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Lucinda's 20 Best
 Coastal Hotspots 2018

Lucinda's 20 Best
 Coastal Hotspots 2018

Wednesday 13 June 2018

"Are we there yet, are we there yet", is the familiar cry that will ring out in cars across the country this bank holiday weekend, as holidayers head for the coasts in search of summertime fun. Everyone will have to be fed, and, luckily, Ireland has some of the best coastal cuisine around, plus some amazing settings in which to enjoy it. From the Wild Atlantic Way around to the Ancient East, and with settings ranging from converted shipping containers, to renovated baths, to majestic medieval castles, you'll find the perfect place to keep them all happy in my 20 Best Coastal Hotspots.

You won’t get more retro than rattling over the boards of the Bull Wall down to Dollymount Strand, a fave haunt of Dubliners down the generations. Join the endless stream of guys and gals for coffees and toasties on the deck at Happy Out, a raised up converted shipping container, which looks like a military outpost in a desert. Open from sun-up to sundown.

With a bar at one end, an open kitchen and views out over Dublin Bay, not to mention a big floating yellow rubber duck, the iconic Clontarf Baths is now a stunning cross between Deauville and Dublin at its best. Think cocktails, seafood, and a lot of fun. Try the Poitina Colada and a Knickerbocker Glory.

Near the old Dun Laoghaire Baths, and beside Teddy’s Ice-cream, this friendly casual all day cafe bistro does great food at good prices from smashed avocado on toast with a chilli fried egg to crispy calamari to Dublin Bay prawns in garlic butter.

You can almost see as far as Holyhead in this cool gastrobar located on Bray’s Victorian promenade, above the National Sea Life Centre, which has an extensive menu from sambos to seafood to steaks. Walk the prom, watch the big fishies swim, have a shrimp and avo sambo and finish with an ice-cream across the road at the fab Gelateria.

Sip a margarita from a salt encrusted glass on a heated deck and follow up with a stonking pizza, a veggie burger or Wexford crab linguini, in a setting that is hard to beat, within a whisper of the waves, yet with an urban vibe that’s a cross between New York & Milan and all in Ballymoney’s Seafield Hotel.

On the long narrow stretch of road from Wexford to Ballyhack, where the ferry runs across to Passage East, is The Hollow at Ramsgrange. A jolly good seafood and steakhouse eatery, it also has a great value Fish & Chips Takeaway, with outdoor seating, serving monkfish scampi, lamb burgers, wings, and steak sandwiches.

On Davitt’s Quay, overlooking the harbour, Susan Denn’s newly revamped cafe restaurant does fantastic food for all tastes and ages at great prices. Her ethos is to serve locally produced food, with a minimum of fuss. An absolute delight.

With water views that have you feeling you’re in Portofino, and a private garden with marquee that welcomes both kids and dogs, Skinny’s Diner in Ballycotton is a gem. From a battered Mars bar to a fish burger with gluten free buns, plus falafels and maybe a special of Khobez bread wrap with sweet potato chips.

Great casual grub in a laid back stylish setting, plus an outdoor space for an al fresco chow down, in, the gourmet capital, Kinsale. From a veggie breakfast with grilled halloumi and spiced potatoes, to lunchtime open crab meat sambos, coronation chook, and great chowder.

Set in the former Annie’s of Ballydehob, opposite the famous ‘Misses' Levis pub, Jamie and Emma Budd serve delicious casual food from sambos or cured meat boards, to Wagyu beef burgers and Indian platters. Lots for the veggie, gluten free and vegan. Cool Cats kids menu too. 

A tucked away gem in a bungalow on the Sneem Road out of Kenmare. Run by a French chef and his wife, they do all day breakfast, fab French pastries, baguettes, gateaux, salads and hot dishes. Lovely gardens, parking, and a B&B too. Watch for their monthly specials such as Indonesian buffet evenings.

Set in the Clifden Boat Club, The Boardwalk Cafe in Co. Galway offers an idyllic setting that’s bursting with atmosphere. Chef Simon Trezise serves up fab seasonal homemade cuisine, plus pizzas, falafel and Kung-po chicken, with the perfect backdrop by way of panoramic views out over Clifden Bay. Great value.

Randy Lewis’ long-standing cafe restaurant on the seafront in Lahinch, Co. Clare, is a surfers paradise. The decor is cool, the atmosphere light and breezy, and the food is really good. They do a cracking Caesar salad and some great pasta and pizza dishes too.

Part of the Burren Food Trail, this charming 18thC inn in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, has been fantastically restored, maintained and run by the Quinn family, and when it comes to good seafood, they really push the boat out. Grab an oyster shot and a pesto crusted halibut steak, and maybe even stay the night.

This cool cafe restaurant, on the Main Street in Oughterard, specializes in fresh homemade meals, cakes and breads, as well as craft beers, and wines from carefully selected small suppliers, is a busy buzzy community hub doing a great food from breakfast through to dinner.

Under the shadow of Croagh Patrick, and overlooking Clew Bay, the village of Murrisk in Co. Mayo is home to the fab Tavern Bar & Restaurant. With a well deserved rep for top fishy fare, both at the bar and their upstairs restaurant, which opens during the summer, The Tavern is a perfect spot to relax and unwind.

Belleek Castle in Co. Mayo is a wonderful place to escape the modern world and let your knights of the round table fantasies come to life. Besides the awe inspiring aesthetic, the food at their Jack Fenn Café is really good. Set in the Castle's old stable buildings, it's perfect for a casual repast while taking in the magic medieval mood.

As a boy, Anthony Gray worked in his father’s butcher’s shop on Rockwood Parade, where he opened Hooked last year. You'll find great local and artisan produce from retro prawn cocktails to a chicken snack box to homemade profiteroles. There's a Little Nippers menu too.

Perfectly situated just opposite Donegal Pier is the fab Quay West. Set over two levels, downstairs offers intimacy while the upper level features fantastic views out over Donegal Bay in a fresh airy atmosphere. It’s all about local produce here, where the aim is to provide delicious, nutritious, affordable food sourced from Donegal’s best local suppliers and producers.

On Pier Road in the pretty village of Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, Ronnie Blake’s little ‘kitchen’ is an absolute gem. From tasty breads and cakes, to chowder that makes your heart sing, and that’s before you get to the Donegal crab linguini or Hawaiian steak burger. BTW, he also has the fab Salt & Batter takeaway next door.

First Published In The Sunday Independent