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'It's a proper pub with no TV!' Surfer Pete Hynes shares his favourite Irish places

From Sligo’s best breakfast to a unique beach – the highlights of a life well travelled

Signs in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
Signs in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
Image: Shutterstock/Vincent MacNamara

Each week, we ask someone who really knows Ireland’s twists and turns to share their favourite places. Today, surfer Pete Hynes of Aloha Surf School brings us around his favourite spots in Ireland – from a childhood haunt to the best ice cream in the Burren.

My background: I went to school in Dublin, but never really liked city life. My parents are from The Burren in Clare and that was always where my heart was and where I felt I belonged. 

Some twists and turns eventually had me ending up on the south coast of Brazil, where I lived on and off for five years, surfing warm water waves during our cold winter months.

It was in Brazil I met my wife who’s a doctor from Argentina. I had a longing for the west coast of Ireland, so in 2004 I convinced her to leave her life there and move back with me.

We moved back and started up the Aloha Surf School in Fanore in 2004. I have also worked in other roles here over the years, always around the water. Anything to avoid a ‘real’ job!

My most memorable Irish destination: Fanore, Co Clare

We always had a house on the coast in Fanore and so I spent every possible moment I could down there. When I was in my early teens, the local lifeguards in Fanore used to lend me an old surfboard and I was hooked. This was before there were any surf shops in Ireland, so surfing was relatively unknown in Ireland back then. All I wanted to do was surf. 

The beach at Fanore Source: Shutterstock/markusha_g

My favourite town or village: Ballyvaughan, Co Clare

That’s a tough one. It might sound biased, but probably the village of Ballyvaughan nearby in Clare. Overlooking Galway Bay and surrounded by the rocky Burren hills. It’s such a quaint village that has managed to retain its village character and has not allowed too much widespread development. It feels like a lovely step back in time.

A great day there might include lunch in the Tea Rooms, then paddleboarding with Bay SUP out on the Bay, dinner in Monks pub by the pier and finishing up with a drink in O’Loclainn’s, my favourite pub in Ireland. A proper pub with such a lovely welcoming atmosphere and no TV!

The best place I’ve ever eaten an ice cream: Café Linnalla in the Burren

Again that would have to be nearby at Café Linnalla just off the flaggy shore here in the Burren. Start with a walk along the Flaggy Shore to the 19th-century Martello Tower where you can see across the Bay to Black Head and Fanore. Then back to enjoy a coffee or their homemade ice cream.

They use cream and milk from their own short horn cows that they milk each morning, combining that with mostly locally sourced and foraged ingredients. Yummm!

A stroll along the Flaggy Shore Source: Shutterstock/Jim Houlihan

The best breakfast I’ve ever eaten: Shells Cafe, Strandhill

I’ve had some amazing breakfasts in some of our nice hotels but a favourite for me would be Shells Café in Strandhill. I taught surfing up there one summer long ago and wish it had been there then! I always stop by if I’m in the area.

They are open all day, but I love breakfast there after an early surf. Great coffee, gorgeous food and great sea views. My go-to is their smashed avocado on toast with toasted seeds, poached egg and green tahini dressing.

My favourite place for a hike: The Hellfire Club, Dublin

We are absolutely spoilt for choice here in the Burren with so many amazing mapped out walks, many of which depart from beside our surf school at the beach, but a favourite of mine would be a walk in the Dublin or Wicklow Mountains whenever I am that side of the country.

The view from the Hellfire Club Source: Shutterstock/Poogie

I am so used to the rocky, treeless landscape of the Burren that I just love the change of scene of a hike amongst the woods and trees when I get a chance. Both my wife and I adore the landscape and scenery of the Wicklow Mountains. When I was younger in Dublin, we could see the Hellfire Club up on the mountain and so I love a walk up there to sit down beside it and admire the view over all of Dublin City. Day dream about the crazy goings on and what life was like back when the Hellfire Club was occupied.

My hidden gem that not many people know about: Old Head Beach, Louisburgh

Well, apart from some local gems I already mentioned, I love Old Head Beach near Louisburgh in Co Mayo. With Croagh Patrick as a backdrop, it’s such a beautiful unique beach surrounded by cliffs and woodland right down to the shore. Its calm waters make it feel more like a beach you would find somewhere on the continent, just perfect for swimming, paddling and exploring around.

From Achill-henge to an extinct volcano: Tour guide Jen Condon shares her favourite offbeat Irish places>

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About the author:

Emily Westbrooks

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