Why Stay Here?
- Family-Run Luxury Country House Hotel.
- Stunning Views and Steeped in History.
- Gourmet Fine Dining Restaurant.
We stumbled across a real gem when we found Ballinalacken Castle Country House Hotel on the Coast Road while driving through the amazing Burren in Co. Clare. Nestled between the busy little tourist towns of Lisdoonvarna and Doolin - the former most popular for it's famous Matchmaking Festival, and the latter for Irish Traditional Music - Ballinalacken Castle is surrounded by a hundred acres of grassland and is a real oasis of calm and luxury. The world-famous Cliffs of Moher are a short drive away, and with all these attractions and activities on the doorstep, this is the perfect place to base yourself when visiting County Clare - I am just amazed that we did not discover it before now! But once discovered, never forgotten, and this is certainly an Irish Country House that we will return to, it has everything - family atmosphere, luxury furnishings, history and culture in abundance and some really excellent dining.
DINING AT BALLINALACKEN CASTLE
The high-ceilinged Castle dining room is beautifully appointed with an extra seating area seamlessly included in a light-filled extension. Tables are arranged to suit the guests, and so couples and parties of 4, 6 or 10 are all easily catered for. Service is impeccable, and having been shown to my white linen covered table with fresh flowers and the candle was lighted, I was soon presented with a jug of iced water, the menus and some delicious home-made breads. Shortly after that an Amuse Bouche arrived. The menu is traditional Fine Dining and makes good use of local ingredients, like the famous St Tola and other excellent Irish Farmhouse Cheeses, local Clare Lamb from The Burren and Doolin Shellfish.
I started with an open Cannelloni of Prawns, a delicious dish that included the biggest juicy prawns and a light tomato sauce, with a sprinkling of cheese on the pasta. With some crusty bread, this would make a perfect lunch dish on its own. I followed that with the special of the night, which was a selection of fresh fish in a creamy sauce - another fish lovers dream! The menu offered plenty of choice besides all this wonderful fresh fish, there was Clare Lamb; Veal; Duck; Pork and vegetable options also. There are several dessert choices, including home-made ice-cream and the wine list offers well chosen wines from around the globe.
Breakfast next morning once again offered fresh local ingredients, with a well stocked buffet and hot food prepared to order. Freshly baked scones, good preserves, juices, cheeses and cold meats and a hot menu that includes a fish dish along with the classic breakfast fair.
ACCOMMODATION AT BALLINALACKEN CASTLE
There are just 12 rooms at Ballinalacken Castle, and I stayed in the one at the very end of the house. It has a glass conservatory built on which fills the room with light, stunning views and total privacy. Sitting at the table here you would be inspired to write "that book" that you had always felt was inside you! There is a big comfy bed, lots of fluffy towels and robes, TV and WiFi and classic furnishings that fill the room with character. The bathroom is sparkling with a bath and power shower and oodles of hot water. This is so different to the bland hotel rooms you often find, that it is somewhere you would actually like to move into!
HISTORY OF BALLINALACKEN CASTLE
The castle sits on a hilltop adjacent to the country house and dates back to the 14th century, while the original fortress on the site was built back in the 10th century. It was then owned by the O'Connor clan who lived and died in the wilds of northwest Clare since prehistoric times. In 1582 they granted their lands over to the O'Briens. During the Cromwellian period of occupation the castle, along with many other Irish castles, fell into decay and into the ruins that they are today.
You can find out more about the history of the castle, and even arrange a tour with the O'Callaghan family. For more information on this lovely family home with its gourmet food and luxury accommodation, visit www.ballinalackencastle.com
Highly recommended by Hotel Reviews Ireland as a real "Hidden Gem".