Eating Out Ireland Places To Stay


Smugglers Creek Inn, Rossnowlagh


Why are Pirates called Pirates?
At Smugglers Creek Inn, they just aaaaarrrrrrrrrrrr!

Ok, give my ears peace, I don’t write the jokes, I just tell ’em!


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and I, being completely non-romantic, decide a child and dog free night away is needed.  Purely as a little down time for Lynne who has been exceptionally busy over the last few months.  So, children and dog shipped off to Nana and Granda’s house, car packed with overnight bags and we’re off to Smugglers Creek Inn, Rossnowlagh.

At a little under 1 hour drive time, the car journey from Dromore to Donegal is peacefully scenic.  The twisting road cuts through turf bogs and pine forests; and nature is your travelling companion.  Just to add, Lily-Belle and Matilda were extremely disappointed when they learnt they weren’t going with us.  Their sad little faces will haunt me for ever (not)…ah well, they’ll get over it!


Smugglers Creek Inn was built in 1907 by the Maclaine Family and was originally known as the Strand View Hotel.  And here lies a twist that we didn’t know about until after our visit.  Turns out Lynne, who’s maiden name is Maclaine, is related to the founders of Smugglers Creek Inn, Francis and Isobel Maclaine.  A great, great Uncle and Aunt in fact, who knew!  Checked and confirmed by the family historian, aka Granda Maclaine.


Smugglers Creek Inn is a pub-come-restaurant-come-bed and breakfast and boasts magnificent unspoilt views of Rossnowlagh Beach in Donegal.  Nestled high on the cliffs of Donegal Bay, the panoramic view of the bay and the Wild Atlantic Way is second to none.  In the distance are the snow-capped Blue Stack Mountains of South Donegal…simply stunning.

Even on the coldest and wettest of days, and there are many of those in Ireland, the view from Smugglers Creek Inn remains mesmerising.  Even though the ocean waves are fierce and unwelcoming, there is a certain degree of serenity as the troubled waves calmly submit and become mere ripples on the shore.  Looking out to sea, you feel completely relaxed.  The hustle and bustle of the world soon becomes a far away place.


Arriving in Rossnowlagh a little after 2pm, the wind is howling ferociously.  Skies are grey and horizontal rain batters the windscreen of the car…it’s truly a miserable day.  Today is not a day for walking along the beach.  It is certainly not a day for dipping toes into the freezing cold waters of the Atlantic, but sure enough, there are swimmers and surfers braving the elements…nutters!


It’s lunch time when we arrive in Rossnowlagh so we stop off at the Gaslight Inn, which is no more than 50 metres away from Smugglers Creek Inn (which we weren’t aware of until we left the Gaslight Inn).  The building is inviting and once inside, the heat is welcome.  A stove fire burns bright with crackling logs and Irish turf, and more importantly, the Six Nations Rugby is on the gogglebox, what more could we want?

Pint of Guinness for me, and West Coast Cooler for Lynne as we peruse the menu.  A great selection of fish dishes, and as we are coastal, it’s pretty much guaranteed the fish is fresh.  I ordered one of my favourite dishes of Seafood Chowder and Lynne opted for her usual dish of breaded garlic mushrooms.

Our evening meal was just a matter of hours away therefore we opted for starters so as not to over indulge.  Have to say, the food was excellent, much more than what we expected from a pub-restaurant.  The seafood chowder was, in my humble opinion, first class.  We sat for the best part of an hour and a half to watch the rugby before we settled the bill, paid our compliments to the chef, and headed next door to Smugglers Creek Inn.

Should you decide to visit Rossnowlagh, the Gaslight Inn write a daily (sometime every two days depending on how busy they are) blog post detailing the tide times and surf reports, really handy…so you only have yourselves to blame if you get your Lamborghini bogged on the beach.


Arrival at Smugglers Creek Inn came in the middle of the day and the car park was chock-a-block.  As it was pouring down, we opted to abandon the vehicle close to the entrance so we could take our overnight bags inside (I did return promptly the moment I spotted guests leaving and a space became available).

The bar area features a stove which is flanked by two comfy fireside chairs.  Walls are rustic red brick and the ceilings are accented with old wooden beams; a building full of charm and character.  Vintage signs and ocean related bric-a-brac adorn the walls as well as paintings and artwork from local artists.  There is a really nice ambiance at the very characteristic Smugglers Creek Inn.


Now, we are no strangers to Smugglers Creek Inn by any means, we have been on several occasions with friends when they visit us from Blighty, but we have never taken advantage of the guest rooms…until now.  We make ourselves known to Mark, the owner, and after a few words and a warm welcome, he shows us to our room on the 1st floor.

The room is old fashioned, some would say shabby-chic, and there is a stunning sea view.  It isn’t quite like a room at the Hilton Hotel, however…it is spotlessly clean, extremely cosy and adequately fit for purpose.  Oh, did we mention it has a stunning sea view.  Seriously couldn’t ask or want for anything more, the room is perfect!

I must add, Mark is very open about the rooms and says himself that the rooms aren’t the selling point of Smugglers Creek Inn, the room is merely a place to put your head down after a great evening of food, craic and traditional Irish music.  We unpack our overnight bags and make our way down to the bar area where the next rugby game awaits.

WARNING…STRANGER DANGER (but in a good way)

The Smugglers Creek Inn bar area is busy and there are no seats available where we can get a good view of the rugby.  As we stand at the end of the bar with drinks in hand, a couple catch our attention and invite us to join them at their table; and right next to the TV as well, happy days!  The couple advise us they are leaving shortly and we get chatting.  We introduce ourselves, and in return, we find out we are sat with Michael and Fiona, a lovely couple from Dungannon, County Tyrone.

The chat is free-flowing and we invite M & F to stay for another drink, invite accepted.  We have good craic and as we swap stories about holidays and trips, M & F tell us about their honeymoon in Mauritius, still very raw by Fiona’s take on things.  They got married almost 14 years ago and whilst honeymooning, Michael got them ‘roped’ into being witnesses for a couple who were getting married on the island.  Fiona spent a busy 3 days shopping for dresses and doing the ‘bridesmaid’ things whilst Michael and the other fella (name eludes me) went on a mini stag do.  Not quite the romantic honeymoon they had anticipated.


More and more stories are recalled and Michael tells us about a time they were staying at Sandhouse Hotel, Rossnowlagh.  They had a room overlooking the beach and as they looked from their balcony, they saw a group of people frantically trying to get their car off the beach as the tide came rolling in.  Michael went to help and as he made his way to the beach, he asked a guest, who was attending a wedding at the hotel, to assist him, and off they go.

The car owners were removing the contents of the car as they battled against the incoming tide, the car was well and truly stuck and going nowhere.  The car’s fate lay at the mercy of the ocean, and they abandoned the car and watched as it was completely submerged by the Atlantic Ocean.  Michael returned back to the room a sodden mess, where incidentally, Fiona had been filming the entire incident.

They recall how in the early hours of the morning, the car all of a sudden came alive, the lights all turned on, indicators started flashing but more annoying, the horn began to blast…creepy.  It felt quite eerie as we sat and watched the video on Fiona’s phone.  Michael and Fiona leave (staying at the Sandhouse Hotel) and we are joined by Mark, the owner of Smugglers Creek Inn.


As Travel Bloggers, we always try to find out about the history of our venue, the owners and how they come to being in the business.  Mark kindly shares with us how he and Emily met, and the story is one of both sadness and happiness.  Without going into too much detail, both Mark and Emily had been previously married, and both had lost their partners to cancer.  They began to support each other over the years and eventually they became romantically involved.

Mark is originally from Reading and Emily’s originates from China.  Together Mark and Emily purchased Smugglers Creek Inn back in 2009 during the economic downturn.  The purchase was a big gamble but one that is paying off dividends as the Smugglers Creek Inn continues to go from strength to strength.  What a lovely story.


It’s a little after 18.30 and we are led through to the restaurant where our reserved table is ready for our evening meal.  Lynne and I had intended to go and get all ‘dolled up’ but we had such good banter with Michael and Fiona and then with Mark and Emily; and us-being-us, we decided to stay in our smart-casual wear.  The Smugglers Creek Inn restaurant had a new extension in 2014 and the dining area now boasts enormous windows to maximise the panoramic views this region offers.


Our waitress introduced herself as Martina; and as well as being extremely polite and friendly, turns out she was also great fun and quite witty, as we found out throughout the course of the evening.  Martina explained the daily specials and left us with the A la Carte menu.

The menu offers great choice and excellent value with a good few signature fish dishes.  With the sea right on your doorstep, it’s easy to source fish that’s both fresh and local.  For starters I opted for Fresh Mussels in a garlic and white wine cream, and Lynne chose the Brie Wedge with cranberry relish.

Mains and again I selected a seafood dish, the special, which was Seafood Symphony on a bed of champ, Lynne, being her usual predictable self, selects the 12oz Sirloin Steak.  To finish, for dessert I asked for the biggest piece of Pavlova they could carry, and Lynne went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding.

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Rather than talk about each dish individually, and in all honesty, each deserves to be recognised on its own merit; we will do this collectively instead.  Our meal does not disappoint and is absolutely first class in presentation, taste and serving size; truly great value for money.

The cuisine, which is prepared to a very high standard and uses locally sourced foods wherever possible, is created (cooked sounds a little underwhelming) by one of the best chefs that Ireland has to offer, award winning Deirdre Clinton, a truly amazing and exceptionally talented chef.

Deirdre, who is a member of the Irish Culinary Team and former Irish Chef of the Year (2008 I believe), has been head chef at Smugglers Creek Inn right from day one of Mark and Emily purchasing the premises.  And long may she continue to create amazing dishes at Smugglers Creek Inn.


Evening meal over, Lynne and I retire to the fireside in anticipation of the evenings TRAD Music night.  A conversation is struck up with a couple of local lads who had us in stitches with their banter.  It’s not long before we hear the strumming of strings as banjos and violins are finely tuned.  Drinks in hand, it’s time sit back, enjoy the evening entertainment and watch the comings and goings of guests and locals.  Time flies when you’re having fun and the clock strikes 3.  Where on earth has the time gone?  Time for bed, what a great day and night at the fantastic Smugglers Creek Inn.

IRISH vs ULSTER (or is it a full English)

It’s the morning after the night before, and in all honesty, we were in a bad way!  The windows were flung open to allow the fresh sea breeze to fill the room and clear our fuzzy heads.  For breakfast we sat at the large window and stared longingly out to sea.  The weather is miserable and wet one minute, then pure blue skies the next, a real changeable day!

A lovely fry is just what’s needed this morning.  Lynne, being from ‘up North’, is insistent that it’s an Ulster Fry, and I comment that we’re over the border so it’s an Irish Fry!  Lynne really needs to learn her Irish from her Ulster!  Me, I prefer to call it a Full English, but that’s a different story.  Breakfast, much like our evening meal the night before, really doesn’t disappoint, hits the spot perfectly.


Looking out of the huge conservatory windows, the sky is blue with menacing clouds in the distance.  After breakfast, Lynne had every intention of a romantic walk along the beach, hand in hand, and no doubt chewing my ears off about our next trip or adventure, but thankfully I am spared this harrowing ordeal by the typical wet weather that is a common occurrence across the Island of Ireland.  How very different from the blue skies just 10 minutes earlier.  Time to pack up our belongings, bid Smugglers Creek Inn a fond farewell, and head home to the children!


Smugglers Creek Inn is a lovely place run by two lovely people, Mark and Emily.  They are fortunate to have an amazing crew of loyal staff who assist in making your stay as enjoyable as it could possibly be.  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and look forward to returning in the not so distant future.  Who knows, we may even take the girls with us next time (if we must).

Smugglers Creek Inn
(00353) 71 9852367
Send a message:
Opening hours:  seasonal, please see website for further info
Pricing:  bed and breakfast, €40.00 pp
Car park:  on site but gets very busy

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  • Reply
    Anthony Mc Nicholl
    22nd February 2018 at 22:26

    Hi Andrew (Daddy, chief editor and sometimes dodgy photographer), Lynne (Mummy, family travel agent and bargain hunter), Lily-Belle (daughter 1 and in charge of Lily-Belle Says) and Matilda (daughter 2 and queen of the family selfies) thank you so much for your great blog about your your visit to the Gaslight Inn, Smugglers Creek and Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal voted “The Coolest Place on the Planet”.
    We look forward to welcoming you and your family back in April and indeed we look forward to welcoming all to Rossnowlagh from all walks of life for the surfing, the long walks, the blue flagged beach, the horse ridding, the fishing, the swimming and most of all the long happy memories from Rossnowlagh. Take Care and once again thank you for visiting the Gaslight Inn & Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal. Best Regards The Gaslight Inn & Crew 🙂

    • Reply
      22nd February 2018 at 22:33

      You’re welcome. We certainly hope, weather permitting of course, to spend time on the beautiful Rossnowlagh beach this Summer and maybe dip our toes into the cold Atlantic Sea. Rossnowlagh is definitely a place of beauty and an area of Ireland that needs to be explored and promoted. Stunning. Blessings. The Callaghan Posse. 🌍 ♥️ 🙏

  • Reply
    21st February 2018 at 11:36

    It’s such pleasure to read your Blog about Smugglers Creek, Gaslight and Rossnowlagh. It certainly gives your readers the encouragement to visit Rossnowlagh, taste the food at Smugglers and the Gaslight, and to see the magnificent view of the Wild Atlantic, rain or shine. Donegal, is indeed, an incredibly beautiful part of Ireland often neglected by visitors, your Blog will help them to make it their priority to visit the “Coolest Place on the Planet”. Thank you!!

    • Reply
      21st February 2018 at 12:53

      Glad we could offer a little insight into the beautiful Wild Atlantic Way and in particular, the fantastic Smugglers Creek Inn. Such a lovely place filled with character and charm, and it helps that the staff are happy and lots of fun. In our opinion, SCI has the perfect balance of what a bar-restaurant-hotel should be. You may have indeed given Donegal the best tag line ever…the ‘coolest place on the planet’, we certainly agree with you.
      ATWI18Y aka The Callaghan Posse. 🌍 ♥️ 🙏

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