An award-winning welcome
Our proudest moment in nearly two decades as custodians of The Long Dock was when food writer Georgina Campbell named us her Pub of the Year 2015. What gave us particular satisfaction was what Georgina said: that in her short visit to our classic Irish pub way out west on the Loop Head peninsula, she was made to feel like part of the community.
We first encountered Carrigaholt in west Clare in 2000, when we fell in love with The Long Dock and decided that we had to buy it. We had both been in hospitality all our working days; we had met while working in Finnstown Hotel, had married and had just bought our first house when The Long Dock came into our lives. Smitten, we sold everything and took ourselves and our six-month-old son to our new home in Loop Head on one of the most westerly reaches of what is now the Wild Atlantic Way.
We were given the warmest of local welcomes and made to feel like a part of the community. And today our two eldest sons work alongside members of the local families that we’ve been lucky enough to employ through the generations.
When you live in one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s most remote beauty spots, community is the glue that keeps everything together. We have been proud to be part of that local glue with our role in Loop Head Tourism, and by helping to establish Loop Head Food Circle to promote the exceptional food that is harvested and produced from the land and sea around us.
Love at first pint
It’s hard to capture the magic of our first impression of The Long Dock. It was the kind of summer’s day that Irish postcards are made of. The sleepy fishing village of Carrigaholt was teeming with visitors, thanks to the arrival in the mouth of the Shannon of the national sail training vessel, the Asgard II – a beautiful brigantine with the pirate queen Granuaile as its figurehead.
As day turned to evening a woman produced a tin whistle from her handbag and as the young trainee sailors dispersed, more musicians appeared for the impromptu trad session. We sat at the bar and ate local lobster and schemed about staying forever.
We’ll never forget the warm welcome that we were given as first-time visitors and hope to extend that same welcome to everyone who comes through our door today, whether for the first time or on the return visit we hope you’ll be planning by the time you have finished your meal.
..Never Changing. We have since made many tweaks to the pub – Tony always says that one small improvement a week amounts to over 50 in a year – but we’ve kept its heart the essence of what we fell in love with. The Liscannor stone floor is polished daily to ensure that the gleam of the open fire reaches out to greet you on arrival.
Character and stories
We’ve covered the walls with a personal collection of local art and original photography that we feel captures the character and stories of the land we love and its people.
A taste of local history
Built in the 1820s, The Long Dock was always a pub – but like many traditional Irish public houses, it was also a grocers, drapery and hardware shop rolled into one. One of its best loved proprietors was Mrs Hehir who was famed amongst other things for aerating stout with a bicycle pump kept behind the bar for the purpose.
‘Mrs Hehir would hide the after-hours lads and their pints in the Bó Way whenever the local gardaí checked up’
Put the chats on a regular like Tom Pa and he might share a story or two about the many lives of this building. How as a cheeky young boy he would stall the cows as they passed through the inner hallway to the backyard in the hopes that they’d leave a deposit on the tiles. Or how Mrs Hehir would hide the after-hours lads and their pints in the Bó Way whenever the local gardaí checked up.
Later when the pub was extended, the Bó Way was moved to the side of the building. With bó being the irish for cow, it was only fitting that we named it the Bó Way. We have since transformed it into a sunny dining room decked out with well-loved tables from our family’s kitchens, wooden church chairs and cushion-strewn benches, but we were careful to keep the original brick wall and stone flag floor. And most recently, we have transformed the old pig sty and cow sheds out back into our Courtyard visitors’ centre and shop.