A dining room with a view: 10 of the Blue Book’s most beautiful places to eat
You don’t have to go to a cliff edge to enjoy a fantastic Irish view – just take a seat at any of these dining room tables
The dining room of King Sitric in Howth in Co Dublin has large windows to maximise the beautiful views of Balscadden Bay, the harbour and the marina
There is so much that a dining room can do to add a little magic to your dining experience. The classic elegance of a white linen table cloth, the view of the ocean in the distance as dusk falls, the addition of heritage pieces or antiques to explain the room’s special history, can all elevate your evening into a more memorable and enjoyable experience. Here are some of our favourite dining rooms from Ireland's Blue Book properties across the country.
Rathmullan House, Co Donegal
When Bob and Robin Wheeler opened this wonderful hotel in the seaside haven of Rathmullan in Donegal in 1960, hotel guests dined in the original dining room of the house and the Raja room. As the business grew, they quickly realised they needed to expand and commissioned prominent architect Dr Liam McCormack to draw up a new dining room for the hotel. He created a pavilion with a fantastic tented canopy and, as he was also a keen sailor, he had a sailmaker make the original ceilings out of silk. In the 2000s the Pavilion dining room was refurbished and renamed the Cook & Gardener and is now furnished with antique tables, Lloyd Loom chairs, original silver and Italian linen.
The focus here is on the very best of local produce and the award-winning restaurant is one of the finest in the county. Bob Wheeler ran the kitchen for several decades, and was also instrumental in developing the fantastic walled gardens of the hotel to ensure there was a continuous supply of fruit and vegetables. Even in his late 80s, you will still spot him out pruning and making jams from the produce.
This dining room has gorgeous views over Lough Swilly, and as the evening light settles, the hundreds of twinkling lights on the tented ceiling makes for an atmospheric and unforgettable evening.
Rathmullan House, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal
Moy House, Co Clare
Seamus Heaney wrote; “And some time make the time to drive out west into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,” and that this spectacular coastline would “blow the heart open.” The views from Moy House’s restaurant certainly capture that feeling of the natural beauty of the coastline and the Atlantic Ocean it looks out onto. This elegant, contemporary dining room lets the views that are ever changing with the weather and light, become its showpiece.
They use linen tablecloths, Wedgewood crockery and Newbridge silverware. Executive chef, Matthew Strefford, doesn’t use “farm to fork” as a gimmick for the restaurant - he means it, and he works in partnership with the Moy Farm gardeners to plan daily menus to include the best of what’s fresh and seasonal from the farm and gardens. They grow as much as they can on-site, and also have their own free-range pigs, Dexter cattle and lambs.
Their six-course tasting menu changes every day and Strefford is passionate about using ingredients like the best of seafood from local fishermen, as well as their own meats to compliment the delicious treats from the gardens and farm. Strefford’s aim is to match the beauty of the views with his food, and he has succeeded.
Moy House, Lahinch, Co Clare
Gregans Castle, Co Clare
The dining room at Gregans Castle Hotel overlooks Galway Bay and the limestone of the Burren hills, as well as the hotel’s own gardens. The house dates from 1750 and the dining room is the original dining room and library, with the addition of the large bay windows to show off views of the garden. J. R. R. Tolkien was a regular guest at the house in the 1950s and was inspired by the Burren landscape while writing Lord of the Rings.
In 1967 the house became a hotel and since 1976 it has been run by the Haden family. Simon Haden and his wife Freddie McMurray have been running it since 2003, and the dining room was decorated by McMurray. Other guests who have dined here over the years include Steven Spielberg, Sharon Stone, Kathy Bates and Gabriel Byrne. Chef Robbie McCauley and restaurant manager Deirdre O’Sullivan earned Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant at the recent RAI Irish Restaurant Awards. McCauley has a superb modern Irish style with a strong emphasis on local ingredients like organic Burren lamb and game and Atlantic fish and shellfish, and they are also growing their own vegetables and herbs.
This is a beautiful room with a modern feel, but in keeping with a country house, and they want diners to feel relaxed and comfortable. If you’re lucky enough to dine there in summer, you might spot the sunset glow of pink and orange dance onto the limestone rock, and in winter, the distant lights of Galway city glimmer across the bay.
Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
Glenlo Abbey, Co Galway
The Pullman restaurant at Glenlo Abbey is a truly special experience. A stone’s throw from the main entrance of the gorgeous Galway hotel, sit two original Pullman carriages. They have been lovingly restored with stunning burgundy interiors, and guests can book their own private booth or sit by the window and enjoy the views over the estate and Lough Corrib.
It was built in 1927 where it enjoyed routes to Monaco, Russia and Istanbul. Laurence Olivier used to take The Pullman Carriage on its Brighton run which carried actors from London’s West End to tread the boards in Brighton. It was also used for the Agatha Christie film from 1974, Murder on the Orient Express. There is something very glamourous about being shown to your own private carriage with linen table cloth and little lamps. You feel like you have travelled back in time.
The food here is excellent and they have been awarded two AA rosettes. Expect to see Skeaghanore duck and Castlemine lamb on the menu and the majority of herbs and wild foods used in their dishes are grown in their own gardens or foraged in the local area.
Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Kentfield Bushy Park, Galway City, Co Galway
Carrig Country House, Co Kerry
One of the loveliest things to accompany a great meal is a beautiful view, and the Lakeside restaurant at Carrig Country House in Kerry has a 180 degree view from its windows over Caragh lake and the Kerry mountains.
Carrig House was built around 1850 as a hunting lodge and was part of the Blennerhassett Estate. It has been mostly owned, and used, by British aristocracy, who used it for hunting and fishing. Frank and Mary Slattery bought the property 23 years ago. Initially, they had six bedrooms as well as the restaurant, but as demand increased over the years they have expanded to 17 bedrooms. The focus from their head chef is consistency and in getting the best flavours in her dishes from a wide range of fresh local cuisine.
The menu features Irish trout and salmon from the lake and delicious Kerry lamb and organic vegetables. One of the most memorable elements of this dining room is the stunning, joyful William Morris wallpaper with a fruit design. This, along with the views, are the showstoppers in this dining room.
Caragh Lake, Killorglin, Ring of Kerry, Co Kerry
King Sitric, Co Dublin
One of the nicest things about eating by the sea when on holiday is that you are usually looking out on waters where the seafood dish you are enjoying was caught. At the King Sitric, which perches by the water’s edge at Howth harbour, Co Dublin, you can enjoy exactly the same kind of experience.
Aidan MacManus opened The King Sitric in 1971 with a vision to source the best of local fish and shellfish and serve delicious dishes to his customers. Almost 50 years later, his reputation for excellence has earned the restaurant a reputation for exceptional food and they have won countless awards. In 2000 the old harbour master's house where the restaurant was located was renovated and the dining room moved up to the first floor. The dining room has large windows to maximise the beautiful views of Balscadden Bay, the harbour and the marina. Eight guest bedrooms were also added.
The menu here is written and adapted daily to whatever delights local fishermen and producers have for them. While the emphasis is on fish and shellfish, naturally, they will feature meat or game on the menu, too. It is a beautiful room, very simple and natural, with an antique wooden floor. It’s especially lovely in the evening when the sun sets and you can follow its light moving across the harbour.
King Sitric, Fish Restaurant & Accommodation, East Pier, Howth, Co Dublin
Wineport Lodge, Co Westmeath
The ever-changing views from the dining room of luxury haven, Wineport Lodge, over Lough Ree are worth the trip there alone. Located on the banks of Lough Ree, near Glasson village in Co Westmeath, Wineport is one of the most serene, idyllic settings for a hotel in the country. It started as a restaurant in 1993 and as its reputation for fine food grew and grew, so did the hotel and its number of bedrooms. The chefs are passionate about locally sourced produce, cooked perfectly with care and served without fuss or pretentiousness. People travel from miles away to enjoy the food here, and its spectacular setting. Wineport was host for many series to The Restaurant Show both on RTÉ and TV3. The pretty trees and woodland that surrounds it is reflected in the exterior and interior with a very relaxing atmosphere in the dining room. Don’t be surprised to see a boat pull up to the jetty as you gaze out over the lough, while you dine. This is a very special place with a very special dining room.
Wineport Lodge, Glasson, Athlone, Co Westmeath
Rosleague Manor, Co Galway
One of Rosleague Manor big attractions, especially for guests coming for a week or two, is that the menu changes every single day. This family-run country house in Connemara, Co Galway, prides itself on using what is good and in season, and the chef writes the new menu based on that each day. Mark Foyle is the proprietor and his grandmother bought the house in 1968. It was a six bedroom Georgian manor and she converted it to a small country house.
The classic dining room has a distinctive terracotta hue on the walls, two beautiful matching Waterford Crystal chandeliers that date from the 1960s, and a dinner set decorates one of the walls. They don’t use white linen as they have antique chairs and tables. This is a sophisticated room, but unpretentious and with a friendly feel. There are four tall windows which overlook the gardens, and then across the bay towards Connemara National Park, the Twelve Pins and Kylemore mountain.
The specialities in the restaurant are fresh local seafood like Cleggan Bay crab and line-caught mackerel and also Leenane mountain lamb. They also keep pigs on the grounds which feature on the menu occasionally. The food here speaks for itself and Foyle wants their kitchen to let the ingredients and flavours speak for themselves.
Rosleague Manor, Letterfrack, Connemara, Co Galway
Ice House Hotel, Co Mayo
The Riverview restaurant at Ballina’s Ice House Hotel makes the most of its stunning location on the banks of the river Moy in Co Mayo. The fantastic floor to ceiling and overhead glazing shows off the views of Belleek Wood and the river which flows past this very cool, elegant dining room.
Originally called the Iceland Cottage, the Ice House Hotel is steeped in history and is actually the original ice store. It has an ideal position on the Moy estuary and in the late eighteenth, and early nineteenth, century tonnes of wild salmon were kept and preserved under ice before being shipped to Dublin and Liverpool. The hotel has cleverly incorporated its heritage to create a beautiful room with a stunning architectural design and contemporary style. It is also full of character and features like the whitewashed original walls.
The menu showcases the best of the Wild Atlantic Way, with delightful seasonal menus created by head chef Anthony Holland. Holland loves to show off the best of locally caught seafood and seasonal produce, foraged wild herbs and quality Irish meats.
Ice House, The Quay, Ballina, Co Mayo
Park Hotel Kenmare, Co Kerry
Park Hotel Kenmare is a Victorian landmark that dates back to 1897, and many guests have fallen so madly in love with it that they return year after year. It is located in the heritage town of Kenmare, Co Kerry.
The beautiful dining room has heavenly views over Kenmare Bay, and the hotel grounds, to enjoy while you dine. Its elegant Lily Chandelier was blown especially for the room by Millers of Bond Street in London. The dining room won Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland 2018 at the Irish Restaurant Awards and has won many other prestigious international awards.
Head chef James Coffey’s five- and seven-course tasting menus change entirely every day to reflect the very best of the local producers with whom they have worked for many years. Expect to see Lough Neagh smoked eel and Dingle gin cured salmon on the menu, as well as delicious rump of lamb and a superb selection of local and Irish cheeses. This hotel will charm you, like all of its guests, for its warmth, class, quality and elegance.
Park Hotel Kenmare, Kenmare, Co Kerry
Ireland’s Blue Book is a luxurious collection of country houses, historic hotels, castles and restaurants around the island of Ireland. For more information, visit irelandsbluebook.com.