Plum Wine. Sparkling Apple Juice. The Butler and The Queen. Fruit Cakes and Steeplechasers. All in a Tipp Day-trip


Plum Wine. Sparkling Apple Juice. The Butler and His Queen. Fruit Cake.  Steeplechasers. 
All in a Tipp Day-trip.
Ormond Castle


Shopping at Dove Hill
The Butlers may have moved all the best bits to their castle in Kilkenny when they were forced to downsize but that means you get to see more of the basics when you visit their ruined castle and restored manor house in Carrick on Suir. You get the impression from the Ormond Castle guides that they’d prefer to have some of those paintings and tapestries back from Kilkenny. Yet there is much to be seen in the castle and house on the banks of the Suir. 
At the Apple Farm

The Butlers (original family name was Walter), by the way, did start off as royal butlers, and their initial land here was a gift from the crown. But, well known to the crown and related to Elizabeth 1, they got more and more as time went by and eventually held sway over large areas of Kilkenny, Carlow and Tipperary, castles all over including substantial ones, as in Cahir, and small ones like that at Farney. Indeed that Farney building has a butler’s pantry “hidden” in the 12 foot thick walls. Clonmel's Main Guard is another Butler building.

Situated in the middle of Carrick, Ormond Castle is the best example of an Elizabethan manor house in Ireland. It, along with extensive gardens, was built by Thomas, the 10th Earl of Ormond in the 1560s. Closely integrated into the manor house are two 15th century towers. It is the country's only major unfortified dwelling from that turbulent period. The state rooms contain some of the finest decorative plasterwork in the country, including plasterwork portraits.
Clonmel's splendid Main Guard

The above paragraph is a direct quote from the Heritage Ireland entry. The Butlers abandoned the home after James' death in 1688. It remained a possession of the family until the middle of the 20th century. In 1947 the house was given over to state agencies who restored the historic structures. The restoration continues.

Admission to the site is by guided tour only and there is a small fee. There is a video show detailing the history of the Butlers and you can see that before or after your tour. As you walk between the walls of the derelict castle, you’ll note that there was a large arched door ahead of you. This opened directly on to the River Suir, the main source of traffic at the time. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth was expected to walk through here but died before she could fulfil the promise of a visit to her cousin (rumours, continued within these walls to this day suggest the relationship was more than innocently familial). 
Clonmel mural

The house is the “star” of the visit, and the long room is the highlight. Much of the plasterwork is original and is indeed very impressive. The timber, much of it original (dating back hundreds of years), is amazing. You get a great view of it up in the attic, all held together without nails, the kind of basics view you don’t get in Kilkenny. Outstanding workmanship from the 16th century and the OPW guys of more recent times don’t come out of it too badly either! 

After a slow walk up the river by the small marina and a quick cuppa in the town we headed west towards the Dove Hill Design Centre on the Clonmel Road. Disappointed to find the large garden centre has closed but we did get some shopping done, mostly kitchen gear (from Meadows and Byrne) and food. The latter included Flahavan’s Hi8 muesli and Lismore Food Company’s Dark Chocolate Apple Crisp Thins (delicious!) from  the Ardkeen shop there, Skellig’s Chocolate and more from the Blarney Woollen Mills’ large selection.
Hotel Minella, a friendly place.

Time then to check in at the Minella Hotel, splendidly sited on the south bank of the Suir in Clonmel. We also got a splendid welcome here and were soon relaxing with tea and cake! While seemingly isolated on its own extensive grounds, the hotel is within 15 minutes walk of the town centre and we checked that on our way for an evening meal at the Kyoto Asian Street Food restaurant in Parnell Street but not before we had a look at the Main Guard, a distinctive and nicely restored 17th century building.

Kyoto, upstairs over Boyle’s bookmakers, is popular and was busy. The menu is wide-ranging with options under various headings such as Sushi, Curries, Donburi, Noodles, and Wok. There was even dessert, an interesting one. We hadn’t come across Banana Katsu (with ice cream) before so we shared it and the deep-fried crumbed banana (4.95) was delicious. Also delicious was the plum wine (5.50). I took the wine instead of the sake (6.00).

Back then to the hotel for a pint in the bar. After a good breakfast we said our goodbyes and the friendly folks at the front desk didn’t allow us go empty-handed, gifting us a top class fruit cake on exit, one that we still enjoying!
The Full Irish, local produce, at the Minella

Later, on their website, I noted that the Minella is well known for its cake baking. It is also well-known for its association with horse-racing and all their runners (most if not all over fences) have Minella in the name.

We were heading home now in the sun but had one final call to make. You really shouldn’t drive the Clonmel-Cahir road without making a stop at the Apple Farm, owned and run by Con Traas, just be careful entering and exiting as this is quite a fast road (well, let me say there are fast drivers on it).
Sunset in Clonmel

The farm is beautifully kept; even the shed where the shop is situated is brightened up with some thriving roses. You may pick your own strawberries here but we took the easy option and bought a few punnets of the beauties. Also came away with lots of bottles of juices (some of cider too!), jars of jams and packets of his apple crisps (yet to be tried). 
The Apple Farm

I have often mentioned his sparkling apple juice here and it is still a lovely product. But my new favourite is the Apple and Raspberry juice, an ideal summer-time drink. Thanks Con. Cheers.

On this trip:
Enjoyable lunch at historic Barron's Bakery

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