An Overnight Stay in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary
I recently had the pleasure of experiencing some outdoor adventures in Cloughjordan village and have returned home feeling like I was away for much longer than the 24 hours I was gone. Strange that such a short break away can leave us feeling revitalised with new perspectives on life.
It was also another reminder of how much the midlands and inner counties of Ireland have to offer and shouldn’t be overlooked if we’re touring the country, looking to get away to learn new skills, or experience some outdoor fun in a different environment.
If you’d like to learn more about Ireland’s only mountain bike park with an uplift service, or about the various workshops and courses you can take giving you the opportunity to learn a new craft or life skill, where you can visit nature in the old woodland walks, ogle at the beauty of the local ceramics, or just pick up some recommendations for places to eat and stay in Cloughjordan, read on…
Ireland’s only eco village was built on a site just off the High Street of the much older Cloughjordan village, birthplace of Thomas MacDonagh, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. I’ve been there on several occasions for various symposium and have always been impressed by the eco village’s ethos, but it never occurred to me to stay for longer and explore what else was on offer in the surrounding area, something I can now see was an oversight. Accommodation is available to cater for various budgets from €20 upwards and once settled, there are lots of activites to keep singles, couples or families occupied.
Where is Cloughjordan?
If you’re not familiar with it, Cloughjordan is in the north of Tipperary, the largest inland county in Ireland and bordered by another eight counties. It’s on the Dublin / Limerick train line or 20 minutes from the Moneygall exit of the M7 and it’s very well signposted. Nearby town’s include Birr, where the largest telescope in the world was built in the mid 1800’s, the heritage town of Roscrea that sits in the valley between the Slieve Bloom and Devil’s Bit mountains, and Nenagh which has the Silvermines mountains on one side and Lough Derg on the other.
For anyone looking for some outdoor adventures, there’s a tremendous amount on offer in the midlands of Ireland.
Where to Sleep in Cloughjordan
I stayed at Django’s hostel, located in the eco-village and therefore sharing all the eco-values as well as the district heating, meaning I was warm and cozy in a comfortable bed despite it being -4ºC outside. Django’s is open all year round and can sleep up to 40 people within its five double rooms, 2 family rooms and 2 dorms. It’s wheelchair, child and dog friendly, clean and airy with a modern self-catering kitchen, dining area and free wi-fi. I found the common room in the hostel enchanting, where it offered a quiet and comfortable place to sit and write.
If hostel’s aren’t your thing there’s a lot more accommodation available in and around the village ranging from B&Bs to several Airbnb’s and self-catering accommodation. You can find more information here.
Where to Eat & Drink in Cloughjordan
Several of the bars offer food and there’s a tasty Pizza takeaway in the village as well as a local Centra supermarket, handy for those self-catering in the hostel. If you’re not on a strict budget, the Fairways is a short drive away for something a bit more special. As well as a B&B and arts and craft activities, The Makery has a café which regularly offers an honest menu where you pay what you can afford or what you think the food is worth.
However, if you’re looking for value for money with really friendly and prompt service I’d highly recommend the Gourmet Gallery Restaurant in Cloughjordan High Street. There was a steady stream of diners the entire time we were there – not bad for a freezing January evening – and the food was hot and flavoursome.
The menu offered dishes that ranged from all day breakfasts, battered fish, Kiev’s and curry to lasagna, salmon and crocodile (I didn’t ask if that was on the menu purely to grab our attention, or if Chef really did have a crocodile dish up his sleeve). The restaurant offers a take-away if you bring your own plate and will cook a meal by request. We ordered half portions of lasagna that arrived with chips and side salad which was more than enough, particularly as it was followed by a ‘free dessert’ special the owners had laid on for the quiet January weekend which meant that a two course meal for two people cost just €14. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for the offers.
We finished the evening sitting by the turf fire in Grace’s bar where I realised that for the first couple of hours the only clientele were older women, a rarity in rural Ireland. It was a warm, friendly bar where we experienced the full-bodied, locally brewed craft beer known as White Gypsy, a brew that’s sold in large bottles but drunk in small glasses and chatted with locals as they popped in for a glass or two. You can find more information about places to eat and drink in the village here.
Never mind venturing off to the nearby loughs and mountains, there’s lots going on in and around Cloughjordan.
Just a short walk out of the village will bring you to the Coillte owned Knockanacree, an old 100 acre woodland that has many signposted paths and trails running throughout. It’s primarily a Beech wood with Scots pine and a forest floor covered with wild honeysuckle and bluebells in the springtime. It’s a place that you’ll find locals walking their dogs, joggers out for some brisk air and local school children visiting in groups to learn about biodiversity as well as to try to catch glimpses of the red squirrels, pine martins, sparrow hawks and badgers that live there.
Into the car or onto the bike and a short 7km outside of Cloughjordan you’ll find the Scohaboy Bog, an ancient raised bog that’s built up over thousands of years and has undergone a restoration project for the past four. If you enjoy geography or science, this is a classic raised bog that supports a range of diverse habitats and is one of the more southerly bogs in Ireland. Sopwell Wood is nearby with its broadleaf and conifer woodland and various picnic sites.
As someone who’s recently discovered cycling, it’s difficult not to feel excited about the Bike Park Ireland at Fairymount Farm, a facility just 8km from Cloughjordan village. It caters for kids to adults, those with or without bikes, and is priced well to attract all (€5 each per day or family tickets available). It also boasts the only uplift service in Ireland (€35 for up to 22 lifts a day or €2.50 each one), meaning that even I can’t wait to pack my bike onto the back of the car and head up there for a day on the beginners course and some serious, cycling outdoor fun where I don’t have to gasp my way up the hills! The lure of the uplift is now outweighing my reticence of being a middle-aged overweight woman joining a predominantly male activity and has become my first goal for this year’s efforts to shed a few pounds before I pull on the lycra.
Check out Bike Park Ireland’s website for more information here as well as links to Fairymount Farm who offer accommodation, food and links to out outdoor activities such as fishing, golf and horseriding.
The reason we are blessed with such glorious emerald-green fields here in Ireland is because of the temperate weather we experience, or in other words, it can rain a lot.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”
This is a quote you’ll hear many times and rings true for anyone who likes to get outside, but it’s nice to get away from the damp and into the warmth too. Apart from the Heritage Centre and Library in town, there are a few more interesting places you can pop into.
Is it just me or does anyone else get excited when they see the sign for a craft studio? I’ve always been attracted to ceramics and Thomas Wollen & Grainne Watts’ Black Studios and Gallery in the High Street is one place you can get lost in for a long time.
Unless you’ve nerves of steel I wouldn’t recommend going in there with young children as it’s incredibly difficult not to touch everything you see – there’s so much texture, colour and form on display from the carefully crafted pieces. Thomas specialises in the Raku technique, making vessels and wall pieces, while Grainne works with porcelain and stoneware making vessels and animals – both making interesting and quirky pieces.
When I called in Thomas mentioned there was an open day the following weekend where anyone would be welcome to drop by, quietly using the space to create their own piece of art or be helped along and advised by Thomas. It’s worth checking out Thomas and Grainne’s Facebook page to see if anything is coming up, or give them a call before you visit Cloughjordan – it would be a shame to miss out on visiting this particular studio.
I have several friends who, if they haven’t heard of The Makery, located a couple of doors up from the Black Studios, couldn’t help but be inspired by it. This studio/café/arts and crafts playground/B & B must be a community artists idea of paradise. It’s a place where craftspeople and artists can share their crafts, as well as offer a workspace for people to make their own, or attend any of the regular workshops. It’s equipped with hand tools and materials and training can be given on some of the more complicated equipment.
A quick look at their website tells me that coming up soon there’ll be a soap making demonstration, book binding and drawing classes, as well as kids workshops, all at very attractive prices.
Courses, Life Skills and Education
If you can’t make the soap making or book binding courses in The Makery, how about learning to look after farm animals and create your own smallholding, perhaps furthering an ideal to become more self-sufficient in your food?
Lily de Sylva of Smallholding.ie runs several courses throughout the year ranging from keeping and eating pigs, poultry for eggs and meat, goats for milk and meat, to a complete introduction to smallholding or making home remedies or country wines.
Take a look at Lily’s full workshop list here for more information and if there’s a group of you who can’t make the dates advertised, contact Lily directly to discuss group rates and dates to suit everyone. If she’s not at her smallholding, you might find Lily working with schools and transition year students n conjunction with Cloughjordan House, showing the link from field to fork, something that many schools could learn from. You can visit smallholding.ie on Facebook on The Irish Smallholders Association page and Twitter.
Over to you…
My impression of Cloughjordan village was of a friendly, relaxed and accepting place and I’m already looking forward to returning, perhaps next time arranging a visit that coincides with one of the short courses or the three-day annual Gypsy Jazz Music Festival that takes place in October.
Have you stayed in Cloughjordan or visited any of the places mentioned? I hope this has inspired you to pay the folk there a visit.