Driving Master Dudley: Travelling around Ireland with a dog
Join Roslyn Dee on her 1,000-plus mile road trip with her best pal
Dudley in the driving seat.
Destination: Rambler’s Rest, Dunseverick, Co Antrim
It’s 11am on a sunny Thursday morning when the two of us hit the road from our home in Wicklow. I’ve spent the last hour checking and re-checking I’ve got everything we’ll need for our trip.
Dudley’s bed? Check. Bowl? Check. Food? Check. And what about Mr Bear and Donald Trump? Yes, his two favourite doggie toys are also packed.
We’re heading north, to Dunseverick, close to the Giant’s Causeway. Dunseverick is more of a townsland than a village and at its heart, right on the Antrim coast, is Dunseverick Harbour. We’re headed for the Rambler’s Rest, a small, dog-friendly self-catering spot with two newly restored apartments.
Our accommodation is a big room, effectively, with a small kitchen area and a sparkling bathroom. Dudley is made welcome with lovely soft “throws” provided so dogs can sleep on the bed. He is instantly taken with the comfy, green leather sofa.
Early the next morning we are the only people down at the harbour (a 10-minute walk away) for a peaceful stroll. And that, largely, is how we spend our days – walking at Dunseverick and also along the glorious stretches of golden strand just outside Portrush, and at Portballintrae, the base camp for the divers searching for the wreck of the Spanish Armada’s Girona back in the late 1960s.
Cooking is not my strong point so, for dinner, we take ourselves to the Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, where dogs are welcome. On Sunday morning we pack up and say goodbye to this beautiful part of Northern Ireland.
Destination: Cashel House Hotel, Cashel, Co Galway
I’ve stayed in Cashel House Hotel before but never with a dog in tow. The drive here, especially after you turn off the main Galway-Clifden road, is as beautiful as I remember it, and the hotel staff as welcoming as ever.
So where exactly can I bring Dudley? Well, he can stay with me in my room – a junior suite on the ground floor, with a view of the lovely gardens.
He can’t accompany me into the restaurant (fair enough) where, later that evening I enjoy a delicious dinner where local ingredients are to the fore and the service is top class. Nor is he allowed into the bar.
We’re here for only one night and I am determined to do one particular thing – drive further along the coast to Dog’s Bay, a wonderful sweep of golden beach outside Roundstone.
And so, Dudley and I find ourselves on the sand, just as the Connemara rains start to fall, but undaunted, we have a decent walk. Eventually, drenched but happy, we drive back to the comfort of Cashel House, where, once fed and watered, we both enjoy a perfect night’s sleep.
Destination: Muckross Park Hotel Reserve Apartments, Killarney, Co Kerry
It’s a long haul today, but with the rain cleared it’s a pleasant drive to Muckross Park Hotel, directly across the road from Killarney’s wonderful national park. Perfect dog-walking territory.
We’re not staying at the hotel (no dogs allowed there) but rather in one of the apartments on the grounds. It’s on the ground floor with French doors out to a patio – perfect for dog access – and the hotel has kindly provided Dudley with a bed, bowl and a doggie “welcome pack” to boot.
There’s lots of space (two bedrooms), it’s well fitted and comfortable, but the real draw is that it’s so close to the national park. That’s where Dudley encounters a horse for the first time, when one of the jaunting cars go past. A couple of woofs and a few excited tugs on the lead are all to no avail as the strange creature clip-clops away.
Leaving Dudley to have a snooze in the apartment after his dinner I take myself over to the hotel and dine in style in the Yew Tree restaurant.
Muckross Park is a great base for exploring the surrounding area and our second day takes us into Killarney town. After a coffee outside one of the pubs we drive out to beautiful Inch Strand (dog heaven) where we have an outdoor lunch at Sammy’s cafe before taking to the road again and driving on to Dingle.
That night, after a bite to eat in Major Colgan’s, the pub in the Muckross Park grounds, we both sleep like a log after our action-packed day.
Destination: Dunmore House Hotel, Clonakilty, Co Cork
We pack up early after a final stroll in the national park and hit the road to Clonakilty. We drive across country, arriving at Dunmore House Hotel in time for lunch.
Sitting spectacularly above the Atlantic, right on Clonakilty Bay, Dunmore’s setting is truly breathtaking, and yet it’s only a few minutes’ drive from downtown Clonakilty.
Dudley loves it here. Why? Because he’s with me all the time. Apart from sleeping in my bedroom (dog-friendly wooden floors and a door to a balcony), he also has access to the reception lounge where I have a lunchtime sandwich and read the papers while he dozes at my feet.
Later that evening, after a walk around Clonakilty, we return to the hotel and both of us repair to the bar where Dudley is the centre of attention while I tuck into a delicious pea risotto.
Apart from the unseasonal weather – torrential rain and fierce winds – which curtails our walking, our doggie stay at Dunmore House is as close to perfect as it gets.
Destination: The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballingarry, Co Limerick
What a welcome we receive here from the owner, John Edward Joyce. This lovely country house, whose restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for superlative cuisine, is in the village of Ballingarry, a 10-minute drive from Adare.
Dudley and I are shown to our room – a duplex courtyard suite with bedroom and bathroom upstairs, and sittingroom and kitchen on the ground floor. From here there is direct access to outside, handy for dog owners to come and go, so they don’t have to walk their wet or mucky mutt through the house.
As this is more of a house than a hotel, there’s no bar, and so Dudley and I enjoy the comforts of our suite and take a few strolls in the sprawling kitchen garden.
Dinner (mine!) is a highlight of the visit. I can still taste that turbot consommé with seaweed, brown shimeji, prawn bisque, crab and mussels. Divine.
The Mustard Seed is our final port of call on this, our first proper road trip together. So, Saturday morning finds me back behind the wheel of the car, with Dudley stretched out comfortably on his blanket on the back seat for the final lap of our wonderful 1,000-plus mile journey.
Where: Rambler’s Rest, Dunseverick, Co Antrim (dunseverickramblersrest.co.uk)
Charge for dogs? No
Access: Self-catering apartment. Dog “throws” for the bed, and treats provided.
Where: Cashel House Hotel, Connemara, Co Galway (cashelhouse.ie)
Charge for dogs? No
Access: Bedrooms only. Dog blankets, bowls and toys provided. Treats (and dog-sitting services) on request.
Where: Muckross Park Hotel Reserve Apartments, Killarney, Co Kerry (muckrosspark.ie)
Charge for dogs? Yes. €30 for first night and €10 for subsequent nights.
Access: Dog-friendly apartments on ground floor with French windows to outdoor patio. Dog bed, water and food bowls provided, plus welcome pack with treats. Dog-sitting and grooming services available.
Where: Dunmore House Hotel, Clonakilty, Co Cork (dunmorehousehotel.ie)
Charge for dogs? No
Access: Five dog-friendly bedrooms, all with balcony access. Dogs welcome throughout the hotel, including lounge and bar. Not permitted in the restaurant/breakfast-room.