Local Knowledge: Co Clare
Birgitta Hedin-Curtin, co-owner and manager of Burren Smokehouse
Tell me about your connections to north Clare?I’ve lived in Lisdoonvarna for more than 25 years. We have a business here called the Burren Smokehouse, which has a visitor centre. People can taste smoked salmon and see how we smoke fish. It is both an education and an experience, where you learn about an ancient craft.
Has there always been a strong food tradition in the area?When we first arrived here, we noticed that when good food was made available it was really appreciated. I remember you couldn’t find good coffee, and for many years you would be presented with coffee and have to ask, “Is this tea?” There was an appreciation for food including crab and lobster, but not as many premises using it. Pub food was basically non-existent.
What tourist sites do you visit?I bring people to the Poulnabrone dolmen in the Burren, which is 5,000 years old. It is the landmark of the Burren really.
When you step over a wall and walk into the landscape of the Burren and start to see the flora and the animals, it is incredible.
What beaches would you suggest people go to?Fanore beach is a haven. It’s great for children and they have rock pools, so you can give kids a fantastic education. I love the seaweed and periwinkles and the excitement of it. Lahinch is the traditional surf beach and there is a very social scene there. But, for me, Fanore would be the one.
What about shopping and eating in Lisdoonvarna?You have good pub food locally now and the Wild Honey Inn is one of the best. We also own a bar called the Roadside Tavern, where we have a microbrewery. For fine dining, I like Sheedys Hotel and restaurant, which has been in the village a long time. I really like Joe O’Loughlin’s fishing tackle shop, where you can get some nice presents for your children.
What changes have you noticed in recent years?In Lisdoonvarna you now have very good roads following a revamp in the mid-2000s and obviously things like phone and internet coverage are now in place. We have a great playground and sports facilities and there are creche facilities available now.
For someone coming to stay, where do you suggest?The Burren Hostel is very good and popular. You also have a range of BBs. Those of poor quality have fallen to the wayside and those left are competing strongly.
Is the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival worth visiting?For locals it is still important as a chance to extend the summer season into September. We have a pub and we see the same bachelors every year. It is very friendly and funny. There are a lot of young farmers these days and people really get into the dancing. If you want to be there for the crowds, then you should come for the last three weekends in September. I travel a lot and you meet people who met there and go back every year for a reunion.