Showing posts with label Bantry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bantry. Show all posts

Monday, September 17, 2018

Eye-opening Boat Trip on Bantry Bay. Thanks to Diarmaid of the Fish Kitchen.

Eye-opening Boat Trip on Bantry Bay
Thanks to Diarmaid Murphy of the Fish Kitchen.



Last week we found ourselves in a boat in the middle of the Bantry Bay mussel farming area, very extensive, and could see the long lines where blue mussels are placed on ropes that remain suspended in the water. Once the industry was very labour intensive but Diarmuid told us that it is now very much mechanised. In any case, the results are great as we found later that evening in the Murphy’s Fish Kitchen.

If you want a guide to Bantry, land and sea, Diarmaid Murphy of the Fish Kitchen is your man. He has immense experience of the sea, including boats (he is cox for the local lifeboat) and fishing, and allied to that is a love and detailed knowledge of the history of the town and its magnificent bay and its surrounds. Next summer (2019), he plans to do guided trips on his six-passenger rib.
Windy, even inside the harbour wall.
We were delighted with our “preview”. It wasn't the best of days on the bay, far from the worst though, and we were in good hands as we headed out from the new marina that has made a huge difference to boating in the bay. 
From the hotel. The bay looked more benign an hour or so before the trip.
See the green fields of Whiddy and, beyond, the mountains of the Beara peninsula
Having left the Bantry pier and the marina behind - the ferry from Whiddy Island was coming in - we headed towards the left of the island taking a look to the mainland on our left. Diarmuid pointed out the aerodrome where private planes come and go, some from the continent. Nearby too is the Blue Cliff. Not blue during our trip but quite grey. The blue is noticeable when the sun shines.
Homeward bound - the Whiddy ferry

Plan was to do  full circle around Whiddy and get close to the liner over in Glengarriff. But, with the rib hopping off the incessant waves, discretion was the better part of valour so we turned and ran alongside the town side of the long island, meeting the ferry again on its return trip. We saw the local pub, the Bank House.
The Whiddy local

Of course, one of the major historical events in the bay came with the Wolfe Tone attempted invasion in 1796. Unsettled by this, the British ordered the construction of three forts on the island and these were pointed out to us in their hilltop locations.
Cruise liner Astoria in the bay
Over a hundred years later, the USA Navy set up a short-lived flying-boat base here during the great war and the planes were used to hunt German submarines. And in 22 October 1918, Walford A. Anderson (an US flier from Springfield, MO) was killed in a crash, the first ever air-crash fatality in Ireland according to our guide.

There was a much larger tragedy on Whiddy in January 1979, when the oil tanker Betelgeuse blew up at the offshore jetty for the oil terminal on the island. The explosion and resultant fire cost 50 lives.
Mussel farmer at work. Eagle Point in the distance
Soon we were at the other (eastern) corner of Whiddy, we could see across towards Glengarriff and the visiting cruise liner, the Astoria. Diarmuid thought we might get closer from this side but it was not to be as the waves were a little too big so we retreated in the general direction of Ballylickey.
There were plenty of mussel rows here also and we got a splendid view of the Eagle Point Caravan Park; it has a very impressive location indeed and well spaced pitches. No wonder it is a very popular place and locals mark the start of summer when the “Eagle-Pointers” arrive.
Bantry, with the Maritime Hotel on right.
In this area also, you’ll find Donemark (the fort of the ships). Often saw this name on signposts but didn’t realise the legends and history attached to it. Indeed, they say it is the first place that humans (the Milesians) landed in Ireland although there is also a story that a niece of Noah’s landed here much earlier!
Bantry House
Bantry Bay longboats are replicas of the captain’s landing vessel used by the French navy in the 1700s. A longboat from the Wolfe Tone attempt was found in the bay and eventually ended up in Bantry House. There have been international races featuring the longboats and their 13-person crews and again Diarmaid has been involved.
The Blue Cliff
Other points of interest included the very scenic Bantry Golf Club, the hill of Seskin, the various smaller islands, the ruin of the jetty wrecked in the 1979 explosion and more. I may well have missed out on some others as sometimes, with the wind, it was hard to hear each other and it was not a day to be taking notes and not the best of days for photos either. But the whole experience was brilliant, exhilarating for these two ancient land-lubbers.

Thanks a million to Diarmaid and we wish him well on his sight-seeing venture next summer and will let you have details when available.

Read all about our dinner at the Fish Kitchen here.
Reckon this guy would fancy a mussel
The Blue Harvest. The mussels farmed here are Blue Mussels.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Fish Kitchen’s Special. A Taste of West Cork Waters


The Fish Kitchen’s Special
A Taste of West Cork Waters

As we walk up the stairs to our Bantry restaurant, the multi-event A Taste of West Cork festival is in full swing, heading for its closing weekend. Many attractive food options around the towns and villages but knowing punters make their way to the Fish Kitchen and a packed house enjoys the best produce from the local shores and seas. The Kitchen crew are busy but not a bother as the delicious meal is served.


“Freshness, simplicity, quality” is what they promise here and that is exactly what we get. Excellent service too, a good choice of wines and craft beer and good company too at the long tables. We enjoy the chat with Esther and Joe from Cappoquin and Jim and Barbara from the town.


Diarmaid, who owns and runs the Fish Kitchen with his wife Ann-Maria, served us a simple Amuse Bouche, a sharing plate of Sheep’s Head periwinkles with garlic. Hard to get them out of the little shells but well worth the effort!

Next up was a trio of Smoked Salmon, Prawns and Oyster. Tasty stuff. Excellent salmon, amazing prawns from the bay outside and a superb Carlingford oyster. Quite a hat trick of flavours.

We were very happy with that and got even happier with the next round: Steamed Bantry Bay mussels with Stonewell Cider. We had been out on the bay earlier and had seen the lines and lines heavy in the water with rope-grown mussels. And here they were now on our plate, meatier and tastier than any I’ve tried in recent times.
Croquettes

Another course was on the way as the Salterio Albarino level in our bottle was falling and this was another handsome combination: Union Hall Smoked Pollack and crabmeat croquettes, served with a simple salad.


Now for the big one: herb crusted Castletownbere Hake with sun-dried tomato and Gubbeen chorizo pesto. Sometimes in Ireland we smother delicate fish with heavy sauces. Not here. The Hake was the star, the others there just to show it off to perfection. And, yes, it was perfect, as were all the courses.
Hake

And of course there was dessert. Here we had a choice and the Plum Crumble won hands down at our table; maybe the lavender infused pannacotta found takers at the other tables!

While this was a special dinner (we paid 45 euro a head) for the festival, you will get the freshest of fish, skilfully handled and simply presented at a fair price every day, lunch and dinner, at this town centre venue. And, if you are eating at home, then grab some fresh fish from the family market on the ground floor!
Crumble

New Street
Bantry 
Co.Cork
(027) 56651


* Diarmaid was our host on our earlier trip around the bay - check it out here. He has been doing it a bit over the past summer and intends to make it a permanent feature next year. A proud native of the area, he is a superb guide to the huge bay, its geography and amazing history. His sturdy rib will take six paying passengers so keep an eye out for that in 2019.



Monday, May 7, 2018

A Couple of Days in West Cork Syrian Food. Manning’s Emporium. An Eagle’s Nest. Burgundy on the Beach. Room with a View. Magic.


A Couple of Days in West Cork
Manning’s Emporium. Syrian Food.  An Eagle’s Nest.
Burgundy on the Beach. Room with a View. Magic.
On Garinish Island, with the Italian Garden in the centre

Mid April and we’re off to West Cork for a couple of days. We get to taste Syrian food in Bandon, lunch at the amazing and expanding Manning’s Emporium, see the eagle’s nest near Glengarriff where we stay and dine at the spectacular Eccles Hotel before a wander around the large and engaging Bantry Market.
Manning's Pizza oven

First stop is in Bandon where we had a little lunch at the Bayleaf (LINK), a restaurant serving a delicious mix of Irish and Syrian food. Then a stroll around the town and a call to Ruth at URRU for coffee and also to check out the shelves stocked well with good food and drink. URRU by the way is expanding, upwards, and Ruth is waiting patiently for the stairs to be installed! It will be an even better place to visit and relax over a cuppa.

Salad at Manning's

The first major halt is at the beachside hotel Inchydoney Lodge, a spectacular place. We are here for the Louis Jadot Burgundy Wine dinner and, before that, a walk on the beach of course.

The Ploughman

The following morning, after breakfast, we decide to take advantage of the emerging sun to walk the beach on the other side of the hotel before heading off west. First stop is at Manning's Food Emporium in Ballylickey. They too have well-stocked shelves, all kinds of food and drink.

Eagle's next, top right
But the major attraction is their expanding outside dining area (they have covered and indoor spaces too, in case of rain!). And we spot their newly installed pizza oven, going down a treat at the weekends.


A little lunch is called for on this occasion and one of us has a plate of crisp and beautiful salad while the other enjoys a delicious Ploughman’s on a baguette. Amazing freshness, colour, flavour and texture on each plate. And the tea was top class also!


On then to beautiful Glengarriff. With the sun in a strong position, it was an ideal day to visit Garinish Island. We got the boat at the lovely Blue Pool and our skipper took great care of us, making sure we had lots of time to enjoy the seals lazing on the rocks and then he pointed out the lofty tree top nest of the sea eagles. Enjoyed the walk around the island - we’ve been there a few times before - especially the climb to the Martello tower and the Italian Garden. 

There is a new attraction here now, a guided tour of Bryce House. You need to plan this into your schedule. It starts at quarter past the hour and takes about 45 minutes. We didn’t have quite enough time but will visit on the next occasion. The ferry charge is 12 euro and there is a 5 euro fee to visit the island.
On Garinish, Italian Garden
 More seals and another look up at the nest (there was an eagle standing there) as we made our leisurely way back to the Blue Pool. Time then to check in at the Eccles. We had specified a room with a view and it was rather special. After a little drink in the hotel's Harbour Bar, we strolled up to the village.

Dinner in the bar (the main restaurant opens for the main tourist season) was excellent. Breakfast was actually served in that lovely main restaurant, the Garinish, and that set us nicely. It was another sunny morning and ideal for a visit to the huge Bantry Market where everything from the best of local food to bric-a-brac is for sale. Well worth a visit.

Links for this visit:
Bantry Market


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Bantry Market. Every Friday

Bantry's Massive Market Every Friday
The Toy Show

The regular Bantry Market is one of the biggest around. The Market occupies the central town square and spills out into the adjoining roads and car parks. Organic fruit & veg, hot food, baking, cheese, fish, meats, olives, eggs, honey, preserves, plants, local crafts, pet supplies, bric-a-brac & collectables are among the items you'll find here. 
Take a seat

And it gets even bigger on the first Friday of each month (the traditional Fair Day) when it's not unusual to see donkeys tethered to lampposts and cages full of ducks and hens for sale. 
Shane serving up his Red Strand coffee.

Here'll you find Henry Hegarty working his magic at Wokabout, Shane and his locally roasted Red Strand coffee, and delicious freshly baked bread and pastries from the Dunmanway Baking Emporium. Want a pair of gloves for the garden - here there's a huge selection, not just for the garden, for the farm too, for the factory and so on. Tools of all shapes and sizes, new and secondhand. Looking for something for your home wine-making? Thirty corks for three euro. Books, vinyl records, old toys, carpets and mats, clothes and more. All here in this colourful gathering. Well worth a visit!


Links for this visit:



Chilling out


Books galore

Jewellery Box


How about a cuppa?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Keohane’s of Bantry. Their catch to your plate.

Keohane’s of Bantry
Their catch to your plate
Hake with oregano and garlic
When I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, Catholics abstained from meat on Fridays. Fish was the preferred alternative. Preferred is hardly the right word as the bony little white fish dished up religiously was regarded, not as food, but as a danger, a nuisance (all those bones) and a penance. Fish, wrongly, got a bad name in this island, a bad name from which it is now almost totally recovered.


Indeed, over much of the past week, the week after Seafest in Ringaskiddy, we’ve had fish just about everyday. And on some of those days, the fish has been supplied by Keohane’s of Bantry. It is a family business and dad Michael (The Cod Father) has been fishing the Atlantic waters for thirty years.

Son Michael runs the family fishmongers while daughter Anne Marie runs the Fish Kitchen Restaurant in Bantry, a highly recommended place to call, great fish dishes and lots of local craft beer. Check it out here
Keohane's process the fish at their Kinsale Road facility. I know we should all try to eat fresh fish from the market or the fishmonger but we are not always near them. You’ll find it hard to get fish in many rural areas and even in the cities large areas, Mayfield for instance, have no fishmonger. Then if you are working, you may not have time to go nor time to prepare.

Keohane’s can come to your rescue here. Their Microwavable fish comes in a vacuum pack (some for one person, some for two), usually with a garnish of herbs; take the container, pop it into the microwave and, in a few minutes, you have a tasty dish (with no strange additives in it ) in front of you.

I tried three of their offerings. First up was the Cod Fillet with Ginger, Chilli and Lime. Lovely inviting aromas as it came to the table and it tasted great as well. Next, not the same day, came Hake Fillet with Garlic and Herbs, another winner. Finally, there were Two Cod Fillets with a Green Pesto Sauce, another excellent dish. My favourite was the first one while the official blog cook plumped for the third.
Above: Quick lunch via the microwave -
Cod fillet with Ginger, Chilli and Lime.
From the pack below!
But all three were top notch and, don't worry, these three are just the tip of the iceberg. Keohane’s have quite a range, not just the microwavable, which also includes a tempting Mediterranean Seasoned Mackerel Fillets with cracked Black-pepper Butter. Virtually every fish you can think of is included in the Fresh Fillet range and then they have a seasonal range which currently includes Hot and Spicy Prawn Skewers!

So quite a bit of fishing to be done there. Their facility is on the Kinsale Road and the products are available in the on-site shop and also in Tesco.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Staying at Blairscove House. A Perfect Place.

Staying at Blairscove House

A Perfect Place.
West Cork’s Sheep’s Head Peninsula is a special place to visit and in Blairscove House (above) you have a rather special place to stay.

And being in Durrus, it  is a convenient location not just for Sheep’s Head but also for Mizen Head, Bantry, Glengarriff, and the Ring of Beara including the stunning Healy Pass. So much, so close.

Blairscove House is discreetly situated on a small hill overlooking Dunmanus Bay. No nightclubs in the immediate vicinity but if it's peace and quiet you want after a meal at the beautiful restaurant, you’ll get it, maybe sipping a final glass as the sun goes down in front of you.
Above & below: Views from the Loft
There is a choice of accommodation, for couples and families. The owners themselves live in the big blue house which also contains the reservation office. Some of the apartments have views both to the sea and to the landscaped courtyard that often serves as the centerpiece for weddings here.


On our recent visit, we stayed in the Loft, ideal for a couple. It is part of the core complex, sea out front, courtyard at the other side. And, very conveniently, it is just a short flight of steps down to the restaurant! Like all the units, it is very modern, and is fully equipped for self catering and for B & B. We were there for just one night but could have stayed a lot longer!

No shortage of equipment here - we could have done all our own cooking! There was a welcome complimentary drink of sherry. In addition, champagne and white wine were in the fridge and a red in the cupboard; water and milk too!

Breakfast is part of the deal at The Loft as it is in some of the other rentals. The menu is there for you, so you choose one from each of four groups (juice, cereal, “main course”, and tea or coffee), leave it in the restaurant or post in the Cow postbox in the evening, giving the time you want it at.

In the morning, the phone will ring and the breakfast lady arrives. She sets your table, lays out the dishes and your food and then you tuck in. All very convenient indeed. 

The names of the other accomodations are The Piggery, The Coach House, The Smokehouse, Blairscove Cottage and Dunmanus Pier (not adjacent to the main house). Check out the details here.

The house at Dumanus Pier has indeed a rather special situation but don't expect breakfast here as it is some eight miles away. It has its compensations as there are fantastic beaches nearby including Barley Cove and the lively village of Schull is just down the road.
Breakfast is served, top right.
Top left: Porridge, bananas, honey and cream.
Bottom left: Scrambled duck egg with Gubbeen sausage and tomato.
Bottom right: Crumpet, crushed avocado, poached egg and bacon.
The various properties are pristine today but that wasn't the case when the De Mey family took them over in the early 80s. Great credit is due to them as they have created something of a calm paradise here, an oasis in Durrus (which, with Durrus Cheese and the Good Things Cafe), is quite a food hub.


Even in paradise, and even after a hefty breakfast, man must eat of course and all the more so if you have been taking one of the many gorgeous walks on the peninsula, as we did here. And your first stop just has to be their restaurant and bar. We had the most fantastic evening meal there during our all too short stay. The end of a perfect day in a perfect place.


See also (from this trip): Dinner of Delights at Blairscove House

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Taste of the Week. Clove Rock

Taste of the Week
Clove Rock

On a recent visit to Bantry, we called to the 100-year-old Evans shop, famous for its sweets. After a lovely chat with Jennifer who has been here for many years, we decided to buy some traditional clove rock, our Taste of the Week.  “They are very fresh,” she said. And so they were.
See more here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Two Special Days in West Cork. Bantry a Perfect Base

Two Special Days in West Cork
Bantry a Perfect Base
Bantry Library in the morning sun
Just back after two spectacular days in West Cork, two days when the sun shone non-stop. I drove through picture perfect scene after picture perfect scene: the sensational azure blue of the ocean and inlets, the bright yellow of the furze bushes. Just perfect. Lots of brown too, a relic of the winter, yet even that contained the promise of coiled up green waiting to shoot out to enhance and complete the picture in the weeks and months ahead.


First stop was Ballinascarthy, to take a look at the cross-roads memorial to Henry Ford, a full size model of the car-maker’s famous Model T. The slogan for this car, and for the stout of the same name now being sold by Black's Brewery of Kinsale, is: You may have any colour you like, provided it is black! The nailed-down Ballinascarthy model though is not black but a shiny silver. I suppose not too many would stop it were black.


Dunlough Bay
Next stop was the seaside village of  Schull with its lovely setting between Mount Gabriel and the sea. And just by the car park over the harbour, you'll find a cafe called Cois Cuain, perfect for a snack and, a tip, they have fantastic coffee here, Maher’s of course.

We continued west - we weren't taking the direct route to Bantry! Soon we were passing through Ballydehob and then lovely Goleen, heading for Mizen Head, Ireland’s most south-westerly point. A temporary cloud changed the light just as we arrived but the visit was brilliant. If you go out to the lighthouse - there is a reasonable fee - be sure and take the fenced path (with helpful hand-rails) up to where you can see the spectacular Dunlough Bay, probably even more spectacular on a bad day.
Model T
Time then to head to Bantry, via Durrus. Our base was the Maritime Hotel. And an excellent place it is, with very courteous staff, from reception, to bar to breakfast. Comfortable spacious rooms here, all with a view over the harbour. And breakfast is good. There is a hot buffet but here it is regularly refreshed. And you have the usual juices, meats and cheese too, and breads of course. No shortage at all. The long low rise hotel has its own underground car park and that, with a lift up to reception, is very convenient. Recommended.

There was a still an hour or two left of the afternoon and the regular Friday market was winding down as we strolled up the huge impressive square where statues of St Brendan and Wolfe Tone stand.
Barleycove, on the way to Mizen Head
We were heading for the Evans sweet shop (great photo here by Nicolas O'Donnell), a shop that is one hundred years old. We joined the small queue. The woman just ahead of us was buying hard liquorice sweets for “a suck” that night. Then three young girls were next but they very courteously indicated that we should be take their place in the line. We declined but, seeing the kids were possibly still making up their minds on what sweets to buy, we did take up the option.

After a lovely chat with Jennifer who has been here for many years, we decided to buy some clove rock cubes.  “They are very fresh,” she said. And so we left with  a small bag, nostalgia for just a euro. We should probably have bought more as she had a great choice of old time sweets including Bon Bons, Raspberry and Custard, Pear Drops and more.
Market in the square in Bantry
Dinner, and a good one it was, that evening was in the Fish Kitchen. They are building their craft beer list there and we sampled a few and, later, across the street at Ma Murphy’s Pub - you go through the grocery store to get to the bar - we enjoyed some draft Green Bullet by the Mountain Man. Back in the lovely bar at the hotel, with a singer (Neil Young and JJ Cale songs mainly) on duty, I had a very impressive bottle of Galway Hooker Pale Ale. Great label design on that one.

The morning was cool enough as I strolled out to the pier and had a chat with a guy stacking full fertiliser bags in readiness for the Whiddy Island ferry. Then we drove off up the road to Manning’s Emporium in Ballylickey where Andrew told us of their plans for the season ahead, exciting plans too with an expanded restaurant service (serving local produce) and Culture Kitchen tours on the horizon with Val Manning as guide (should be fun!). We’ll bring you more details shortly when arrangements are further advanced.

Nostalgia for a euro
After the coffee, it was back to the car and on the road west. More of the spectacular blue water as we passed through sunny Glengarriff and headed for Adrigole and the Healy Pass. We stopped halfway up the winding road and immediately a car that had been behind us pulled in and the man got out and asked us if we needed help.

Healy Pass
Copper mines reminder
We didn't, we were just going to take a few photos. But then quite a chat ensued and question after question followed and I reckon he found out more about us - ages, children, and more - than any internet investigator would. The elderly man, a local sheep farmer, was also volunteering info about himself and we enjoyed the chat. Soon, he was back in his car and speeding up the windy road, leaving us well behind!
At the top, we paused again, this time for quite a while to drink in the amazing views of the mountains, the lakes and the sea inlets beyond. Amazing place. Then we dropped down into Kerry for a while before turning left on the Ring of Beara Road and back into Cork. And one word of advice. Do take that windy, up and down road that hugs the coast and do stop and enjoy the views.

 We passed through Eyeries and Allihies (above) and their colourful houses. Near Allihies, you’ll see remains of the copper mining industry and there is a museum and cafe in the village (it opens from April). And, of course, that amazing blue was out there to our right all the time, the frame changing from bend to bend. Our final stop was in Castletownbere itself and here we walked along the pier where many large fishing boats, not all of them Irish, were docked.

Ring of Beara
 Time now to begin the journey home, retracing our steps back to Ballylickey and then taking the road that takes you through Céim an Fhia, Ballingeary, Inchigeela and its lakes, past Toonsbridge and its famous buffalo and dairy/shop, past the magnificent Gearagh and onto the Macroom-Cork road.
Boats in Bantry
 Hunger was setting in now and we turned left to Macroom and the Church Lane restaurant. We had a lovely early dinner here and saw that they too have craft beer on sale, including one from the local 9 White Deer Brewery. Irish craft beer is certainly on the up.


About forty minutes later, we were back in the city after a brilliant two days in the west!



Our Bantry base
See also: Bantry's Fish Kitchen