Kilfenora, Co. Clare
This is quite possibly the cleanest hostel I've ever set foot in. "I'm a bit of a Monica," says Orla, citing the character on Friends who is known for her fanatical cleaning. Orla's family has quite a history in the hospitality business. So they knew what they were doing when they opened Kilfenora Hostel.
From the time she was small, Orla remembers her mother wanting to build a youth hostel. She felt there was a need for a budget accommodation in Kilfenora, with its close proximity to some of Ireland's most gorgeous site-seeing -- the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, The Aran Islands, the sandy beaches at Doolin, Lahinch, and Fanore, Aillwee Caves, and Loop Head, to name a few.
For the past two hundred years, the family has operated Vaughan's Pub. When the land next door to the pub became available (it was historically used as the village's weekly sheep market), Orla's family purchased it with the intent of beginning the hostel. They asked Orla to take the project on, and she accepted. She had been traveling around the world and was brimming with ideas for the hostel. The important factors she wanted to create were 1) value for money and 2) a clean environment. She considers running the hostel the second best thing to actually traveling herself.
And it is a comfortable place to come back to after a long day of trekking around. Only a traveler can know how to create this.
The chill out room has an the modern forms of entertainment: a flat screen TV with cable access, DVDs, two computers with internet access, cozy couches to lean back and escape into Hollywood after a long day of sight-seeing.
The kitchen is brand new and spotless, equipped with an array of modern appliances. You can find any pot or pan you desire, as well as a blender, mixer, bread-maker, the whole gamut. There is a brand new washer and dryer for getting your clothes fresh, and a line out back for when the weather is fine. The washer and dryer are set on timers, 1 euro for 15 minutes.
Orla also has her hand in organizing tour packages for schools and groups. She arranges all the travel and sightseeing around the area, through her long list of family contacts. She has the facilities for weddings, functions, and events. Please contact her for more information.
The family converted the barn next door to the pub into a space for set dancing, held every Sunday and Thursday nights. It attracts a big crowd. The barn is also an authentic setting for wedding parties and gatherings. During our visit, it was done up with garlands of roses and bells of Ireland for a big American nuptial bash.
Later we go next door to Vaughan's, run by Orla's brother. We eagerly redeem our coupons for two free pints, granted to us when we checked in at the hostel. The pints are frosty and delicious, and we relax in the pub, watching the village roll by. It is an incredible feeling being immersed in 200 years of family and village history, depicted in the photographs that adorn the pub walls, in the words of the conversations that drift our way. Even though we are not part of the family, it feels like home.
Kilfenora Hostel is highly recommended - a great value.
How to get there
From Galway, take N18 south to Kilcoigan, transfer to N67 south to Lisdoonvarna. Take R476 to Kilfenora.
From Limerick, take N18 north to Ennis, transfer to R476 to Kilfenora.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
Kilfenora, Co. Clare
Tel: +353 (0)65 7088908