A warm welcome to west Waterford
ROOM AT THE INN
MY driver says there are two speeds in Ireland: slow and stop. As we motor through sleepy villages and past posters for the National Ploughing Championships, I don’t doubt it.
This part of west Waterford is beautiful and undeveloped and our destination, the village of Ardmore, is no exception. There is a pub, school, church, shop and restaurant serving sandwiches and tea and slabs of pie. Oh, and sweeping down the banks of the cliff in sheets of modern glass, the Cliff House Hotel.
How could such a place, trailing in its wake a Michelin-starred restaurant and a glitzy spa, have found itself here?
My driver says the spectacular waterfront site was up for sale and the village, population 500, was worried some ‘‘nasty developer’’ would get their hands on it. So they went to the O’Callaghans — a local family with a thriving media business — and told them they should buy it. The O’Callaghans, with no previous experience in hotels but with the moral support of the village, did just that.
Each of the hotel’s 39 guestrooms looks out over a magnificent sandy bay. The decor is trendy. There are 18thcentury cabinets and brass lamps mixed with modern art and magenta carpets; bathrooms are mosaic-tiled in funky colours, with two-person showers and waterfall taps; beds are huge and supremely comfortable.
The spa does the full line of facials and massages; its centrepiece is a swimming pool with an almighty wall of glass overlooking the ocean. The bar has very fine food all day, including ad- dictively good, deep, cakey soda bread served with thick slices of salty butter.
From The House Restaurant, Dutch chef Martijn Kajuiter sends rainbowstudded plates of trickery out to packed tables. (Book well in advance.)
If this all sounds slick, hip and polished, think again. The Cliff House is the labour of love of two non-hoteliers and is run with traditional, homegrown warmth. The porter has a story to tell you, the waitress doesn’t stop smiling, and the vicar is taking tea with a glam- orous young lady, eating a fat scone and drinking a whiskey from down the road in Midleton. Everything is slow (as my driver foretold), friendly, rustic — but whatever you ask for is no problem. ‘‘Of course, it’ll be right there.’’
There are quirks aplenty — such as the floating golfing green 175m offshore. If you manage to pot one of the biodegradable balls, the champagne is on the house. And if you want to explore, down in the village is Ardmore Adventures, an operator offering wild swimming, windsurfing or snorkelling out past pods of dolphins. My morning of kayaking is glorious, and far too short.
The greatest surprise is what a secret the Cliff House has been until now. It opened in 2008, and while it filled immediately with Irish glitterati and appreciative locals, it has stayed under the radar. All that is changing. AZB Knight was a guest of The Cliff House Hotel.
The Cliff House Hotel, dramatically perched in the village of Ardmore