Fine dining at its best in County Limerick.
We were recently given the opportunity to visit the renowned Mustard Seed in County Limerick not far from Adare. We also explored other parts of County Limerick while we had the opportunity.
Arriving via the splendid Ring Road around Limerick, it beats the Galway one and following the M20 signs for Cork /Croom, we checked in at the Blue Book accredited Mustard Seed, Ballingarry, outside Adare. An old country house style accommodation, with 4-poster beds plus all modern amenities and even a library room.
There may not be spas, but peace can be found reading in the library and embarking on nearby walks and trails like the Heather one to the rear of the house, gardens, and orchard.
Ballingarry is close to Adare, but the best visit of all was Lough Gur and its ancient civilisation.
Waterford Vikings reached there too, taking on competing tribes from Limerick. The hurling clashes of late may have resurrected the rivalry between the Deise and the Treatymen, but they had more serious battles in the past. The Deise were involved too in the upper reaches of the Suir, as they went up the river to Thurles and onwards to Limerick, coming over the Lough Gur region. We had been there decades before with some enthusiasm for old Celtic monuments and found Lough Gur.
It was near the largest stone circle in Ireland, just off the Kilmallock-Limerick Road, about two hours from Waterford City.
Lough Gur is very well preserved, free and is under the Office of Public Works (OPW) charge. Accessible cark park but not many car spaces for high summer. This is a great place to meditate and contemplate times whilst marvelling at the ingenuity of these early Irish settlers.
Lough Gur has some accessible walks, wooded areas and a nice little coffee wagon for a boost to the system. A new interpretive centre too, detailing the background and history of Lough Gur. The man in charge was helpful with local maps and tips for directions, the google maps service of the area is not overly accurate. There is a Tudor feel to the town and possesses a little remaining piece of English culture in Ireland. There are lots of fancy cafes, restaurants, shopping, and wealthy residents with prosperous jobs in nearby Limerick City. There are a pleasant walking area and fine playground for children. Fitzgerald Castle was also recommended by our mustard seed hosts near Rathkeale.
Foynes and the famous Flying boat museum is also worth a look, the writer attended a special day with Maureen O’Hara, famous American film star there on the day in the past.
Great photos of war time sea planes are there, like the replica of the Boeing 314 flying boat. There is World War II pictures of celebrities using the airport, even Churchill used it for trips to Lisbon and America. Former U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt ‘s wife travelled there during the war, pre-Normandy invasion for a morale boost to American forces in the UK.
Later American tourists came here via aeroplane and the Irish coffee was invented here, welcomed by passengers exposed to the Atlantic cold weather on their flying boats in the early post war era.
Commercial flying boats came here in the pre-Shannon era. The long-distance planes could use the airport and Irelands maiden duty-free shop was inaugurated at Shannon Airport. Also, the Foynes Maritime Museum is a must-see, as well as the deep-sea Shannon port. Limerick city’s Hunt Gallery and Kings Island are worth a day trip also. Walks along the Shannon are worthwhile and there are signs too for Killaloe, a cruising centre on the Shannon waters.
If you are thinking of flying in and out of Shannon this summer stay in Limerick for a day or better still have a layover at the Mustard Seed Country House Hotel.
History of the Mustard Seed
Originally, Echo Lodge was a long-thatched dwelling located in what is now the kitchen garden. The foundations of this house are still evident and annually pose impermeable difficulty for the gardeners! This thatched house was a stopping house for the great Daniel O’ Connell, ‘the Liberator’ on his journey from Derrynane to Dublin during his political career.
In 1885, the parish priest, Rev. Timothy Ryan Shanahan built the present Echo Lodge as a parochial house. The cost of the building was £3,000, much of which was raised in America. It was then sold to the Mercy order of nuns for 1 penny. A small primary school was added to the building and the nuns continued to run the primary school until the 1970’s. Echo Lodge was sold as a private residence but for a brief period before, it lay idle.
Meanwhile, in 1985, Dan Mullane set up the Mustard Seed restaurant in a cute cottage nearby, in Adare village. From small beginnings, the Mustard Seed soon gained popularity and became one of the first successful ‘fine dining’ restaurants in the area. Having been established for 10 years, Dan decided to progress from being a stand-alone restaurant and brought the Mustard Seed to Echo Lodge, thus allowing dinner guests the opportunity to stay overnight. Renovation began in 1994 and the Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge opened in 1995.
In 2016, ownership of The Mustard Seed changed hands from Dan to his manager of 25 years, John Edward Joyce – your host.
We were greeted by front of house, Oliver from Taiwan. An exceptional character who told us he was just back from a holiday in Taiwan after 3 years of lockdown. Full of enthusiasm, we spoke of our visits to Asia in the past.
A welcome homemade elderberry prosecco followed in the library, which was very pleasant, with courteous old-style service by local staff.
A beautiful poem by Wordsworth about spring daffodils are the theme of the menu. An organic wine was chosen. Fantini Monte Pulciano from sunny Italy.
The 5-course dinner is priced at over €70 and could be your meal of the year, better one good meal than two less quality meals! Soup (potato and cumin) or starters like turbot and cabbage, scallops were great too. Main courses included lamb rack or leg bone, an alternative was a goat’s cheese one with beetroot, real melt in the mouth food. Desserts were also to savour, the likes of rhubarb from the gardens and ice creams. The Mustard Seed restaurant is legendary with superb food and warm hospitality. Sitting on acres of manicured lawns, an orchard and a working kitchen garden, this eclectic, heritage-filled hideaway is the perfect destination for your vacation stopover, romantic nights, lazy days, special occasions, family weddings, civil ceremonies, intimate celebrations or exclusive hire.
Located ten minutes from the village of Adare, The Mustard Seed is also only a 40-minute drive from Shannon Airport, a small airport. If you are using the airport, it might be a good way to start or finish a holiday.
Getting to Lough Gur, Mustard Seed and the Dingle Peninsula
We travelled from Waterford via Tipperary town to Lough Gur. Taking a number of link roads via Hospital towards Kilmallow Limerick road. Then you will see road signs for Lough Gur. Alternatively, from Tipperary go near Limerick for the ring road and the Limerick Cork M20 route. It will also take you there.
Mustards Seed: Again, take the route to Limerick from Tipperary and turn off for signs to Cork on the M20.
Ballingarry village is just a 2-hour drive from Waterford and is the first actual stop, taking the exit for Croom after passing by Limerick city, and then following the sign for Ballingarry. The Mustard Seed is the only Blue Book Country House in the Limerick countryside and is the ideal base for a vacation in the south-west of Ireland. The Mustard Seed is also close to Lough Gur, one of Ireland’s finest archaeological and historical gems.
The Dingle Peninsula, Killarney, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren are all pleasant day trips. For the golf enthusiast, a choice of four courses are within a 30-minute drive of the house. Horse riding, fishing and garden visits can be arranged nearby. Surrounded by country lanes for leisurely strolls or close to the Ballyhoura Mountain range for more organised trails. The house looks across at Knockfierna, the highest peak in the Mid-West landscape, the perfect trek for even the amateur walker.
All year round Mustard Seed offer for two people sharing
ONE NIGHT TIME OUT! CLASSIC DINNER WITH OVERNIGHT STAY:
Take time out to recharge and stay at The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge. Check in early and enjoy walking in the surrounding country lanes, take a hike to the top of Knockfernia and view the house from the highest point of Co. Limerick or spend the afternoon browsing in nearby Adare village. Enjoy a 4-course dinner menu in the restaurant, renowned for fine food and genuine hospitality. Stay overnight in one of the individually decorated bedrooms where a great night’s sleep is assured. Enjoy a delicious breakfast the following morning which includes free range eggs from their own hens
From €129 per person sharing Check out: The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge. Ballingarry, Co. Limerick Web: www.mustardseed.ie, Tel: 069 68 508 for more details and offers. Kieran Walsh