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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tapas at Schull’s Casa Diego. And Farewell to lovely Stanley House

Tapas at Schull’s Casa Diego

And Farewell to lovely Stanley House
Huevos Estrellados

After trips to Three Castles Head and Mount Gabriel and, in between, a lovely lunch at Budds, we were wondering where to eat on our last night in Schull. Had earlier spotted Casa Diego and thought the flexibility (stop when full, maybe!) of tapas might well fit the bill.

They certainly did. Aside from a long list of tapas they also do a more structured meal with starter, mains and so on. They have an indoor dining room and also a bunch of tables on a sheltered sloping garden. And it was the open air venue that we chose.
Pimientos Rellenos

And choosing from the long list wasn't easy as there were many tempting dishes there, everything from Banderillas (a small skewer containing spicy crunch cocktail onions, peppers and olives) to Chorizos a la sidra (chorizo in cider) to Gambas al ajillo (local scampi in garlic, virgin extra oil and chilli).

The wine list isn't as long but I did spot a favourite, the Semele, with its distinctive design, the letters forming a person drinking. Karwigs import this and it has a complex nose, well-ripened red fruit, and is dry, with a well-rounded finish. Certainly enjoyed that.

We started with a selection of the tapas and later ordered more! Favourites included the Pimientos Rellenos (Piquillo peppers with a selection of mushroom or vegetables); the Huevos Estrellados (Fried eggs with potatoes and Iberican ham); the Michirones (Fava beans stewed with cured ham, potatoes, chorizo and bay leaves); the Embutido Ibérico (a massive plate of Spanish chorizo, lean pork sausage with coarse black pepper, and Iberican Ham); and the Berenjena Rellena (stuffed aubergines wth minced meat and homemade tomato covered with melted parmesan cheese). 

The only bum note was struck, surprisingly, by the Patatas Bravas. You get a plateful of the spicy cubes but most of the bigger cubes weren't fully cooked. Still, we had more than enough from the smaller ones as the plate was big and packed.

Service had been friendly and excellent throughout. When we went up to pay we were told they didn't accept credit cards. Had we been eating in the inside room, we’d probably have seen that on the door. We were told there was an ATM in Centra, just down the street. So we walked down there and brought back the cash to the friendly trusting folks in Casa Diego. By the way, L’Escale, on the pier, is another restaurant that doesn’t take credit cards.
Schull harbour from Stanley House

On the following morning (Sunday), we said goodbye to Nancy and her lovely Stanley House on the Colla Road. Our room had a gorgeous sea-view as had most of the outdoor areas and gardens. They cook an excellent breakfast here too and Nancy is very helpful with directions and tips on what to do in the area.

Still time to call down to the Country Market which is held every Sunday morning in summer. Lots of good things here from homemade baking and jams to a full sized Gubbeen stall where we lingered awhile, tasting a smashing two year Coolea with Tom Ferguson himself. Filled a bag there and then took a final walk along the shore. Didn't get too far in the sun. Just sat down on one of the many seats and watched some swimmers come in after what looked like a long one.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Friday Night in Schull. L’Escale & Hackett’s Bar

Friday Night in Schull

L’Escale Hackett’s Bar
Lobster salad



We have ways of
making you walk!
It was time for a bite in Schull on Friday night (07.07.17). Not looking for dinner this time, just a tasty top-up. Hackett’s do evening meals but only “when it gets hectic”. It wasn't hectic enough yet apparently, though there was a crowd enjoying the sun and the drink on the pavement outside.

So we headed down to the nearby pier and the colourful L’Escale. It had been recommended to us. Just as well, as their website and Facebook pages aren't really up to date. Indeed, the website says call back to check their new 2015 summer menus.

Surprisingly that their social media is not up to speed as they use tech when you order. You are given a phone sized gadget that vibrates, bleeps and flashes when your order is ready. Efficient yes but don't think I'd like to see the practice spread, making another disconnect between the customer and the staff. Could there be a future message: Go to Hatch 57, your order is there; type in your code to access.

Despite the hi-tech bit, they don’t take credit cards. And neither does Casa Diego, the customer friendly tapas place on Main Street.
If you'd like to go face to face with the server and the cook, then this mobile
unit, parked on the Schull pier, has a tempting menu
L’Escale was busy. It always is. Fish and Chips and Pizza (may be ordered downstairs) are popular here and there are lots of families in. We went up the steps to place our order for a lobster salad (17.50) and received our gizmo which went ballistic a few minutes later. So I took my noise with me back up the steps; the guy there just nodded towards my tray (no words exchanged) and I took it to our outdoor seat which we had found ourselves. 

Door notice at Hackett's
You knew they wouldn't be around asking you if everything was okay. But it was. It was a perfect bite, just what the stomach required after a lovely lunch earlier in Gubbeen. L’Escale also have a wine list but we were happy enough with the water as we were heading to Hackett’s.

Rising Sons
 That crowd was still out in the street as we arrived at Hackett’s and we thought it would be packed inside. But, no. Hardly a soul there, at least until the music started.


It is a traditional pub, lots of old timber. Mainly the usual suspects too as regards draught so I was glad to see the familiar Rising Sons Brewery represented by their Indian Pale Ale and I enjoyed a couple of cool pints of that as the music speeded up and the sun sank slowly (I presume!) in the west.
All quiet at L'Escale on Sunday morning.
See also: Gubbeen Farm Visits. Cheese and charcuterie.

Tapas at Schull’s Casa Diego. And Farewell to lovely Stanley House


The Fergusons. And the Gubbeen Bug. The Family That Farms Together

The Fergusons. And the Gubbeen Bug. 

The Family That Farms Together

Cheese in brine
Farming at Gubbeen is a family affair with father and mother Tom and Gianna Ferguson and their son Fingal and daughter Clovisse the key figures. 



But, for a long time now, they've had the help of an unseen bug, officially known as Microbacterium gubbeenense, a unique strain (hence its own name) of lactic acid producing bacteria. Gianna, the cheesemaker, was thrilled when informed about the bug back around 2001. She told us during last Friday's Munster Wine and Dine Tour: “Gubbeen’s own bug. I was totally delighted with that. I have three children, and a bug!”
Munster Wine & Dine at Gubbeen

Tom
“Our cheese story begins out on the land.” She praised Tom’s herd, mostly Friesian, a few other breeds too including a few Jerseys "for their cream!" The cheese took off well and since then “everything seems to have dovetailed together”. Here, she was talking about the smokehouse charcuterie (and smoked cheese of course) by Fingal along with the gardening skills of Clovisse, not that either are confined to just one skill, far from it.

She said Irish cheese regulation is geared towards cheddar cheese production. “But my tradition is based on the practices of small farms in France and Spain. We in Gubbeen use the traditional rennet, made from an enzyme that grows in a calf’s stomach. We tried it vegetarian rennet but it didn't work for us.”
Once the cheese is made into wheels, not very big ones in Gubbeen’s case, the bacteria is inoculated by hand into each and every one four times. The rind is known as washed rind because, it it comes from regular washing (water yes but also white wine!) of the individual wheels. “It is edible,” she said. “But it is a different texture and I respect why people may not eat it.”

Gubbeen basically make one cheese type but you may buy it young or more mature or smoked and in different sizes. Read all about the variations here on the Gubbeen cheese page  .

Fingal shows his knives

The Gubbeen smokehouse story begins with a neighbour. “In my early teens I would drive over to the village of Goleen to bring our cheeses to Chris Jepson to be smoked in his Smokehouse,” Fingal told us as he took us around the new (the 2nd) smoke house. After the cheese, they did meat. “Then the salamis really took off, helped by the fact that our name was appearing in top restaurants such as Chapter One.”

Like his mother, Fingal too pointed “to the care of the land” as key. “Milk is vital to cheese. The quality of pig is vital to us. We have embraced with locals via the Piggy Coop. We stress the husbandry and the breed, mostly outdoor reared. You pay more but it is worth it.” By the way, there are 25 employed (including family members) in Gubbeen.
Welcome to the smokehouse

He showed us how he heats his kilns, “important to get the correct balance of air and smoke. Different temperatures create different flavours”. And, wouldn't you know it, they use local timbers, local windfall timber. A fair bit of work in chopping up a big tree but father Tom takes no excuses: “The man who cuts his own timber warms himself twice!”

Fingal spoke of salting and brining. “The brine is traditional Irish, herbs jazz it up.” He uses natural casings, “more expensive but a better result”. “These smoked products are not overly sterilised but good for your gut and more interesting in terms of flavour.” Read all about the smoke house, including the fabulous salamis and chorizos here

Just a hint of the Superb Lunch from Clovisse

And when Fingal has time, he crafts the most amazing knifes for cooks and butchers but don’t rush down to buy one; there is a waiting list of close to 800 for these beauties. Heat treating and quality of steel are key in making a good knife. “The tempering cycle, well done, can change the properties of the steel to enhance its eventual role, including durability.” His attractive handles are made “of everything from old bog oak to weird and wonderful materials.”

Then he took us on a walk around the yard and here we met some baby animals, including calves and bonhams, also a big turkey and a mighty cockerel that almost matched him.

Then it was the turn of Clovisse to feed us. And, using the cheese, the smokehouse meats, and herbs, vegetables and leaves from her own garden just outside the dining room window, she put together a feast of Gubbeen. Nothing much to be added, though the organic wines from Le Caveau, the Gran Cedro Tempranillo and the Meyer-Fonné Pinot Blanc, were entirely appropriate and excellent matches.

Her garden is completely chemical free with a strong emphasis on keeping the soil clean and healthy.  Many of the herbs are used in the sausage recipes and meat cures. Gianna used the word dovetail earlier to describe how the different elements of Gubbeen have come together and the Gubbeen greens are becoming an increasing element of the great family story. Read all about them here
Back to the garden
See also:

Tapas at Schull’s Casa Diego. And Farewell to lovely Stanley House




Monday, March 13, 2017

Food, Blues and Brews. The Sharp Knife Ride West Again

Food, Blues and Brews
The Sharp Knife Ride West Again

Flavour.ie is bringing back talented street food crew The Sharp Knife from Cork City for another night of amazing food in a rural West Cork pub following their hugely successful event in October 2016! 

Kate Ryan of Flavour.ie has created yet another exciting dining event to the ever curious food enthusiasts of West Cork by pairing the kings of extraordinary street food, The Sharp Knife, with Cork’s most successful craft brewery, 8 Degrees Brewing and dropping them into a sleepy West Cork village for a night that celebrates the best of West Cork produce and explores new ways with Craft Beer.

Remember last October when we took over a party barn in West Cork and turned it into a Mexican Cantina for one night only?
Well, it was epic.  And now Flavour.ie are teaming up once more with The Sharp Knife to deliver another night of knock out Street Food.  And this time, we've asked 8 Degrees Brewing to come along and join the party. Oh yes we did!

Hang out with Flavour.ie, The Sharp Knife and 8 Degrees Brewing at the beautiful Tots Pub in the village of Ballygurteen 10 minutes from West Cork’s premier foodie town of Clonakilty. We will be turning Tots into the only place to be seen for one night only.  Think you're in a country pub in West Cork? THINK AGAIN!

Flavour.ie are bringing the hottest crew of street food chefs from Cork City, an award winning craft beer brewery, mixologists and the best local DJ talent to West Cork from across the County to bring you an event that mixes up tastes of craft brewing with a multi-course menu of street food from across the globe. Excited yet?  Let me tell you more...

Each of the eight (yes, EIGHT!) courses have been specially created by The Sharp Knife.  They will be taking you on global culinary journey of street food from the comfort of your dinner table with every dish.  Many dishes will be cooked with craft beer as we demonstrate how versatile beer can be with cooking as well as sipping!  Each dish will be expertly matched by Caroline Hennessy of 8 Degrees Brewing.

Taking place on Saturday 8th April, the team will be presenting eight courses of street food, a welcome cocktail designed by The Sharp Knife, craft beers, ciders and wines matched to each course, tea & coffee to finish plus DJ. Book your ticket with or without drinks pairings and inclusive of everything on the night.  With access to a fully licenced bar, and DJ Paul Cullen spinning blues, funk, jazz and soul all night long, you’ll be in no rush to head home, so who knows when the night will end!

Kate said “Our event with The Sharp Knife in October last was absolutely brilliant.  The style of street food that The Sharp Knife create is exceptional, but the dining experience itself is really relaxed and focused on fun. To be able to welcome 8 Degrees Brewing is fantastic.  They are Cork’s most successful craft brewer and really helped to kick everything off for what is now a thriving and creative craft brewing industry across the whole of Cork.   The welcome at Tots is legendary too, so from the moment people arrive they will be made to feel right at home.  It’s not your usual dining experience, but that’s what we like to do at Flavour.ie – test the unconventional and bring something truly unique for the foodies of West Cork!”

The Menu itself is a secret and won’t be revealed until diners arrive.  Diners are asked to leave any foodie inhibitions well and truly at the door and to go with whatever is put in their way!

Places are limited so pre-booking is essential.  The event is €65 per head with matched drinks or €55 per head with soft drinks, includes a cocktail on arrival, 8 courses of delicious food with paired drinks, tea/coffee and live music by DJ Paul Cullen.

Book securely online via Flavour.ie at www.flavour.ie/popup or contact Kate on 086 205 9360.

Who are The Sharp Knife?
The Sharp Knife are a guerilla style street food chef crew from the city.  Their chieftains are Bryan Phelan formerly of Holy Smoke and now at Rachel Allen's new Cork City eatery and Mike McGrath of outstanding Japanese restaurant, Miyazaki. They bring with them a crew that love to mix it up with street food from around the world!  Everything from Middle Eastern to Louisiana Pit Smoke; South East Asian to the Californian Baja Peninsula, nothing is out of bounds.  Be prepared to tear up your taste buds.  Bringing Street Food to the Table. Stay Sharp...

Who is Caroline Hennessy and 8 Degrees Brewing?
Caroline Hennessy is an award winning food writer and journalist, and author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider. Caroline was Ireland's first true food blogger, starting "Bibliocook" in 2005 and hasn't looked back since. Her husband is the co-founder of 8 Degrees Brewery, Ireland's most established and successful craft brewery, and Caroline is heavily involved in the businesses PR and Marketing, cementing her passion for great Irish craft brewing as well as developing recipes for using beer in every day cooking.

Tots Pub
Tots Pub has been welcoming people from all over County Cork for decades and has been more than willing to shake up the image of the sleepy country pub for years under the playful guidance of its landlady, Carmel Dullea. Easy to get to, but smuggled away - it's the perfect place for us to pop up a restaurant. It couldn't feel more exclusive!

Press release from Flavour.ie
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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.