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Postcard from Ardara: holiday house-hunting in County Donegal

Posted by Caroline on February 21st, 2011

Last month, Smith forayed into frontiers new and journeyed across Ireland, from east to west, in search of the most stylish of self-catering properties for our Smith & Friends collection. Driving from County Longford to County Donegal, it was Ardara that won our hearts, a tiny charmer of a town with more pubs than there are shops…

Ardara holiday houses in County Donegal
Ardara (actually pronounced ‘Ardraa‘, for those not fully au fait with a bit of Gaelic pronunciation) is in County Donegal in north-west Ireland, a windswept corner of wave-washed cliffs, sandy beaches (above) and rugged mountain roads. We were lucky enough to pass through on our way to visit two very special houses, Little Ardara and Ardara House (below, centre).

Just over the road from these decadent dens, there’s Nancy’s (+353 (0)74 954 1187), first on our list of the shiny green isle’s best pubs, if we were ever to compile one. It’s crooked and cranny-filled, with a lantern-lit back yard, vintage trinkets in the window (below, top) and a bar propped up by a healthy line-up of loose-tongued locals. You’re sure of a warm welcome, an expertly crafted Irish coffee and a hearty home-made seafood chowder. It’s also known for its oysters, caught locally, of course. Seven generations of the McHugh family have been at the helm of this Ardara institution since it opened, seven generations ago.

Ardara holiday houses in County DonegalA few steps up the road, you’ll find Kennedy of Ardara (+353 (0)74 954 1106), the one-stop shop for all your tweed, linen and knitwear needs. We filled our suitcases with dapper flatcaps, woven tablecloths, comforting colourful blankets, handmade Aran jumpers…

The fish and chips at Charlie’s West End Café (+353 (0)74 954 1656) on Main Street are famous not only in County Donegal, but in Ireland generally, and who are we to disagree?

Up past the Diamond, we stumbled into the cosy Corner House where live music is regularly played ready to support an impromptu Irish jig. Declining to mimic the cast of Riverdance, we settled for a Guinness instead, and a chat with some regulars, who insisted a couple of days isn’t enough to fully understand Ardara.

We’ll have to return to find out. We’re thinking a visit in the summer, to appreciate the sandy dunes at Maghera (pronounced ‘Mara‘) Beach in the warmth. Luckily for us, Ardara’s calendar gets busy then, too: in June, the Melting Pot festival takes to the streets, a bright parade of exotic dancers from all over the world, all put together by a former drag queen who surely knows a thing or two about perfomance; and in May, the Cup of Tae festival celebrates all things Irish and musical. Where’s Michael Flatley? We need to learn some moves…

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2 Responses to “Postcard from Ardara: holiday house-hunting in County Donegal”

  1. Mmm – home-made chowder now please!

    By Lucy

  2. i’m irish. maghera isn’t pronounced ‘mara’, it’s pronounced ‘ma-her-a’ with emphasis on the ‘a’ at the end.

    By b.

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