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There’s a bunch of Holstein Friesians grazing on the tough fields around the Caherconnell Stone Fort in the heart of the Burren in County Clare. Not easy to get a decent biteful here; grass is not plentiful, far from it, but the cows also eat some of the famous herbs and exotic plants that grow in the crevices in the great pavement of the Burren rock. And that hard-earned mix of flavours goes to make Burren Gold, a Gouda style cheese and our Taste of the Week.
We have visited the famous Ailwee Caves in the area on a few occasions and head there again. But this time, instead of the caves, we are going to the Farm Shop, in the same complex. Here they sell lots of good things from the area, including honey, and indeed other cheeses and we also get a taste of the fantastic Cratloe Hills, a sheep milk cheese from the south of the county (and a previous Taste of the Week).
The milk from the Holstein Friesians of Caherconnell is brought here and you can see the cheese being made. Today though, the cheesemaker has a day off. Just by pure chance, we get talking to manager Dave and he talks us through the process.
They have been making the cheese here since 1985. So why haven’t we heard about it? The main reason is that over 90 per cent of it is sold right here in the Farm Shop and the rest locally. We actually found it on the breakfast menu at our B&B, the Fergus View near Corofin where the Kellehers, Mary and Declan, support all things local.
Burren Gold is a firm textured Gouda style cheese with a rich creamy taste. It comes in a variety of flavours:- Plain, Smoked, Cumin, Garlic & Nettle, Black Pepper and for something a little more exotic—Piri Piri.
You can taste all the variations here - we did - and Dave was particularly proud of the Piri Piri and even more so of the Black Pepper which won a Gold Medal Award at the prestigious Bath and West Show in 2018.
They also age some of the cheese. You can see the racks of wheels in a glassed off section of the shop, one for 12 months, another for 24.Those mature cheeses are splendid and we bought ourselves a piece that was just over 12 months. It is disappearing rapidly.
Actually, there is quite a lot to do here. You may of course visit the famous caves, all part of the Burren Geo-Park; you may buy a combined ticket that will enable you see the Birds of Prey. And if you want to interact with one of nature's top predators, then sign up for the Hawk Walk (you’ll need to do this in advance). This walk also includes admission to the cave and the Birds of Prey.
Other attractions not too far away are the Burren Perfumery and the Poulnabrone dolmen, both amazing.