Board has been putting virtually all its promotional eggs in one basket, the United States of America and now, with the Yankee fear of travel to Europe, Ireland is once more having to rely on her old and tried and true tourist friends, the British, including the hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens resident here. Already, this spring, Irish Farm House holidays have seen a substantial increase in enquiries from Britain and they, and Irish Country Houses, are relying more than ever on the pound sterling. Because these two groups offer great value for money they richly deserve to see a welcome return of British tourists.
Irish Country Houses, Manors and Restaurants,* to give them their full title, number but 30 or so establishments.
Ask anyone who has used them over the years and you will always get the same reply: "Great value for money, cosy and friendly".
First on their list, alphabetically, is Ahern's Seafood Bar Restaurant in Sir Walter Raleigh's town of Youghal, in the main street, in County Cork. Run by a former Irish army officer, and his family, despite being the town of the father of the potato, you'll get no chips here with your fish! It's a superb fish restaurant with the best of local lobsters, prawns, salad and mussels. Lunch £8.50, dinner £12.
In Schull West Cork, a country house and restaurant recommended is the Ard na Greine Inn, a converted 18th century farmhouse run by Frank and Rhona O'Sullivan. B/B from £22 to £26 per person, dinner £17.
If you or your children want horse riding then, Ardnavaha House Hotel in Ballinascarthy in West Cork has 40 acres of woods, meadows and lawns, a Georgian house. B/B £25 to £30 per person. Dinner £19 to £24. Arguably the most attractive Country House in the book is Assolas House, Kanturk, Co Cork, run by Dr and Mrs Bourke and family. In this intimate country house partystyle accommodation for B/B is around £26. Dinner £16. It is set in a hunting paradise and horses are available.
Internationally famous is Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Midleton, Co Cork, run by Ivan and Myrtle Allen, who also manage La Ferme Irlandaise, the Irish restaurant in Paris. B/B £25 to £30, lunch around £9, dinner E25.
If you want to try out the spot where General and Madame De Gaulle stayed in 1969, then head for Cashel House Hotel, which, despite its name, is in Cashel, Co Galway and not in Tipperary. Run by Dermot and Kay McEvilly, in 50 acres of flowering shrubs and woodlands. B/B £38, dinner £18.95.
A restaurant only, but probably the best seafood bar in Ireland, Doyle's Seafood Bar, John Street, Dingle, Co Kerry, run by John and Stella Doyle, gets its lobster and fish fresh from the quays a few yards away. Dinner around £9, bar, food lunches.
Quite unique, because the 5th generation of the. Galletlie family, Maureen, is running it, Hunter's Hotel, Rathnew, Co Wicklow, is one of Ireland's oldest coaching inns. Parnell, who lived nearby, was a frequent visitor. The gardens go down to the river Vartry, which provides the trout, and seafood is fresh. The food is best at juicy roasts, with fresh vegetables from the gardens. B/B £24, dinner £15.50. A very civilised and friendly atmosphere born of generations of kindly, caring people running the establishment. It is but a short drive from Dublin.
Arguably the best roast beef in Ireland can be had at Mary Bowe's Marfield House, Gorey, Co Wexford, a regency house set in 35 acres, once the dower house of the Earl of Courtown. T E Lawrence, of Arabia fame, knew it. (An enthusiastic Michael Collins once offered him the job of "supremo" of the newly formed Irish Free State Army.) B/B £32-£38. Dinner £18 to £20, lunch £10.50. (The dining room is a minor Crystal Palace with views of the gardens).
If you are heading for the wilds of Donegal, Rathmullan House, on the shores of Lough Swilly, run by Bob and Robin Wheeler, set in its own grounds, serves the meals that Granny used to make. B/B £19-28, £21 to £30, dinner £15.
As for the rest, you will find them in the book, including Longueville House, Mallow, Co Cork, run by Michael and Jane O'Callaghan and family. They even have their own vineyard, which produces unique dry fruity white Irish wine! The food ;comes from their own farm and gardens and river. They provide their own mutton and lamb, B/B £30 to £40, dinner £20. A Georgian house built in 1720, on tbe banks of the Blackwater river.
Farmhouse Holidays in Ireland are also great value. They were originally well and truly put on the map for thousands of British tourists as a result of a series of travel articles in The Observer by Eric and Wanda Newby.
A sign of the times. Their 140-page guide used to cost 50p. It is now priced $2.
*Brochure obtainable from your local Irish Tourist Office or from The Secretary, Ardbraccan Glebe, Navan, Co Meath, Ireland.