ALONG one of the busiest routes on the south coast of Ireland is one of the country’s most spectacular views.
The N25 heading east from Youghal and past Ardmore ploughs through miles of rich and forested Co Waterford countryside before rising up on the hills to Windgap (at An Seanchaí Bar) just before the town of Dungarvan. It’s worth stopping here — there’s even a viewing area with a lay-by — to sample the view of the estuary and its hinterland. It’s magnificent.
And Dungarvan itself, the administrative headquarters of Co Waterford, is a town which has had a turbulent history since it was first settled by the Deise tribe in the third century AD. The town is a thriving commercial and residential centre which retains its shape since it was redesigned in the early 19th century by the fifth and sixth Dukes of Devonshire when the square, new streets and a bridge linking it to Abbeyside on the far side of the Colligan river was constructed.
In the early 1980s traffic on the euroroute trundled through the town, however, a bypass built just to the north of the town has ended any congestion and it is a town worth exploring, with many attractions in the surrounding areas for a pleasant break.
The Park Hotel in Dungarvan is located just off the bypass facing the Colligan river estuary, so it’s easy to find. With its leisure centre and thriving wedding trade it seems to be constantly busy with plenty of cars in the large car parks surrounding the building. However busy it is, though, the staff were friendly and welcoming at reception and we were processed and on our way to our room in minutes.
Having recently gone through a major refurbishment programme, our accommodation at the rear of the hotel was spacious and well fitted out. The furnishings were all soft creams and luxurious; the fresh crisp linen and soft duvets ensured good night’s sleeps and afternoon naps after a walk exploring the gold coast. A bowl of fresh fruit in the room was a welcoming touch, but nicest of all was the vaulted ceiling which rose over the bed and stretched to the balcony windows, which reached to double the height of the room, giving great light and airiness to the room. The bathroom was spotlessly clean and well provisioned.
The Park Hotel has a leisure facility featuring a fitness centre and 20 metre swimming pool with a separate children’s funpool. It also features a therapeutic whirlpool, sauna, steam room, sunbeds and a gym with an array of fitness equipment. For families on a break, the hotel also organises a ‘Kids Club’ at certain times of the year so check when booking. They also prepare smaller meals from the kids menu with smaller portions and will arrange babysitting services.
The Garden Room is the main dining area in the hotel, but they also offer a menu in the Meladon Bar at the front of the hotel. As part of a two-night break deal we dined in the hotel on the first night and we were not disappointed with the menu’s offerings; the quality of the food was very good, the service efficient and a nice touch was the hotel manager doing the rounds of the table to greet the guests and enquire of our satisfaction.
WHAT TO DO
Dungarvan is a town best explored on foot. The hotel is only a five minute walk away from the main square at the centre from which the four main shopping streets radiate. Beyond there are a number of parks — with the ‘Lookout’ park providing views out over the estuary. It is also the starting point for the walk along the protected wildlife habitat of the Back Bay. Along the harbour there are many restaurants and bars with outdoor seating to kick back at for a leisurely lunch. Nearby the 12th century Norman Dungarvan Castle (refurbished by the OPW) is open from spring to autumn. Historical buffs may wish to check out the town’s museum, or visit the arts centre located in the old medieval market house. Two golf clubs are located nearby — the Dungarvan and Gold Coast are both 18-hole par 72 and set in a stunning location. Should the weather permit then a visit to Clonea Strand is a must: the two-mile strand is one of the best on the county’s coast.
One of the deciding factors in my choice of Dungarvan for a weekend break was the rave reviews that chef Paul Flynn’s The Tannery restaurant had received in the media (including the Irish Examiner’s food critics). However, having booked weeks in advance we were disappointed not to be seated in the main dining room but instead seated in a anteroom on the ground floor, albeit by pleasant waiting staff. The á la carte menu was limited to say the least — a choice of five starters and five mains — but I had heard of the ‘fabulous Crab Creme Brulee’ and selected that while my wife choose the Duck Rilettes. Both failed spectacularly to impress, the crab was far too salty and the duck too nondescript and bore no resemblance to what should have been a rich and flavoursome dish. Main courses of a rib-eye steak did what it said on the menu, but the pork was far too fatty. The Pannacotta dessert was the only high point of the meal, only to be knocked back down by a dreadful coffee to close the meal. If tempted to try The Tannery for yourself, request the main dining room at time of booking.
Better still, just off the main square on O’Connell St is Nude Food — an absolute gem of a find. We visited for lunch and were completely wowed over by the food.
An extensive menu made choice difficult, but my wife’s Ploughman’s Lunch was the best version of the dish we ever came across, and the lamb burger for me was simply superb.
Chef Louise Clark also opens for dinner from Thursday to Saturday and booking is a must. And if you dine out once in Dungarvan, or are just passing through, then Nude Food ticks all of the boxes.
ANYTHING TO ADD
The Dungarvan Park Hotel offers weekend breaks from €109pps and family breaks at the same price in which kids go free.
Over-55s can avail of a four night break from €165pps. Easter family breaks costs from €119per adult sharing and includes two nights bed & breakfast with one evening meal on the evening of your choice.
Children go free with a complimentary easter egg for each child.