This review of Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant in the Nire Valley in Co. Waterford is part of a series of posts from my Munster Vales travel guide.
Disclaimer: this was a complimentary stay as part of my tour around Munster Vales. I was not required or asked to write a review, however, I decided to do so as I had such a positive stay.
Driving through the Nire Valley
The Comeragh Mountains were forged in the last ice age over 10,000 years ago.
These Mountains stretch along the eastern boundary of the Munster Vales. They come to rest on the coastline of the Irish Sea near Dungarvan in County Waterford.
In the centre of this remarkably varied range is a unique landscape, a boggy plateau. Miniature loughs that fill deep pitted hallows fill its fringes. With 13 beautiful corrie loughs, the Geological Survey says this area is the best corrie landscape in Ireland. Deep within the Comeragh Mountains lies the secluded Nire Valley. This is where we were headed.
From Fethard, it was supposed to take 35 minutes to get to our destination, Hanora’s Cottage in the Nire Valley. But the 30km drive just threw up vista upon vista and we added an hour onto our journey. We just kept stopping to pull over and take photos. After exhausting our shutter fingers we would just sit down on the grass take it all in.
The whirling wind, the rolling hills, the rustling trees, the bleating sheep, the bucolic beauty and tranquility was simply stunning. Taking it all in we instantly felt our shoulders relax and our lungs fill with fresh, clean air. It cleared our heads and minds and made us marvel at what a very pretty country we live in. We made a pact to get out of Dublin more often and explore these parks unknown. Well, unknown to us at least.
If you are looking for more Irish road trip inspiration too, have a look at this blog post I wrote for Allianz Ireland: 7 Spectacular Drives in Ireland This Spring.
Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant
After our riveting road trip we pulled up outside Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant, our home for the night. The cottage setting is quintessentially Irish. Its next door neighbour is a rare cut stone country church. Running past Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant is the Nire River. It flows under a stone bridge and lends a soothing soundtrack to the area.
The area is verdant and dotted along the grassy river banks are picnic tables, although you will have to share your food with the friendly dogs and horses and donkeys.
Built in 1891, the ivy-clad Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant was originally a tiny two-roomed family home. Over the years, it has expanded into a multi-award winning country house and restaurant but it still retains its old charm and family feel.
Stepping inside, we are greeted by Mary Wall who owns and runs Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant. Her welcome is as warm as the turf fires blazing in the lounge areas.
The rooms cosy and sunlights streams in through the large windows. It makes you just want to curl up on one of the many sofas and armchairs and get stuck into a good book, and have a sneaky snooze too.
Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant is not a hotel. It is a family bed and breakfast, and lunch and dinner. It has a four-star rating from Bord Fáilte. I’ve not stayed in a B&B in years so I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I needn’t of worried.
Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant – the bedroom
Our room was spacious, clean, bright and warm and it had a huge jacuzzi bath. I was not expecting that. In fact, all the bedrooms in Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant have a jacuzzi or double bathtub. There are also plenty of lovely toiletries and lotions and potions to use for a very relaxing bathing ritual.
The room was equipped with everything we needed and if we did need or want anything else Mary was only too willing to oblige. But Mary has been doing this for so long she knows exactly what tired travellers need and you can tell she has put loads of thought and effort into the facilities and amenities in each room.
For use though, the most important things were that there was great water pressure with loads of hot water, the bed was very comfortable, the room was nice and quiet and the temperature was easily controlled and the windows opened fully, something that I always miss when staying in hotels. This meant we could let plenty of fresh air into the room and listen to the soothing sound of the tumbling river outside.
Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant – the restaurant
I’ve known about the food and cooking in Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant for a while now. Mary’s son Eoin Wall and his wife Judith Hovenden run the kitchen. Both are Euro-Toques chefs who use local foods from small suppliers whenever possible and credit them on their menus.
The restaurant overlooks the garden and the dining room is spacious and calm. I was most excited to see that there are separate vegan and vegetarian menus. Both the vegetarian menu and regular menu are well-balanced so deciding what to order was pretty difficult as I wanted to try all the dishes.
In the end I went for courgette bread, tossed lettuce salad with red wine pear, Cashel Blue cheese and candied walnuts followed by roasted courgettes with garlic, walnut and blue cheese crust.
Dave opted for the seared Kilmore scallops, Tom Power’s black pudding with lemon mayonnaise and the breast of free range chicken, stuffed leg, sautéed sweet potato with honey and clove sauce.
There was a side of creamy, buttery mashed potato, purple cabbage and sweet glazed carrots.
The food was well cooked and seasoned and the portions were hearty. Perhaps the presentation of the food could have been better, but that isn’t something that concerns us terribly. We both cleared our plates.
Overall, it is what I would describe as Irish comfort food and a decent home cooked meal.
We were nicely full when finished, but, of course, there is always room for dessert no matter how full we feel.
We ordered the signature dessert of fresh prune and almond tart, crème anglaise and vanilla ice cream and the warm chocolate and hazelnut brownie with ice-cream and chocolate sauce.
Both were scrumptious, filling and with just the right amount of sweetness to end a very lovely meal.
After such a great feed we were ready for bed, but I was already thinking about the award-winning breakfast that I would get to try in just a few hours.
Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant – the breakfast
Back in 2002, Mary and her late husband Seamus won the ‘Best Breakfast in Ireland’ award at the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2002. Just last year, Mary, Eoin and Judith scooped the ‘National Guesthouse Breakfast of the Year’ award at the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018. To say I was excited when I woke up is an understatement.
We headed back down to the restaurant and laid out on a big buffet table was a gargantuan feast. It’s the type of breakfast Roman soldiers might have enjoyed before going into battle. Here in the Nire Valley, the breakfast fuels walkers and hikers who have miles and miles of hills to climb.
There is so much choice and a hot breakfast menu too, so make sure you leave sufficient time to enjoy it all.
As much of the produce is as local as possible and there is something like ten different types of carbs to choose from – muffins, scones, buns, and different types of breads freshly made using the same recipe that Seamus used to use.
There are organic and gluten-free options, freshly squeezed juices, Crinnaghtaun Apple Juice from Lismore, Nire Valley Porridge, local farmhouse cheeses, smoked salmon and home made jams.
Hot breakfast options include Syl Murray’s home-made sausages, Clonakilty black and white puddings, and the Wall’s free-range eggs cooked to your liking, and much more, so much more.
We grabbed a window seat and tucked in. We grazed leisurely from the buffet spread and fuelled-up on a hot breakfast.
I can see why the breakfast has won so many awards. It really is a wonderful celebration of Irish food and producers and there is a great selection and the quality is top notch.
Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant – overall
Mary wrapped up loads of scones and muffins for us to take on our walk and insisted we take a packed lunch too. She is a feeder. A proper Irish mammy. And I love her for it. She really does look after her guest and makes sure they want for nothing and don’t leave her home unless satiated/stuffed.
Along side our packed lunches she gave us a handwritten list (four pages) of things to see and do in the Nire Valley, as well as a bit of history about her home, the business and the local area. How she found the time to do this whilst serving breakfast and packing lunches is beyond me. But that is just the type of host she is, caring, helpful and generous.
As we were leaving Mary came out to see us off and sent us away with a warm, heartfelt hug. You don’t get that in a hotel.
Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant is a wonderful retreat in the Nire Valley in County Waterford. It epitomises Irish hospitality and the breakfast deserves all the awards. It feels like a home away from home and if you are looking for a truly Irish welcome and experience I can highly recommend you stay here.
To book a stay, check out Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant’s website.
Thanks to Tríona O’Mahony of Munster Vales for organising our trip and thanks to Mary Wall for our stay at Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant.
The following are the other blog posts in this Munster Vales series:
“Thanks for reading”
Have you driven through the Nire Valley or stayed at Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant? Let me know how you got on and I’d love to see any photos you took.
If you liked this Hanora’s Cottage Country House and Restaurant review, you might also like my review of the Finn Lough Bubble Domes in Northern Ireland.
Additionally, you might enjoy reading my review of the Pullman Restaurant in the Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway, Ireland.
Another blog you might like is my review of the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Galway, Ireland.
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