The Travel Insider: The Dreamiest Bed and Breakfast in Ireland

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The exterior of the Quay House in Connemara (Photo: The Quay House)

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Hotel: The Quay House

Location: The Quay House, Beach Road, Clifden, Co Galway, Ireland. - T: +353 95 21369 - Email: res@thequayhouse.com

The Background: This year marks Julia and Paddy Foyle’s 21st season operating the Quay House. The building was originally constructed for the Clifden harbormaster in 1820, and since then has been a Franciscan monastery and an orphanage for the Sisters of Mercy. Paddy has been in the hotel business forever. He and his twin brother were born in Foyle’s Hotel down the road.

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Julia married into this hospitality family, and they’ve since raised four children in the Quay House. (Photo: The Quay House)

What I Loved: Two rambunctious pugs, Banjo and Blossom, snort their welcomes to you as you enter the garden of The Quay House, the 14-room bed and breakfast perched on the water’s edge in the town of Clifden in the rugged region of Connemara along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.

I am the kind of person who compartmentalizes my B&B and hotel experiences. While adept at roughing it, I love me a fancy hotel. A friend of mine — Annie Fitzsimmons, National Geographics “Urban Insider” — put it best at a recent dinner party: “A fancy hotel is still the last place you can go and pretend you’re someone completely different.” In a luxury hotel, I want 800-thread-count sheets and pillows that feel like clouds on the back of a unicorn.

I want something different from a  B&B. I want my B&B to be quirky, homey, even a little bit odd. I have to say, the Quay House delivered and then some.

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If Julia and Paddy Foyle weren’t the owners of a B&B, in another life they would have been hoarders of eccentric antiques. But because they have the Quay House to decorate, the two of them are able to indulge their love of collecting and attending auctions, making every corner of their B&B unique and adorable.

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Watch out wandering around late at night — one of the wolf pelts dangling off the bannister might give you a scare. (Photo: The Quay House)

“We are both collectors and we both love going to auctions and house sales, and as the house has expanded over the years it has given us an excuse to go to more and more auctions,” Julia told me. “Paddy is the one with the spatial vision to lay out all of the rooms. He’s a typical Gemini.”

Related: The Quirkiest B&Bs in the United States

“He can’t sit still, actually,” Julia remarked as her husband busied himself in the kitchen, helping to prepare breakfast.

Related: We Can’t Stand You, and Other Confessions of a B&B Owner 

Where You Sleep: Each room has its own personality. There’s the Napoleon Room, with a portrait of the diminutive despot over the bed. There’s the Mirror Room, with a gilded mirror so large, Julia told me they will never be able to get it out of the house.

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Catch a few z’s with the emperor watching over you. (Photo: The Quay House)

There’s the Bamboo Room, the African Room, and the Bird Room — where I stayed, on the top floor, filled with portraits and stuffed exotic parrots.

Some rooms have working fireplaces and family rooms that can comfortably fit four people. 

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I’m positively obsessed with these mirror headboards. (Photo: The Quay House)

The Vibe: Guests at the Quay House feel immediately at home and can pad into the charming conservatory for breakfast in their socks or lounge in front of the fire in the salon.

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Curl up with one of the many books piled high and stacked haphazardly around the hallways. (Photo: Jo Piazza)

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The hotel even provides wellies for guests, to allow them to muck about in the Irish countryside. (Photo: Jo Piazza)

The Food: The Quay House serves one of the heartiest Irish Breakfasts I enjoyed during my weeklong journey along the Atlantic Coast. The eggs Benedict and smoked salmon are both to die for. Each morning brought a new kind of sweet fruit crumble (no added sugar), smoked haddock scones, and fresh soda bread. 

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The conservatory looks like something out of The Secret Garden, with tree branches twining through the rafters and gingham napkins perfectly folded on every table. (Photo: Jo Piazza)

What’s in the Neighborhood:

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Cross the beach on horseback during low tide. (Photo: Jo Piazza)

Gallop to Omey Island - The Cleggan Beach Riding Center is just a 10-minute drive from the hotel. Make sure to book the 2.5- to 3-hour ride to Omey Island, a coastal island with no bridges that’s only reachable during low tide. You’ll gallop across the beautiful Omey Beach and through the sea on one of the riding center’s giant Irish cob horses or diminutive Connemara ponies. 

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The gorgeous coast of Omey Island (Photo: Jo Piazza)

Pick Up That Fisherman’s Sweater at Stanley’s - You can’t visit Ireland without picking up one of those oversized cable-knit Irish wool fisherman’s sweaters. They sell them all over the country, but I have to say that I got the most bang for my buck at Stanley’s, a clothing outfitter that has been around since 1824. I grabbed two amazing sweaters for less than 40 pounds a piece. I saw the very same sweaters in a fancier shop down the way for double the price! Plus, Stanley’s is one of the few stores in town that takes American Express!

Kayak in Killary - Take in a spectacular sea kayaking tour where you can catch and barbecue your own Atlantic lunch as you paddle through Ireland’s only fjord. Contact Mór Active for info.

Dine at the Marconi Restaurant - This restaurant has been in Paddy’s family for over a century and is just a half-mile away from the Quay House. Order the Irish salmon and tender Connemara lamb with a side of locally produced baked goat cheese.

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