Visitors to The Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna are always entranced by its history, as it has been run by the Curtin Family since 1893, making it one of the oldest pubs in the Burren area.
Its current proprietor is the colourful Peter Curtin, who was born over the pub in 1953 and spent many years in the Merchant Navy. He’s also a huge fan of the beautiful area that surrounds him. “Walking in the Burren is my hobby, and also reading the mythology and early history of Ireland,” he says.
Peter is married to his Swedish wife, Birgitta Hedlin, and has four children. He has always had great vision, and while he says that one of the biggest challenges has been fulfilling his goals in a small rural village in Clare, he certainly has accomplished great things.
First there’s the Tavern, which has a famously laid-back atmosphere and an award-winning food menu. It’s also legendary for hosting traditional and international music sessions, and the jovial host is always warm and welcoming. “I believe in hospitality to folks who ramble into the pub,” he says.
In addition, Peter and Birgitta have had great success with the Burren Smokehouse. They established it in 1989 and it now supplies smoked salmon worldwide. Queen Elizabeth and guests at the historic state dinner in Dublin Castle enjoyed Burren Smokehouse salmon as a starter in May 2011.
Peter and Birgitta also created the Burren Smokehouse Visitor Centre in 1995, and it is well worth a visit. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden obviously agree as they visited in May 2019, and learned about artisan food production.
In 2011, the ever-enterprising Peter added the Burren Brewery to the mix. Based in the pub itself, it’s a microbrewery that creates Peter’s own beers and offers visitor tours. He has delved deep into history to make a gruit beer called Euphoria, using wild yeast, six certified herbs and no hops. “It’s the only beer that’s loved by non-beer drinkers,” he laughs.
The local legend is chair of the Burren Tolkien Society, and has even developed a special Hobbit Ale to celebrate the society’s annual festival. JRR Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, visited the Roadside Tavern prior to writing his bestselling books, and Peter is convinced that he took the “magical, mystical hills” of the Burren as a major inspiration for his famous works.