Millstreet Country ParkThe Best of Venison. So Much More
|Mont des Arts. Looking down and (below) looking up|
as the water flows down the steps
Sat down for lunch in the café at Millstreet Country Park the other day. After all it was time for a break after a couple of hours walking through part of this amazing place, full of surprises, its gardens, water features, walks and bike rides, lakes and ponds, bogs and mountains. And Red Irish deer, of course.
The menu is short as you’d expect. But no shortage of food or drink (everything from water to wine). I spotted Venison in a sandwich and ordered it immediately. It was absolutely delicious, amazingly tender. Our server mentioned something about the owner's recipe and strict instructions but she wasn't revealing any secrets!
We had started with a hearty bowl of soup (4.50) - it wasn't the warmest day of the week! And our other dish was a Sweet Chilli Chicken (chicken, chilli mayo, onion, tomato and mixed leaves). Another excellent dish for just €5.50. My MCP Special consisted of the venison, relish (superb), cheese and onion, leaves and slaw and came to €6.00. Oh by the way, the venison, butchered by Finn’s in Mitchelstown, is on sale here.
Nibbles is the name of the cafe and it is newly built, very comfortable and well equipped to deliver a relaxed dining experience serving hearty soups, gourmet sandwiches, selection of cakes and treats, speciality coffees, teas and hot chocolates. Much of the produce comes from the farm, their tunnel and gardens along with some from the wild (all part of the Foraging Trail). There is also a bistro here, open for the major events and available too for private functions. Both have terrific views over the park and nearby mountains.
The park is between Millstreet and Macroom and we could have taken the main roads but instead went cross-country, via Blarney, Tower and Rylane. From Rylane we headed for Aubane and it was here, just two hundred metres before the turn-off for the park, that we came across two plaques, one at either side of the narrow hilly road.
This little road was part of the famous Butter Road where farmers from as far away as Castleisland brought their containers of butter to the Butter Exchange in Cork City’s Shandon for much of the 18th and 19th centuries when Cork was regarded as the Butter Capital of the world. Here in Aubane there is a flat rock, known as the Kerryman’s table, and here the weary travellers rested.
The plaque at the other side also commemorates the Butter Road and its contractor John Murphy of Castleisland. This was unveiled in 1998 by the chairman of Dairygold and the butter used in Nibbles is by Dairygold of course! This is their area - the Kerrymen were only passing through. Read more about this particular butter road here.
Aside from the food, the Park is a marvellus place to visit, great too if you have kids. The youngsters will enjoy the space, the bikes, the water (they have nets and rubber ducks for them), the large shuffleboard area, the Fairy Trail and more. It is popular for school tours and camps.
For the adults, in the Leisure Zone, there are gardens galore including a Sensory, Rose, Bee, Music and the Tertiary Garden. In the Active Zone, you’ll find the Wetlands, a Stone Circle, an Obstacle Course and much more. And in the Wilderness Zone, there are Picnic Areas, the Blanket Bog and the Hedge School Site and that’s just a fraction.
The highlights around the Visitor Centre are perhaps the two water features, the lovely Circus Fountain and the amazing Mont Des Arts. The latter, constructed in 2009, is a replica of the original Mont des Arts built in the central square in Brussels for the Universal Exposition of 1910.
And, of course, you have to see the red deer. In summer, the population peaks at about 250. By the way, the deer farm here is organic. Venison is processed by John Finn in Mitchelstown and the burgers are made by Jerry Pat O’Leary, a craft butcher in Millstreet. Check the latest venison prices here.