Only two episodes in, and already locals in Dunmore East are noticing an increase in tourist numbers, says Jonathan deBurca Butler.
There was a collective gasp from punters in the Spinnaker pub in Dunmore East as the second episode of BBC/RTE drama Redwater ended last Sunday.
It was difficult to tell if it was due to the shock finale or simple relief that the show had ended. The six-part drama which features Eastenders favourites Cat and Alfie Moone has been greeted with a mixture of curiosity, pride and confusion.
“I’m living thirty steps across the road,” says local Tony Corcoran.
“One of my friends was very much involved but I’m not in it. It’s great to see. The more the merrier. It’s good for business.”
Down the road at The Strand Inn, Elaine Downes is glued to the screen.
“We were here the first night,” she says.
“They had a big screen outside and everyone was very excited about it. Everybody was spotting places and people. I’ve seen a new gift shop opening up already and I’ve seen a lot more Facebook posts up now for accommodation and tours.
"I think it’s just the start of it and it ties in with all the other things that are going on in the county, like the newly opened Greenway and all the other things happening in the city.”
“I think it’s fantastic,” says her husband Barry.
“It highlights how beautiful this part of the country really is. We often think it looks a bit like Sorrento here in the summer with the walks along the cliffs and the like. Hard to believe really that such a beautiful place exists.”
There is no doubt, Dunmore East is a special place. There are few places like it in Ireland with its upper and lower villages divided by a hill that pokes out into the bay like a shifty sentinel protecting the myriad hidden coves. This must have been a mecca for pirates back in the day.
The town’s size and topography have probably been to its advantage. Their beaches and fields are small when compared to the vast open spaces of places like Tramore, Lahinch or Achill in Mayo and because of that there has been no over development.
Dunmore East has managed to maintain its integrity and thus is still very much a place that you visit for one reason.
“It’s always been about being able to just switch off,” says Clifden Foyle, owner of The Strand Inn.
“That’s what it’s all about here. Dunmore is small and you can get everywhere on foot. That’s the real charm of the place; you dump the car and walk everywhere. A pizza in Azzuro’s or a coffee in the village and a few pints later in the evening. People come here to chill.”
And if that’s what you’re after then The Strand Inn is perfect. Situated slap bang in the centre of the lower village, it dangles dramatically above beautiful Lawlor’s Beach. Our room had two large bay windows looking out onto the ever changing sea.
Within minutes of arriving we had our feet up and were consuming all that lay in front of us (which included a very nice pint of a well-known Dublin stout).
We could have stayed in that spot all night but there were rumblings of crab claws and fresh fish which were causing rumblings in our stomachs.
When we arrived downstairs for dinner at 8pm into a large and bright dining room we were placed by the window. The staff were attentive without being too intrusive and spoke us through that night’s specials.
For starters we ordered the aforementioned crab claws in a light chili sauce (€13.95). Twelve huge claws were laid out in front of me and duly disappeared.
Dusk descended and we noticed a trawler head out from the pier and towards the open sea. As its twinkling lights grew more distant our second course arrived.
“Did it come from down there?” I asked nodding towards the pier.
“The hake?” replied Stacey (diamond of a waitress).
“It did. It’s all locally sourced, this was caught this morning.”
It was fantastic and was accompanied by a type of potato dauphinoise and greens. We polished it off with homemade apple crumble and a coffee.
After watching Redwater and concluding our research for the evening we retired to our room, opened our window and dozed off listening to the waves below.
Next morning after a hearty breakfast, we decide to clear out the cobwebs with a ramble to the pier via the Upper Village. On our way we spotted many of the places we recognised from the previous evening’s Redwater episode.
The Church, where the murdering priest, Father Oisin Stack, is wracked by guilt from dawn to dusk, is in fact Protestant, but then most Irish people would probably know that straight away.
The upper village itself is quaint. There are some well preserved thatched cottages and many of the villages pubs are your classic old fellas.
Power’s on the main street is a nice clean pub and if you need to keep the teens entertained while you enjoy a scoop they have a pool table.
The pier itself is fairly run of the mill affair, there is after all a thriving fishing industry.
The perils of that profession are brought home in a rather arresting fashion by a beautiful monument to the scores of people who have fallen prey to the sea. It is a stark reminder of this town’s heart and soul.
From the end of the pier there is a great view out over to Hook Head in Wexford and just across the harbour is Stoney Cove where children’s water activities take place during the summer. It’s also from this pier that you catch a ride with Brendan Glody and his team at Dunmore Boat Trips.
Back in the Upper Village we meet Darrel Moyser who has recently opened Breakwater Gift Shop with his partner Emma Loftus.
“I have definitely noticed people rocking up and getting out of cars and taking photographs,” he says of the Redwater effect.
“More buses pulling in and people taking selfies and the like. We’re selling all Irish products in here and it’s great for local artists and craftspeople. It’s going well and people are very excited.”
“We can definitely see an inrease in enquires“ says Clifden Foyle.
“There are more phone calls coming in from the UK and more bookings. And that’s a bit different because Dunmore is very much domestic. Dubs coming down or people from Kilkenny, Tipp, Cork and we would get a sprinkling of British visitors.”
With the success of Redwater, that looks set to change, at least in the short term.
Dunmore East is about 20kms outside Waterford City. Buses from the bus station in Waterford City depart every weekday. We stayed in The Strand Inn in the Lower Village.
By all accounts Azzuro’s beside the church is top notch but we ate in The Strand and had a fantastic seafood meal and a bottle of wine for under €100. That included a top class Rioja and the setting was second to none.
Ladies Cove is one of four secluded coves in Dunmore east itself and it is a lovely secluded spot for a bit of downtime.
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