Ireland: The Lodge at Doonbeg
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AddressCounty Clare, Ireland 866/366-6234 doonbeglodge.com
From the restaurant's you can see frequent helicopter landings on the helipad in front of the Long House — a bizarre but wonderful sight.
Check out the microscopic Vertigo Angustior, a rare snail that makes its home in the grass-covered dunes near the Doonbeg.
- 185 suites and cottages
- Wi-Fi internet access
- Spacious stone and marble bathrooms with wide walk-in mosaic rain showers
- Separate fully equipped state-of-the-art kitchen with full-sized fridge
- Two restaurants with cuisine by Consulting Chef Tom Colicchio
- 24-hour in-suite dining
- Award-winning Greg Norman-designed links course
But cold and inhospitable it is not. A smiling attendant bolts from his small thatched hut, greeting us warmly. He shows us briskly up a few steps, along gravel pathways and vibrant flowerbeds, to the modest front hall. Front and center inside is a stone-carved fireplace, where we warm ourselves while checking in, the earthy tang of burning peat filling the air. Lighting is subdued. Conversation, soft music and the clink of glasses drift in from adjacent dining halls, the Tea Room and the Long Room.
We are ushered into a room as appealing and comfortable as we will ever find. Interiors are sumptuous: weighty knobs and latches, oaken doors, woolen drapes with braided trim, plump pillows and fine felted sheets. On a later walk along the shore of Doughmore Bay, we see lime-green seaweed, amber kelp, orange and violet shells, buttercup lichens and football-sized black rocks, rounded by the waves; coming inside, we note these exact colors on every wall, fixture and fabric we see.
We head over to Darby's Grill, a pub off the main courtyard with a view of the 18th green of the property's award-winning golf course via floor-to-ceiling windows. Seated at a banquette table, we mull the listings of fish sandwiches, burgers, roast lamb, chicken and duck. I settle on a creamy and delicately herbed casserole of chicken, "bacon" pieces (which is really just ham; if you ever want actual American-style bacon in these parts, ask for "striped bacon"), tender leeks and other veggies, topped with a crisp puff pastry. Another good selection is a steamy and succulent pie of fresh and smoked fish in white wine velouté with an herb-potato crust. We leave sated and content.
Head Chef Wade Murphy's oversight of Darby's Grill, the Tea Room, and the Long Room recently won him "Best Regional Chef" recognition from the Restaurant Association of Ireland. His affable manner belies his serious commitment to using distinctive local food sources as often as possible; local farmers and fishermen know him by name. One evening at dinner in the Long Room, he is delighted to cook up a smoked salmon we've brought straight over from the nearby Burren Smokehouse. His sautéed spinach, beetroot and balsamic reduction melds into the salmon divinely, and Murphy furthers our delight with an impromptu offering of a delicious cinnamon-spiced apple dumpling drizzled with a honey glaze.
Golfing, the spa and other activities here are superb. But even the simplest of pleasures are planned with equal care. Hikes, walks and climbs can be arranged. The beach always beckons. Windows open onto gardens, bluffs or bay views, and over-stuffed chairs and fireplaces are plenteous. Books are never far away, nor are drinks. And a little conversation, especially with the local folks, does one's soul much good. — Brenda Weaver
In the Area
- Burren Smokehouse: Swedish-born Birgitta Hedin-Curtin and her husband, Peter Curtin, a native son of County Clare, started smoking salmon in 1987. Favoring wild salmon caught from the exceptionally clean, strong currents around Killary Harbour, Clare Island and the Iveragh Peninsula. The smokehouse is something of an institution in the area, and on a visit you can sample products, tour the smokehouse, and buy the top-notch smoked salmon, mackerel, and trout. You can also sample the goods at the family's excellent microbrewery and gastro-pub, the Roadside Tavern, just down the road. Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare (353/65/707-4432); burrensmokehouse.ie
- Burren Slow Food Festival: Held each May in the village of Lisdoonvarna, a 45-minute drive north of the Doonbeg, this local food festival showcases the best of County Clare. Teaching sessions include bake-your-own-bread, seaweed and sea vegetable foraging excursions, brewery beer tasting, children's cooking classes, walks, teas, ecotourism chats, and cooking demos and lectures from local chefs and other food specialists. A festival farmers' market features goat milk soaps, artisan ice creams, chilies, chutneys and chocolates, kitchen items made from reclaimed timber, mussels, seaweeds, oysters, sea vegetables, goat and sheep cheeses, smoked salmon, free-range pork and beef, herbs, nuts, seedlings, plants and Irish country wines. Lisdoonvarna, County Clare; slowfoodclare.com