Showing posts with label West Cork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West Cork. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

West Cork in 36 Hours. So Much To Do, See, Eat!

West Cork in 36 Hours
So Much To Do, See, Eat!
Busy at Inish Beg
It’s bluebell time in Ireland and the magic flowers were a highlight of our last weekend's 36 hours in West Cork but there were also Tiger Prawns, Basking sharks, Sicilian Cauliflower, even a Mobile Sauna.

The Mobile Sauna came early on, spotted by Garrettstown beach on Sunday morning as we took the long way west. Don't think there were too many customers in the tented facility. Indeed, the weather was too fine for the Garrettstown surfers yet some of the food outlets were doing well as we headed up the hill (not to Ballinspittle) to take the coast road, passing an old creamery stand and three well weathered churns on the way.
The Food Depot's extension

We were taking the long way over Courtmacsherry Bay. We soon joined the R600 from Ballinspittle, went past the lovely Harbour View beach and then drove up the estuary to Timoleague and its ancient monastery, now an impressive ruin. Over the bridge then and off to Courtmacsherry. We have sometimes walked along here - think it’s about 4.5 kilometres, all on the flat (the path is over an old railway line) and arrived in Courtmac beach shortly after noon.

The queues were already starting at the Food Depot, the truck that features the amazing cooking of Diana Dodog. We parked the car, had to look hard for a space, and got our order in!  Mine was the Grilled Tiger Prawns Salad Box, Garlic & Herb Oil. The Salad Box is a a bit of an understatement containing as it did, couscous, beetroot, pickled cucumber, hummus and more. It was a very tasty box, full of colours, textures and flavours, all for eight euro.
Popular prawn dish; garnish changes from time to time
CL's choice (the menu regularly changes) was the Grilled Cajun Chicken Wrap, Zesty Slaw, Aioli, sweet chilli, another well balanced piece, an excellent example of what a wrap should be! Well priced too at seven euro.


Our second “mission” in Courtmacsherry was a visit to the bluebells in the wood. Take a rising path that starts by the beach car park - it is part of the Seven Heads Walk (total over 40 kms, but some shorter loops as well!). Some detail on the walk here.
Wild garlic in Courtmacsherry wood, by the sea
The bluebells come early on in the walk, as soon as you enter the wood. Even before you get there you see the magical blue "haze". And there are as many Ramsons or Wild Garlic and I also noticed some wild mint growing in among the garlic. There is a huge bank on your right among the trees as you enter. Look. Smell. Enjoy. As you come out of the wood, you get a clear view of the ocean at and near Wood Point. And it was close to here that we spotted the fin moving swiftly through the waters below. “Basking shark,” I heard a local say.

We had turned back by then and were soon on the road again, taking the long way again, over towards Butlerstown, past the Seven Heads, past Dunworley Bay and on towards Ring where Deasy’s Pub (another well known food venue) stands. Into Clon then and time for a break from the sun and a drop of Dungarvan Pale Ale in the well known pub/restaurant called An Sugan.
Courtmac bluebells
Next stop would be the Celtic Ross, our base in Rosscarbery. They had a deal on for the Sunday, quite an attractive one: dinner for two, and B&B for €78.00 total. They have lots of deals, so be sure and check here   How often have you been down in West Cork, wishing you could stay and couldn't get last minute accommodation? It has happened to us on a few occasions so we took up this offer and were very happy with it. The Ross is a fine friendly hotel and, between Clonakilty and Skibbereen, so well placed for exploring West Cork.

We took a walk in the sun down to Warren’s Beach to join quite a few people there, young and old, some in swimming. We were down that way again later on to get a few shots as the sun sank behind the village.
A bank of primroses on the Seven Heads Walk
In the meantime, we had enjoyed an excellent 3-course dinner. We had a choice of three starters and I enjoyed every little bit of the Sticky Chicken Wings, Jamaican Jerk Style, Blue cheese and sesame seeds. CL was also happy with Peter’s famous Fish Cake.

We each had the same mains: Local Hake Fillet, Sicilian cauliflower, nutmeg potato, black olive oil, Sauce Vierge, Port. This was outstanding, particularly the raisins and the pinenuts, with the cauliflower, adding a touch of texture, sweet notes too from the raisins and the Port, and the fish had obviously just jumped up from the waters outside, such was its freshness. Top notch overall.
Galley Lighthouse, from Warren Beach in Rosscarbery
Breakfast is served in the same area with a very friendly vibe, quite efficient too. We had a nice bit of fruit and yogurt and a variation of the full Irish (not quite a full Irish!). Checked out then and headed west through Skibbereen and out the Baltimore Road.

We were on the lookout for Inish Beg on the left, an island, but one with a bridge. It is a private estate where you may stay in various type of accommodation. There is also an indoor swimming pool (in the walled garden!). Lots to do here. You may even get married on a mini island, reached by a small bridge. Check it all out here.
Warren Beach
But we were here to take a walk - its costs a fiver - through the gardens and the woodlands. The walled garden is in great nick. You start there and then follow your map where you’ll come across features such as Pumpkin's Puddle, Bird Hides, The Boat House, The Gypsy Retreat (where two caravans provide your accommodation), the Sunken Garden, the Bamboozle (a couple of bamboo tunnels) and the Orchard.

There is a good scattering of bluebells around the place at the moment. They seem of a slightly darker shade than those of Courtmacsherry but that is a non-scientific observation! Perhaps the best display was that under the old trees in the Orchard.
Hake in the Celtic Ross
It was getting close to lunchtime and so we headed for Baltimore. We had been hoping that the Glebe Cafe would be open but, being Monday, they weren't. Le Jolie Brise was though and here a big bowl of mussels and a smaller one of fries did the business.

Time was running out for us and it was with some regret that we left behind the increasing blue of the West Cork skies and headed back to the city. Glad to say the blue came too at least for this May evening.
Inish Beg's wedding island

Bamboozled



Sunday, October 18, 2015

Richy Virahsawmy. Clon’s Renaissance Man

Richy Virahsawmy
Clon’s Renaissance Man
Richy Virahsawmy is something of a renaissance man. He is a restaurant owner, a cook, a teacher, a consultant, an active contributor to the local community in Clonakilty, a TV chef, an author, and a farmer. He has cooked for you and me, for celebrities (Michael Flatley), in big houses (Castle Hyde, Castlefreke), for large crowds (World Web Summit and at the National Ploughing Championship), for Prime Ministers and their guests (in Downing Street and in his native Mauritius).

I won’t go into all the details in this post but you may read all about his background here. The Irish leg of his career began when he joined the staff of Inchydoney Lodge and his dream of opening his own restaurant became reality in 2002 when Richy’s was established in Clonakilty.

And, ten years later, worried that a restaurant that only opened a few days week might not be enough on its own, he reinforced his position in the town with the opening of the adjoining cafe, turning the operation into a multi-functional one. Now he had two types of dining room in the one premises.

Superb chowder, with Murphy's & Walnut Brown Bread
 Now too he could really get to grips with expanding his teaching. Autumn/Winter Courses include fish cookery, Canapes and Small Bites, Slow Cookin, Sushi Making, Cooking for Friends are among those available. These are all interactive classes: you cook and, at the end of the evening, sit down with your fellow students and eat!


And Richy loves teaching children to cook and every week he has classes for a small group (eight to twelve) of kids with autism. Indeed, in an attempt to meet the threat of obesity, he plans to increase his work with schoolchildren and has earmarked an old house on his farm for that purpose, and more. Watch this space.

He, his Finnish wife Johanna, and their three children, live on the farm in nearby Rosscarbery in a cleverly converted barn! The farm is worked and they have established a market garden there with herbs, and greens, tomatoes and so on, grown for the restaurant. Richy finds it hard to understand why so many Irish farmers stopped doing this for themselves. Another bonus is that most of the restaurant waste is composted here.


Back at the restaurant, it is all go. But not with the staff. He has a good team, twenty four strong, his chefs “stay longer”. The place, the flow of work, is tidy, highly organized, everything in its place.

“Ninety per cent is made in-house. You can't go much higher than that.” And the menus rarely stand still, always a few on the specials boards, He had taken an “office day”, on the day of our visit, to work on the Spring-Summer menus for 2016. A few years back, he introduced a pizza menu and that is going strongly.

When Richy started up in 2002, he knew he wouldn't have to go far for good produce. It is all around here in Clonakilty, in the fields of the local farms, and in the nearby seas. And he makes great use of it as we found out, again, last week.
There were at least five specials on the board and I started with one of them: the West Cork Seafood Chowder, packed with little chunks of fish and a few mussels in their shells, a terrific chowder and a great starter on a cool enough day. Meanwhile, CL was warming up with the Buttersquash and Sweetcorn Soup.

Again, I found my mains on the Specials list: Tuna Nicoise Salad, boiled egg, anchovies and green beans. A superb combination of flavours (the meaty tuna and the salty anchovies), colours and textures (crunchy beans, soft eggs). And the salad, from the farm, was simply outstanding.

That well dressed salad also made an appearance in CL’s dish: Chicken, avocado and pomegranate salad, Gubbeen bacon, balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. Again, this was one to savour, take your time with, a pleasure to eat.

We would have loved a dessert and were tempted but settled for a cup of coffee, a chat with the man himself and a tour of the kitchen.
The R Cafe (left) & the restaurant

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mabel, Matriarch of Loughbeg Farm. Meet Ginger & Biscuit. Black & Decker too.

Mabel, Matriarch of Loughbeg Farm
Meet Ginger & Biscuit. Black & Decker too.
Mabel (left) and one of her possible successors.
We are high on a hill on a farm in Lowertown, Schull, County Cork, and have a 360 degree view.

Looking out to the Atlantic we have a splendid view. It is the last day of August and here, as it often is, the sky is clear and we can see, to our right, the Sheep’s Head Peninsula and the long blue of Dunmanus Bay; Dunmanus Castle (near where there a sea urchin producer operates); we can see, to the left, all the way over to Cape Clear island. Beyond Sheep’s Head, Hungry Hill, blue/grey in the distance, rises into the sky on the Beara peninsula (where there is an abalone producer).
Decker and her litter
And, if we shift position a bit and head towards the pure bred Connemara ponies on a neighbouring farm, we can even spot the Fastnet Rock in the distance.

Behind us, the mountains, including Mount Gabriel, match the sweep of the sea in front of us. And immediately below and around us, lies the farm where Walter and Josephine Ryan-Purcell raise their pigs and goats, soon to be joined by a Dexter cow or two; here they grow their vegetables and do much more besides.
Dunmanus Bay and, beyond, Sheep's Head
In the mountains, you note the ridges of rocks crowding together like the bonhams feeding! The pattern is repeated as the rocks continue through the farm and onwards. On the farm, the gaps get a little wider, allowing some grass to flourish, but still narrow, and the gaps get a little wider (sometimes the width of a decent field) nearer the coast. There are some good fields in the vicinity but this farm is not so lucky. Still, the rough land, bushy and scrubby and sometimes marshy, is an ideal spot for the chosen animals.
Connemara pony and Ginger and Biscuit
 It is an open farm and a  lovely place to visit but the open season has just ended and so you’ll have to wait until next summer. There were some visitors on the final day and their small kids were entranced by the goats and the sheep, mostly by the ten piglets that Decker had produced just three days earlier.

Decker and her pal Black (who is due to give birth to her litter any day now) are Duroc crossed Large Black while the dad Bubba is an Gloucester Old Spot. We also met Ginger and Biscuit, a happy pair of pure Tamworth pigs.


Waiting time. Black in the mud.
 Decker’s recent litter has put the spotlight on the pigs but it is the goats that have and are a symbol of Loughbeg Farm, more or less since Walter and Josephine settled here less than ten years ago. So Mabel, the matriarch of the herd and the best known goat in West Cork as she appears on all their labels, may be feeling a little put out. But not a bit of it. She was in good form as were the rest of them. Walter told me they hope to have 14 goats milking next year.

But, for all the animals, Loughbeg is now best known for its bread, for its Oat Bread in particular. Loughbeg benefited from the Supervalu Food Academy and now you can find the hugely popular loaf all across Cork and Kerry. And maybe further afield in the near future. And if you do come across it, ask too about the delicious Oat Tea Break (soaked in tea and cider!).


 Such has been the success of the Oat Loaf this year that Loughbeg now employs nine, including six full-time. Walter hasn't had as much time to concentrate on other aspects of the farm including his Loughbeg Watering System. He is developing this using drainage pipes with slots for his pots and the water in the pipes keeps the plants irrigated. He never stops! And neither does Josephine. As we were galavanting around the farm with Water and Munich based food writer (and translator) Natascha Afanasjew, Josephine was getting hundreds of loaves of bread packed.


We finished up with a lovely lunch of local produce. The bread and the brack featured, of course, as did some of their own chutneys, ham from Gubbeen, tomatoes and cucumbers from their greenhouse, and cheese, a new one, from Sean O'Brien of Ballingeary. Lovely food and good conversation.

We were joined for lunch by Bruno, here to improve his English and, like Natascha, staying in a newly built cottage on the farm. You may rent a room or rent the cottage, check it out on Airbnb, and then you can really take your time as you take in the fabulous views and indeed everything else that goes on in this remarkably productive piece of West Cork.

  • Just keeping this down the bottom (maybe the little piggies won’t see it). There are plans to add to the Loughbeg Range with rashers, sausages and puddings likely to appear in the near future.
Walter, under glass.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rolf’s in Baltimore. Local Produce. Continental Touch.

Rolf’s in Baltimore
Local Produce. Continental Touch.
Quail and apricots
Lots of eating places in Baltimore. I’ve been to a few but last month’s visit was my first to Rolf’s Country House and it was an excellent meal in a lovely room with a friendly and efficient service all through.

Some rich fare on offer here, cream sauces feature in many dishes, and there is quite a middle European touch to the desserts. Here you can find (not necessarily all together) a Flemish Apple Tart, a Black Forest Gateau, Frederike’s Chocolate orange cake and do watch out for the Swiss Chocolate Tart.

Not all heavy though! My starter was the Fresh Brown Crab, served with salad and Marie Rose sauce (10.50). An excellent dish, flavour from the waters from the nearby ocean well matched with the classic sauce. CL too got off to a tasty start: West Cork Black Pudding, on a bed of caramelised apple and served with pan-fried quail eggs (9.50).
Starters and sunset
Quite a good wine choice at Rolf’s. Indeed, they have a wine-bar as well. But would we have red or white? In the end, we settled on the Vier Jahreszeiten Spatburgunder (31.00). This velvety Pinot Noir with its excellent aromas and flavour was a decent match for the various dishes.

Mains for me was the arresting 2 Quails Deboned, flambéed with cognac, and served with apricots and a cream sauce (24.00). This was dispatched, with delight. The sides of potatoes and vegetables were also cooked to perfection and CL got rice with her classic Beef Stroganoff, flambéd with vodka and served with onions and mushrooms and, yes, enriched with a cream sauce (24.50).
Stroganoff
Desserts (6.50) were not going to be ignored on this occasion! If you are giving into temptation, you might as well go all the way. More cream with CL’s delicious strawberries, vanilla ice cream and shortbread biscuits. And mine? Well that was Gertrud’s Dark Swiss Chocolate Tart, a sumptuous treat (including cream!). For the finalé, I did very much enjoy a glass of superb Warre’s Otima 10 year old tawny.

After all that, I had to “race” the mile down to the seafront to get a few photos of the spectacular sunset. Just about made it!

Aside from the restaurant and all day cafe, Rolf's also have The Private Dining Room, now available for parties of 10-14 people.

Rolf’s Country House
Baltimore Hill, Baltimore, Co. Cork
Phone: +353 (0)28 20289
email : info@Rolfsholidays.eu
website: www.rolfsHolidays.eu


Desserts

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hyde No. 1 President's Whiskey. Reaches Maturity In The Mild West

Hyde No. 1 President's Whiskey
Reaches Maturity In The Mild West

“Casks have to be treated with care, almost like plants,” said Conor Hyde MD of Skibbereen based Hyde Whiskey.

The Hydes (Conor, his brother Alan and nephew Peter) have been getting used to handling used Oloroso casks over the past few years. “There is still some sherry inside when we get them. And then we have to water the empty casks every few days, so that they won't dry out and fall apart. You don't want that happening as they are expensive.”

And he told me that the casks can be dangerous too. You need to be careful extracting the bung, especially on hot days as it could shoot out and do damage! 

Their first whiskey, the double distilled President’s No. 1 Cask Single Malt, is based on a ten year old Cooney whiskey (aged in Bourbon casks), and is aged further by Hyde. “The ten year old is a very good base and our intervention improves it and gives it an extra twist”.
The Hydes had no previous whiskey experience when they formed the company three years back. Following a pattern of other start-up whiskey producers, they are buying in in the early days with the aim of establishing their own distillery in the near future.

In the meantime, they are concentrating on building a brand and reputation through adding their own touch. Plans at present include a Rum cask finished whiskey in September, a gin in January and a six year old Single Grain Whiskey is planned for 2016.

They have got off to a terrific start with the President’s, finished in the Oloroso casks in their facility in Skibbereen and distributed by Classic Drinks. “There has been a big thumbs-up from those who have tasted it over the last two months or so. We try to be innovative and we do not use chill filtering.”

He explained that chill filtering can degrade the whiskey. The barley has oils and these oils tend to be lost, to be taken out, by chill filtering. But that is not the case with Hyde and it is appreciated by the connoisseurs. ”You are tasting the true whiskey.”

The President's Men (l to r): Alan, Peter, Conor
Whiskey from the cask can be very strong in alcohol and to get it down to acceptable levels (46% in the case of the President’s) water is added. This is known as “cutting” and Hyde’s cut with West Cork spring water, “no messing, no additives”.


He is delighted with the way sales are going at the moment. “The Germans love it for a combination of factors, including the non-use of chill filtering. They are our best market.” The number of countries taking it is rapidly rising towards the twenty mark and includes New Zealand, USA, UK, Australia and Belgium.

It is available in quite a few places locally, including The Oliver Plunkett, Soho Bar and Bradley’s Off Licence. And Cork Airport spontaneously quadrupled the size of their initial order when placing the second. Quite a vote of confidence for the President’s.

So what is all the excitement about? Take a look at it in the glass and you’ll see some additional colour, from its extra time in the sherry casks. The aromas are complex, vanilla, some fruit, spice too. As you'd expect, after all the ageing, it is smooth and well rounded on the palate, creamy almost, the long finish rich and spicy. Overall, it compares very well indeed with other Premium Irish whiskeys. One of this limited edition of 5,000 bottles would sit very well in any Presidential drinks cabinet.


Monday, July 27, 2015

36 Hours in West Cork. Not that I was counting!

36 Hours in West Cork
Not that I was counting!


Baltimore sunset
I was thinking of Garrett Oliver, master brewer at New York’s Brooklyn Brewery, while I was eating lunch at Union Hall’s Coffee Shop last Thursday. Garrett related at the Ballymaloe LitFest how people, on first drinking one of his beers, tell him that it is so good it doesn't taste like beer. Garrett tells them, with some satisfaction, that what they have been drinking before is not real beer.

Well, here in Union Hall, our first call on our most recent trip to West Cork, I was eating real panini. I’m sure there are other good paninis out there but it is superb here, like nothing I've ever tasted before. It was packed with chicken, brie and pesto, all adding up to great flavours and terrific textures.
Panini
 The menu is short here as you'd expect but quality is high. And that is underlined with CL’s Quiche of Roast peppers, feta, Ballymaloe Relish. After that and a good cup of coffee we were on our way.


Having been in West Cork regularly, particularly this year, I were looking for one or two different things to see and do. West Cork obliged. Big time.


Graveyard on Myross Island
 After the Coffee Shop, we headed for Myross Island and found it. Drove up the narrow road to the graveyard which has terrific views over the Atlantic, including the nearby Rabbit Island. Next call was to Reen Pier where we ran into Jim Kennedy. He runs Atlantic Sea-kayaking and has his base here in this beautiful place.


We got some great views of it as we took the narrow road, rising up above the water, heading for a bridge that would take us to the other side and down to the peace and calm of Castletownsend with its distinguishing tree in the middle of the street, acting as a roundabout.

On the road above Reen Pier
 Baltimore was our destination for the night but there would be another stop or two on the way. First was the amazing Lough Hyne (the unusual seawater lough) and it was quite busy with many enjoying the sunshine, sitting around, swimming in the clear waters and others walking on the wooded hill above and getting fantastic views over the coast.


After all that activity, I felt we deserved a drink and knew just where to get it. On the way into Baltimore, we stopped at Casey’s Hotel. They have recently opened a microbrewery here and some of their Sherkin Lass Pale Ale went down a treat in the beautiful beer garden that overlooks the waters of Baltimore. They also do a red ale.


Rolling hills of West Cork
 Time then to check in at our accommodation. This was in Rolf’s. The Haffner family have been here for over twenty five years and their restaurant, where we enjoyed a terrific dinner at night, is well known. It is a great place to stay too, a fine and friendly base for the area.


In the morning, we were down on the pier, hoping to get a place on one of the boats going out to see the dolphins and, hopefully, a whale or two. But we had no luck. The lesson here is to book in advance.


Castletownsend
 So off we went to the Sheep's Head peninsula and stopped at the car park high in Seefin. We were almost sun-burned here a few months earlier but this day turned cloudy for a while and a strong wind greeted us as we climbed along the marked trail on top of the ridge. We got as far as the megalithic tomb before deciding to turn back. Not the best of days up there but still well worth the effort.


Down then to Old Creamery Cafe in Kilcrohane. This is a spanking clean spot with a menu of sandwiches, paninis, and salads and some home baking. We went for tea and some of that baking. I picked a Raspberry and Lemon Curd Sponge and those raspberries, fresh from the garden, were spectacularly juicy.


Courtyard garden at Rolf's
Refreshed now, we drove up the other side of this spectacular peninsula, heading for Durrus. Our stop though was at Ahakista to pay our respects to the three hundred plus victims of the Air India bombing disaster twenty years ago. Quite a few mementos, mainly wreaths, scattered here since the commemoration last June. Such a waste of life, such sadness.
Megalithic tomb on Sheep's Head
The sun was out as we headed over to Schull to see Walter Ryan-Purcell of Loughbeg Farm (now an open farm that you may visit). Walter, his wife and son, were up in Schull and we met them outside the Bunratty Inn, a gorgeous sun trap! Walter is well known in food circles and great to see the success Loughbeg is enjoying with their Oat Loaf. Look out for it in your local SuperValu.

Sweet! Old Creamery Cafe
 Down then to the pier and we were tempted by the fish dishes on offer at L’Escale but had a date in Rosscarbery and, after a walk on the path alongside the harbour in Schull, we headed for Pilgrim’s in Ross. Hadn't been there before, but is is easy to find as it is right smack bang in the centre of the village.

Ahakista's Air India memorial
 We were pleasantly surprised by the very high standard of the food here, a standard that many high class restaurants would find hard to match. We thoroughly enjoyed our few hours in Pilgrim’s before motoring back to the city.

Schull

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Islands in the Sun. Ferries and Food in West Cork

Islands in the Sun
Ferries and Food in West Cork
 It was sunshine all the way for last week's two day excursion to West Cork. It looks as if there is no shortage of sunshine this week either.


Once we knew the weather was “settled” we determined to re-visit two islands, Garnish near Glengarriff and Sherkin near Baltimore. West Cork of course has many more islands and most have a ferry service. Check here for island and ferry details and do look out also for the Ten Island Tour.

Our base was the Celtic Ross in Rosscarbery but Garnish was our first destination so we took the R585 via Crookstown and headed off down on the old Bantry line. On reaching Kealkil, where our road joins the R584 from Macroom, we felt the need for a quick pit-stop as we did have a specific time for the boat from Glengarriff.


Italian Garden on Garnish
At the junction we spotted a board saying Cully & Sully Soup and Brown Bread for three euro. The Gala shop, also the Post Office, is right there and, within minutes, on the seats outside, we were tucking in to a tasty lunch, great value too.

On then to Glengarriff where we caught the ferry (€10.00) from the Blue Pool to Garnish. But first there were a couple of stops to see the many seals basking on the rocks around Seal Island. Lots of close-ups taken!

Garnish (€4.00 entrance) is an amazing mixture of gardens, arboretums, clock tower, Italianate buildings, even a Martello tower and will look even better in the weeks and months ahead as the trees, shrubs and flowers put on their summer show. Great views too over the bay and mountains.
Dessert at the Clonakilty Hotel
Back then on the ferry, and again a stop, this to say goodbye to the seals. Next call was to Manning's Emporium for a cool drink and a chat with Andrew. Manning’s will of course feed you, and feed you well, but we had a dinner date that evening. Soon we were making our way through Bantry and Skibbereen and then we got a lovely warm welcome as we checked into the spick and span Celtic Ross.

That evening’s dinner was in the restaurant of the Clonakilty Hotel, very enjoyable too. Afterwards we spent a hour or so in the Celtic Ross bar sipping a pint or two of Franciscan Well’s Rebel Red, available on draught.

After a hearty breakfast we were off on another island trip, making the short journey to Baltimore to connect with the ferry (€10.00) to Sherkin Island. We thought we'd be the only passengers until a large bus parked up and some forty Italian students joined us. You’d be hard pressed to find a more well mannered, well behaved bunch.
Horses graze on Sherkin.
 Like Garnish, Sherkin is noted for its peace and quiet. Some good walks too that we enjoyed though again the place will look better in a month or so when the fuchsias are in full bloom. We made our way back towards the ferry point as lunch time approached and called up to the nearby Islander’s Rest where we got one (well two) of the best fish and chips ever. Hake was used and it was so well cooked.


I don't know how many of you know about the pirate raid on Baltimore by Algerian pirates in June 1631 when 107 locals were taken away to be sold into slavery and never seen again. You can read all about it and indeed see some artifacts of the time in the newly restored Baltimore Castle (also known as Dún na Séad). More history too in this recently restored building that started life in the 13th century. An interesting visit (€4.00) and from the top you get terrific views over the town and the harbour.


Beach on Sherkin
Off then towards Rosscarbery again, this time via the villages of Glandore and Union Hall (where you see from the memorial to those drowned at sea that it isn't always as nice as it had been to us these two sunny days).

Dinner that evening was taken in the hotel dining room. With chefs of the calibre of Graeme Campbell and Alex Petit, we were expecting good things and that’s exactly what we got. The highlight was my main course of local pork belly served with a White Bean and Chorizo cassoulet. The pork comes from the Allshire’s nearby and is only available here. Well worth a detour.


Fish & Chips at Islander's Rest
 Indeed, our final visit on the following day was to Caherbeg to see the free-range pigs and have a chat with Avril about her busy life in food. It turned out to be a lovely visit, memorable for many things, including a lunch of her special Black-pudding lasagna! And the sun was still shining as we headed east and back to the city.
Somebody's shopping arriving on Sherkin!