My husband and I are taking our first rip to Ireland in thirty years this summer. We're going to focus on the western half of the country, as that was our favorite before. Does anyone have recommendations for stellar local (salmon, lamb, etc.) dining experiences, or lovely farms/inns that offer nice accomodations, plus good food?
There's a very nice hotel outside Killarney - Muckross Park Hotel. From what I remember there were two restaurants and the rooms were lovely indeed. There are some even more highly price large places in that area, but we enjoyed this hotel a lot. If you're driving the Ring of Kerry, it's a convenient spot. I remember the dinner being quite good, but that was about 5 years ago and chefs change.
Have a look at hiddenireland.com. I have stayed in a couple of them and for the locations and houses alone they are well worth it. The food has been of the great home cooking variety. In the west we stayed in Delphi Lodge. Food was delish. Be warned tho, dinner is at a big communal table which might not be everyone's cup of tea.
I wrote two articles in the New York Times travel section (though not recently) about restaurants mostly in the west of Ireland. I can barely remember any names, but if you search Ireland and Choice Tables on nytimes.com/travel, you should find them. There are some wonderful country house restaurants, and the standard is very high.
For upscale eating in GALWAY, I highly recommend ARD BIA cafe/restaurant for when you want to splash out. It's located at 2 Quay St., Galway. Phone 091-539-897 or 087-236-8648, http://www.ardbia.com/ (tho menu may have changed from what's online). I ate there with my partner last night and it was easily the best meal we've had in 3 months in Galway.
I started with lemon-roasted asparagus with quail egg and truffle aioli and a big pile of organic leaves (9.5 euros), a light but earthy and well-judged appetizer. This I followed with the special: monkfish tail over bean and tomato cassoulet w/pancetta, organic leaves and roast potatoes (23 euros, I think). The fish was perfectly cooked - flaky and moist - and the cassoulet was rounded and flavorful -- it was a substantial and expertly done dish. I love the huge pile of fresh organic mixed greens that adorn most plates -- they are a mixture of at least 10 or 12 different small greens -- just delicious, tender and varied. My partner had the warmed ham-hock terrine with pea puree (10 euros) as he is a huge fan of The Pig. It was delicious too, with the right amount of salt and a melting, rich texture. He followed it up with a huge portion of braised smoked paprika lamb with tomato and olive compote, chickpea and tahini puree, organic leaves, and mint vinaigrette (24 euros) -- also delicious, though you have to like peppers in their various forms (I like them, but they don't like me). I tasted it and could tell it was great, but not something I can eat. For dessert I had a rather less successful coffee bavarois w/cardamom granite (tasty, but not quite integrated), and my partner had a GORGEOUS Burren honey parfait (like a rectangle of ice-cream, but better) w/nuts and stewed fruits -- can't remember what they cost, probably 7 or 8 euros. The food was fantastic. The service was very good too -- we had one experienced, extremely gracious French waiter who was friendly and efficient without being pushy (No bother to him that we didn't feel like having wine)...then we had a different waiter later and even though it was her FIRST NIGHT on the job, she was very good. She hadn't tasted all the menu yet, but she was warm and alert. So it was a great meal all around, and I'd certainly go back. One warning: the chairs are FAR from comfortable (check them out on the website), so be warned.
OTHER GOOD NEWS: apparently, the Ard Bia folks are taking over and reopening NIMMO'S by the Spanish Arch, and so there will be one more great restaurant in Galway, soon. Ultimately, they plan to move Ard Bia into the upper floor of Nimmo's, and do something else with the present space. So foodies in the west of Ireland, rejoice!
If you're flying into Shannon, there is a wonderful inn and restaurant just outside Adare called Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge. The food is superb: http://www.mustardseed.ie/
We spent 10 days on the Dingle Peninsula last year--the best seafood restaurant I've ever been to is in Dingle, called Out of the Blue. The owner's brother is a fisherman--if he's not satisfied with the quality of the catch, he doesn't open. http://www.outoftheblue.ie/
Doyle's in Dingle is also a very good choice for lamb and beef. http://www.doylesofdingle.com/index.html
On the other side of the peninsula near Castlegregory is an excellent artisanal cheesemaker--can't remember the name, but there's a little sign by the side of the road.