I love me a good getaway. Would jump on a plane and head to the sunny shores of where ever if I could but a trip through the highlands of Ireland is just as satisfying. Or so we thought. With a bank holiday looming and a few days off work what a better time to get away. My god had we underestimated the popularity of a staycation. Nowhere was there a room to be had, without spending a small fortune of course. Silly me. It just never occurred to us to try find a cheap flight and head away. Why would we with the Irish countryside at our fingertips. Honestly with the schizophrenic weather we’re having this summer, and the prices our destination ultimately charged us, we may have had a better time in the sun!
In our blinkered love of Ireland, we were determined to find somewhere nice. With no car at our disposal we were bound by the train [or the bus – though I didn’t fancy a 5 hour trek westward in a cramped carriage]. Mayo, Sligo, Cork, Kerry were all booked out. Then someone suggested Carlingford. Where may that be? I asked, having missed out on my 4th year school tour. East coast. Beautiful landscape. True. I googled it. The odd hen but well worth it I was assured. I admit I did balk initially at the thought of a weekend in Co. Louth. Little did I know. But I threw my snobbery aside and off we bounced.
Our B and B was a lovely home run by an attentive pair Michael and Glynnis. Website doesn’t do it justice. The place sits overlooking the Lough, which was a nice treat. And was just a short skip and a hop to the town which suited our needs perfectly. The room was, as they say, grand. Nothing to write home about but it fit the bill. Comfortable, spacious and clean. There was, however, the feeling of staying with the in-laws when the next morning Glynnis enquired whether our sleep had been rumbled by some noisy neighbours. Oblivious to the hidden insinuation, we shook our heads and tucked into our average breakfast, blissfully unaware that our 12am return was possibly considered disruptive. It was the only slight on the stay. Perhaps we were being too sensitive. Maybe our TV watching hadn’t kept our neighbours awake but when we were the only guests asked, we became a little suspicious.
Carlingford is indeed very picturesque with the mountains of Mourne and Slieve Foy bordering it. The Lough lying in wait with an abundance of water sports on offer, weather pending. Standing on the harbour’s edge you could see right across to Northern Ireland. It was fabulous. And more close to home were the colourful houses, cobbled streets and remnants of a castle and its walls at either ends of the town. None of this is lost on the locals. From the random Leprechaun museum to the extortionately priced pub grub [and restaurants too], this village has firmly set out its stall for the tourists and the dreaded hens. Like locusts they swarmed in, smothering the streets with strangled goat like shrieking. We struggled to book a table for dinner the first night, even with 13 restaurants in a town no bigger than a postage stamp. In the meantime the business owners lapped it up while the regular punter paid dearly, it seemed.
When the anger subsided we realised these are people who are simply cashing in on trend, riding a deflated but not altogether burst bubble. We did find one lovely and very reasonable restaurant, Riina’s and like the Oystercatcher the next night, it was run by a very hardworking and attentive woman, each with a young helper. The difference between the two restaurants was the price. Yet while the Oystercatcher had the benefit of the B and to fill its tables, I would be quicker to go back to Riina’s for the abundance of food alone.
Would I go back Carlingford in general? In short. No. But for one saving grace. Ma Bakers Pub. The professionalism and efficiency shown by the pub’s three bartenders warmed my heart. They possessed the cleanest bar I’d ever seen. And while the place swelled with gaggling, knickerless, hens the first night and fist throwing beer swilling lads the next they always kept a smile on their faces, a keen eye on their customers [a smashed glass was clocked and cleared within minutes of crumbling at my feet] and a bit of banter. Sure isn’t that what you want when you go away in Ireland. The famous oul banter? Unfair to say the rest of Carlingford doesn’t have it but the high prices are a little bit off putting. My advice, skip the Saturday, go down on a Sunday and seat yourselves in Ma Bakers. The Smirnoff Ices are on me.