Rugged, rural, beautifully bare; Inishmaan is the middle of the three Aran Islands, off the west coast of County Galway in the Republic of Ireland.
Measuring just 5km by 3km, and with a population of only 160, the island is a peaceful haven from the busy pace of life and – with only the crashing of the wild waves of the Atlantic and the cries of native birds to disturb your thoughts – a wonderful place to come for a weekend break.
Inishmaan can be reached by ferry or by plane; I flew from Connemara with Aer Arann for my visit to the unique Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites: a Michelin recommended restaurant with rooms that’s a bit different from the norm.
Owned and run by Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam, Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites is rooted in – and inspired by – the wild landscape outside.
Ruairí is a native of Inishmaan – and the son of the founders of the island’s famous knitwear company. Marie-Thérèse is originally from County Cork and met Ruairí whilst they were both studying in Dublin. Having designed and built the restaurant from scratch, they opened in 2007 and now balance the running of the restaurant with life on the island with their small children.
Ruairí does the cooking while the charming Marie-Thérèse is a natural at organising the service – and together they meet the challenges that running a luxury business on a remote island can throw up, whether that be staff shortages or their supply ship not arriving due to inclement weather.
The building itself is a low-slung, almost futuristic-looking structure, its curved windows and grey stone exterior ensuring it blends seamlessly into its surroundings. The stones used to build its walls are the same ones which make up the dry walls found all over the island – and which the Aran islands are known for.
Open from March to September, the restaurant serves a daily changing 4 course set menu inspired and informed by the island, its people and its produce; including salads, herbs and vegetables from their own polytunnel and kitchen garden.
The restaurant has only 16 seats, and everybody dines at the same time, which adds to the convivial atmosphere. The long narrow room gives amazing views towards neighbouring Inishmore Island, while the outsize black and white photos celebrate life on Inishmaan.
Ruairí calls his style of cooking ‘Elemental Eating’ and his vibrant, flavoursome dishes rely on prime island ingredients. For example, golden beets come from the garden and locally caught lobster is paired with aioli and rocket fresh from their polytunnel.
2, 3 and 5 night stays are available in the luxury rooms at Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites – and an awful lot of thought has gone into making sure your stay is a happy one.
Hiking, biking, fishing, swimming… all the gear you’ll need is here, including binoculars, fishing rods and towels – and there’s even a lunch kit with fresh bread and hot soup to take with you on your exploration of the island.
Just make sure you arrive back at the restaurant in time for dinner!