Showing posts with label Ireland's Ancient East. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ireland's Ancient East. Show all posts

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Doneraile. Dine and Stroll. Lovely Cafés. 166 Hectares.

Doneraile. Dine and Stroll.
Unusual Cafés. 166 Hectares.
Looking for something to do as the weather improves? Why not take a trip to Doneraile, just off the main Cork-Limerick Road, about 40 minutes from Cork city. 

There are two lovely cafés in the village. If you arrive early, you may work up an appetite in the huge Doneraile Park; stroll along by the Awbeg River that runs through and say hello to the deer that graze on the slopes. 

Dessert at The Tea Rooms
If you eat first, well then you may walk that off in the 166 hectare park, landscaped in the Capability Brown style, which has at least two pedestrian entrances from the main street, one via Fishpond Lane. 

One of the cafés is in the old kitchens of Doneraile Court; the house itself though is not open to the public. It is advisable to book ahead as both cafes are quite busy.

Ploughmans at Townhouse
The Tea Rooms in the park are in an atmospheric high-ceilinged room, complete with a set of servants’ bells. Not that many tables inside but they do have a large outside area in a sheltered spot. 

The regular menu offers soup to start with, and then all kinds of sandwiches, lasagne, quiche, ham with salad and brown bread. And don’t forget to check the specials board. Prices are keen and service is quite good.
Deer. Or Unicorn?
One of the works in progress in the park is the boxed gardens, quite close to the main street. It is well worth having a look at this walled garden which has a line of gardeners’ cottages at one end. The park also has an entrance for cars, a car park and children’s playground.

You may have the best of intentions of visiting the park but, if you dine first at the Townhouse Café  on main street you may still be there much later, lounging on a comfortable armchair or sofa. 
Doneraile Court

You certainly won't leave if the weather has turned cold or wet as the open fire will be blazing alongside in this high ceilinged Georgian Room.

The Townhouse
Having looked and tested all the eye-catching furniture in use downstairs, you may well be tempted to check further upstairs as the owners carry on a House Interiors business in the same building. And if a group of you come together, then more than likely you’ll treat yourselves to afternoon tea in the Botanical Room.

The comfort and decor are amazing and the food, while simple by comparison, is excellent also. Traditional baked honey roast ham, with Townhouse slaw on doorstep brown or white bread, makes for a very affordable lunch treat (for less than a fiver). 


If you want something more substantial, then perhaps the Ploughman’s Plate or the Savoury Tart of the Day will fit the bill. And there is much more, including a Warm Chicken and Bacon salad. In a hurry? Grab that soup and sandwich offer.

People call in all hours of the day to sample the sweet things here. Sweet or savoury, it is all well done, well served and well priced. Another attraction in Doneraile.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

48 Hours in Kilkenny. Sweet Start to Sweet End

48 Hours in Kilkenny

Sweet Start to Sweet Finish
Street food: Farmers Market taco from the Bula Bus

Let me take you to Inner Ireland, to Kilkenny in particular, the heart of the Ancient East.

Must say I was more interested in the inner part of me when I arrived, with the sunshine, on a recent Thursday at noon. Parked up and headed to the Weekly Farmers Market. Not as many stalls as I’d been led to believe but no shortage of food.

One of the first spotted was Charly’s Cheesecakes who have been trading in Cork’s English Market recently and who now have a spot in the Coal Quay on Saturdays. 

Close by were the boys from Bula Bus, the bus based restaurant in the back yard of Billy Byrnes’s pub in Kilkenny. Started at their stall with a hearty Smoked Czech Sausage in a baguette and a dollop or two of Californian Pickled Cabbage (a short-cut version of sauerkraut). CL was also well fed, no shortage of either quality or quantity in her Braised Beef Taco.

Muscles and Medals galore.
So we sat on one of the stone benches and indulged and soon over came Derek of Charly's with a couple of his cheesecakes for dessert! Both gorgeous, but that Malteser must be one of his very best. A cup of coffee then from another stand and we were ready to walk!

Our first port to call was the Smithwick’s Experience. The family first started brewing here over 300 years ago (1710) and we had an enjoyable tour and tasting in the old building in the centre of the town.
Inside the Medieval Mile Museum
 Back towards the castle area then to see a modern art show in the Butler Gallery. Across the road, we dallied in the gardens of the Butler Townhouse enjoying the flowers, especially the magnolias.


Time then to check in at Hotel Kilkenny, up past famous St Kieran’s where I was well fed in 1963 after playing a “friendly” against them at Nowlan Park. It is a fine hotel but disappointed at the lack of Irish craft beers and spirits in the bar. We were dining out that night, at the Royal Spice, one of the better Indian restaurants around.
Kilkenny Castle

Up good and early and again the sun was shining for a packed Day Two. The new Medieval Mile Museum is quite an eye-opener, with something for young and old, great views into the past and some good views too over the city.

What I particularly liked about it was that fact that the small folks in history got a mention! Oh yes, the Butlers and other nobles are well covered here. But be sure and go upstairs to the Kilkenny Room for some interesting stories about ordinary life in medieval times.

You'll see the quotes on small blue-ish panels. If you are not on a guided tour, you can open these doors yourself and see the actual letters of the time, all of them hand-written, some of them some of them beautifully so.

One concerns a complaint (about 1700) that "severall idle women doe make and sell unwholesome bread halfe baked in open ovens". Two men, who may have been members of the bakers guild, made the complaint.

There is a document where you learn that Kilkenny employed a "whipsbeggar" whose job was to drive strange or unfamiliar beggars out of town. In 1547, the mayor was given the task of making a dipping stole (stool) for punishing of bawdy hoores, and cnaves (knaves).


We had visited the Castle a good few years back and were delighted to do so again. Some magnificent rooms and furniture here, history in every nook and cranny, lovely views over the Nore River and of the castle grounds. A highlight is a visit to the gallery though you may have a strain in your neck as you take in the very unusual painted ceiling. The high walls are full of paintings, mainly of the Butlers.
Operation transformation at Nicholas Mosse
A pastry and a coffee (the latter good quality, but steep enough at €3.15) in the coffee shop at the Design Centre across the road was enough to keep us going as we headed out to the countryside. We drove to Bennettsbridge, the base of outstanding potter Nicholas Mosse. Here, we added a few bits and pieces to our modest collection.


The Nore flows through Bennettsbridge under a lovely old multi-arch bridge. The next river we would see was the Barrow in Graiguenamamagh on the Kilkenny-Carlow border, a beautiful village, with quite a few river-boats parked for the winter.
Goats graze in Bennettsbridge
 We took a walk past them and past a couple of representations of the monks (one a farmer, another a fisherman) after whom the village was named. By the way, the better boats seemed to be on the Carlow side! Then again, maybe they are ahead with the spring-cleaning!


Our base that night was at the renovated Kilkenny Inn and we enjoyed a lovely meal in their new restaurant, Kernel. Up bright and early - so was the sun - the following morning.
Farming monk in Graiguenamanagh
 St Canice's Cathedral is a few hundred yards away and we spent the best part of an hour there going through the treasures, treasures that include the beautiful east window (and its fascinating story), St Kieran's Chair (used for enthroning the local bishops for over 1500 years), the fascinating effigy tombs and, of course, the Round Tower. I think if I had time for just one visit in Kilkenny, this would be it.


I didn't climb the tower this time but, they do say, if you like a place you should always leave something to draw you back! 
Kilkenny side of the Barrow
 But we weren't leaving the pastries of Cakeface behind. We got a late tip to call to the cafe, a very busy one, in Irishtown and helped ourselves to a few of their colourful and unusual cakes and a loaf of crusty sourdough!

Carlow side of the Barrow
 Soon we were on the road home after a lovely (if busy) stay in the Marble City and its surrounds. We’ll be back, if only for the food!  And the Round Tower, of course!


St Canice's Cathedral and Round Tower

Lots of notes and photos taken, so I have individual posts on some of the visits. Hope they help you on your trip to Inner Ireland! 

See also: The Smithwick Experience. Royal Spice Indian Restaurant. From the Bula Bus. CakeFace Pastry The new Kernel Restaurant
Effigies on the tomb of Piers Butler (died 1539) and his wife Margaret Fitzgerald (1542)

Cakeface