Saturday 23 September 2017

Ardmore: Blown away by our clifftop cottage in Co Waterford

Waterford wonders

Spectacular views: The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore is nestled between the hills around Cork/Waterford coastline and overlooks the ocean
Spectacular views: The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore is nestled between the hills around Cork/Waterford coastline and overlooks the ocean

Eleanor Goggin

The sweet wooden sign hanging in our cottage read: "Rest, relax, renew. Take long walks. Enjoy the fresh air. Smile, giggle, laugh."

And we obeyed its instructions to a T.

East Cork and West Waterford were the places of many of my childhood summers and it was with a lift in my heart and some degree of nostalgia that I arrived at the five-star Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore to catch up with my two erstwhile flatmates.

We opted to stay in Cliff Cottage which is up some steps from the back of the hotel and commands a fabulous view of the bay.

But the view from the hotel is second to none.

The bar, the restaurant, the terrace, the spa and the bedrooms all boast a spectacular vista of the blue sea below.

They have all been built in such a way that you feel you are out over the water.

The hotel itself has been there since the 1930s and was originally called Kelly's Hotel.

Cliff House Hotel Waterford
Cliff House Hotel Waterford

The name was changed to Cliff House Hotel in 1936 when Frank Nugent, a relative of the Kellys, took over.

Frank Nugent died in 1983, and in 1992 the hotel fell into disrepair.

In 2005 Gerri O'Callaghan, who had been visiting Ardmore for holidays for some considerable time took over as the owner and as they say the rest is history.

The renowned The House restaurant under Michelin star chef Martin Kajuiter was closed for two weeks while we were there but the dinner menu from the Bar Restaurant was fantastic.

A starter of stone bass with ratatouille and saffron aioli, followed by Elda venison with roast sprouts, red cabbage and game jus was served by charming and helpful staff.

The two flatmates opted for Helvick haddock stuffed with brown shrimp and shellfish beurre blanc. Equally divine, desserts of poached rhubarb, mille-feuille, vanilla creme patisserie and ginger and rhubarb sorbet, a dark chocolate fondant and sticky toffee pudding with caramelised pear were all wolfed down with a certain degree of savagery.

After a great night's sleep, more delicious food was the order of the day.

There's no breakfast buffet going on in Cliff House. Everything is made to order, which is the way I like it.

The Cliff House
The Cliff House

A complimentary newspaper on the way in and fresh orange juice is brought to your table within seconds.

Fresh porridge, home-made scones, poached eggs, bacon, spinach, mushroom and Hollandaise sauce were all washed down with coffee.

My wish, after such a feast and given my aversion to exercise, would have been to lie down for a nice little nap but Andrew Malcolm was waiting for us.

Who is Andrew Malcolm?

He's an interesting, personable man with many strings to his bow who takes people on St Declan's cliff walks.

His business card heralds him as a forager, guitar customiser, composer, whale-watcher and wildlife photographer.

It doesn't mention that he is a mine of information.

Did you know that robins eat three miles of worms in a year?

And we foraged as we walked.

Up over the cliffs with the wind in our faces and the waves crashing below, we came across all sorts of edible delights - field sorrel, three cornered leeks, wild thyme, sea beet and much more.

I never realised you could eat the flowers of gorse.

From now on I will gather them to brighten up my salads when I have guests.

The walk itself is full of history.

The entire route takes about an hour but allowing for spectacular photos and lots of foraging it's realistically an hour and a half.

St Declan Christianised the area before St Patrick arrived, and the Holy Well at the beginning of the walk was a baptistery for him.

Further along the walk is the Coastguard Station, built in 1867, and the lookout post that was built during World War Two where a log was kept of all boats and planes that passed the Ardmore Coast. It had a phone line to the Post Office in Ardmore that could be used to warn of any impending peril.

There's also a well, built by the locals in the 1920s in honour of Fr O'Donnell, a local priest who used to visit this peaceful setting to say his prayers.

At the end of the walk is the Round Tower and the ruins of a 12th century cathedral.

Earlier carvings of Adam and Eve are visible on one of the outer walls of the cathedral. The four-storey tower is 30m high.

After our invigorating walk the only thing for it was to take my weary body to the hotel's spa and immerse myself in a full body massage courtesy of Maura from Galway, a slip of a girl with very strong hands.

The spa, with its outdoor seaweed baths and a Jacuzzi, is fabulous.

I could have stayed in the Jacuzzi all day, staring out to sea, but my hands became all wrinkly after an hour of indulgence.

Ardmore is a pretty little village with cafes, restaurants and some fabulous craft shops. Mary Lincoln has been a potter in the village since 1983, and her craft shop is a treasure trove of her pottery and artwork and crafts from other Irish craft workers.

It's her own personal collection, and an eclectic mix.

We met her daughter, Sara, who is also a potter and was very informative about the whole process. She was delighted to show us the gorgeous finished products.

From ovenware to hand-painted coffee cups, the variety is great.

We were so chilled and had so much to fill our weekend that we didn't actually explore the nearby towns including Dungarvan or Youghal but it just leaves the door open for so much more when I return to Ardmore and the wonderful Cliff House Hotel.

Getting there

Cliff Cottage sleeps six adults and four children, and costs from €600-€750 a night depending on season (includes welcome basket).

A two-night midweek break from Sun-Thurs at the Cliff House Hotel costs from €490 based on two people sharing a Deluxe Seaview room (all have uninterrupted views of the bay). See thecliffhousehotel.com for more.

The deal, valid on select dates in March and April, includes a three-course dinner in the Bar Restaurant on one evening and breakfast on both mornings. Get 20pc off all spa treatments if booked within seven days of reservation.

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