My first visit to the wonderful scenery that is Clare Island – sitting at the head of Clew Bay near Westport – Ireland – was about four years ago – and who better to give us a song than the Saw Doctors.
The warm, friendly and welcoming reception I received then stayed with me – so when an opportunity arose to call again came my way – I jumped at the chance.
After a long traverse of the island from the Napoleonic Signal Tower on the majestic western cliffs – scaling the high points of Knockmore and the slightly lower Knocknaveen – then descending back down into the picturesque harbour area – I was in need of a stiff drink.
Meeting up with others in the Sailor’s Bar I was pleasantly surprised by the fine range of whiskeys on offer.
Now it doesn’t quite reach whiskey bar status – but for a small island – this was a lovely find!
A good array of Irish expressions from the big three distilleries – Midleton – Bushmills and Kilbegan/Cooley – together with some big brand Scotch and a bit of bourbon too – brought the total up to a respectable 30 or so different bottles.
As is my wont – I started out with something I’d never tried before – Loch Lomond Single Malt.
Hailing from the respected Loch Lomond Group – an independent distiller and bottler based just within the Scottish Highland whisky region with many expressions on offer – this particular entry level non-age statement single malt has the old design prior to being revamped with more snazzy packaging.
I found it a fairly smooth and sweet non-peaty pleasant dram offering a decent taste experience with few surprises. It whetted my appetite for something more bolder so a Connemara followed with it’s satisfyingly rich peaty smoke.
Loch Lomond Group also do an entry level blend which isn’t too bad either.
Mrs Whiskey joined me later and together we dined on some very tasty seafood dishes which we enjoyed immensely – especially as the bar looks out onto a stunning view of the Atlantic with County Mayo’s hills in the near distance.
My goodness! This place is a real find. Stunning scenery, fine whiskey, excellent food, friendly staff and to top it all – some local craft beer too!
Mescan Brewery are based on the lower slopes of the mighty Croagh Patrick whose massive bulk dominates the skyline to the South East of Clare Island. I couldn’t resist pairing their Westport Red Tripel offering with my meal.
Over the course of two very enjoyable evenings the warm welcome we received on our first visit was further enhanced by yet more marvelous ceol agus craic!
We stayed at a lovely local B&B and along with the lively Sailor’s Bar also frequented the Community Centre which doubles as another bar – albeit with a slightly diminished whiskey range. A Teachers Original was chosen at this premises – but Inishowen still wins out for me.
During our short stay the entertainment was non-stop.
A stag party one evening followed by a hen party the next.
Live music on both nights provided by some talented young musicians called Teannas – one of whose videos is below.
A Pier To Pier charity swim across the 3 miles separating Clare Island from Roonagh Pier on the mainland together with a dancing competition, a wildlife festival and some hilarious community games including a sheep race, a potato picking race and a horse dumping betting competition!
I kid you not – Clare Island is buzzing!
Our time on Clare was so limited I didn’t have time to go through all the whiskey in the bar.
Perhaps another visit is necessary!