Showing posts with label Downings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Downings. Show all posts

Monday, August 19, 2019

Jutting into the Wild Atlantic. Delightful Pieces of Donegal


Jutting into the Wild Atlantic. Delightful Pieces of Donegal

Jutting into the Wild Atlantic are three of the most beautiful pieces of Donegal: Inishowen, Fanad (and it’s spectacular lighthouse) and the petite and pretty Rosguill. Inishowen, with Ireland’s most north-westerly point Malin Head, is the biggest, Fanad (and it’s spectacular lighthouse) is next to the west and then comes tiny Rosguill (a micro-version of the others).

Malin, aside from the remains of an old signal tower and some more modern and equally wrecked Irish army lookout sheds, has no buildings on the head. But it does have Ireland’s most north-westerly bakery and coffee shop parked right up there. Also a curious sign saying Eire 80, a wartime note to German pilots saying that this is Ireland and keep your bombs at bay. These white-painted signs, designed to be read from the sky, were all around the country. Malin though has plenty of walks around the head, all nicely laid-out and signposted. The views are spectacular.

One of the Malin walks
And, in the nearby village, it has one of the most innovative cafés in the country in Wild Strand where seaweed is the essential ingredient.

Having reached Malin, you need to drive all the way back down towards Letterkenny to get to Fanad. You can also shorten the trip a bit by taking the ferry from Buncrana across Lough Swilly to Rathmullan. In any event, the ferry times didn’t suit us on the day so we drove the long way and then all the way up to Fanad.

Sat-Nav wasn’t cooperating that much and we had to rely on the road signs and eventually we were on the long road in. Thought we might be late for the last tour but there were a few more scheduled. Bought our tickets and walked up to the lighthouse. Like quite a few other lighthouses, Fanad now has apartments to rent.

We didn’t disturb those residents though as we took the tour. Our guide gave us the history telling us that, after a two-year build period, it got its first light in 1817 but had no electricity until, believe it or not, 1975. In between, the biggest storm that struck was Debbie in 1961. By 1978 only a Principal Keeper was retained in Fanad, and when he retired in 1983 the lighthouse was reclassified as an Attendant station and the retired Principal Keeper remained on as part time Attendant. Now there is just a caretaker.
Fanad

We climbed the 79 cantilevered steps to the top and, from behind a glass enclosure, took in the views all around, especially Malin Head to the east and Tory Island to the west. We were shown four tiny bulbs, hardly as big as my little finger, in the lamp. But these are powerful little fellows and their light shines over 18 nautical miles, just over 33 kilometres.

The two wrecks whose memory is enshrined in local folklore are those of the Saldanha in 1811 and the Laurentic in 1917. The Saldanha, a Royal Navy Frigate of 38 guns and a crew of about 300 men, was driven by a north-west gale on to rocks off Ballymastocker Bay on the night of 4 December 1811 and that led to the erection of the lighthouse.
Powerful little bulbs at Fanad

But the lighthouse was powerless to prevent the sinking of the armed merchant cruiser, the Laurentic, on on 25th January 1917, when it hit two German mines at the mouth of the lough and sank with the loss of 354 crew. A 6-inch gun from this ship was recovered a few years back and is now on display on the pier in Downings.
The gun from the Laurentic on the pier at Downings

Rosguill
Soon we were on the way to Rosguill, the journey cut short thanks to the Harry Blaney Bridge.  This spans Mulroy Bay (there is water everywhere here!) and connects the Fanad peninsula to Carrigart Village and Carrigart is just a few minutes from Downings at the neck of the Rosguill peninsula. 

Lying between the Fanad to the east and Horn Head to the west, Rosguill is surrounded by the Atlantic. Beautiful ocean panoramas, white beaches and even that distant Harry Blaney Bridge are among the sights you’ll see as you do the short circuit (12 km). Might walk that the next time! Small and pretty.
Harry Blaney Bridge

After a long day at the wheel, we were glad to check in at the Rosapenna and take it easy for a while before heading out for food (and a couple of glasses of Kinnegar beer) at the excellent Grape and Grain, reviewing the amazing sights we had seen and enjoyed that day in north Donegal.
The Rosguill drive
Also on this trip: Kinnegar Brewery
 Mary T. From Mallow to Donegal's Castle Grove
Something fishy going on in Donegal
Superb Day Out at Oakfield Park & Buffers Bistro

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Something Fishy on Donegal's Food Coast. Learning to Love the ‘Weed in Malin Caifé


Something Fishy on Donegal's Food Coast
Learning to Love the ‘Weed in Malin Caifé

At long last, Ireland seems to have realised the good things in our seas (and coasts) and chefs up and down the country are leading the way. Take these three very different places that I came across in a short visit to Donegal last month: Wild Strands Caifé in Malin, Fisk in Downings, and Johnny’s Ranch Truck in Ramelton. The first two may be described loosely as cutting edge while Johnny, committed to serving fresh, tasty local food, is no doubt more traditional.

Wild Strands Caifé
You’ll find the Wild Strands Caifé in the Community Centre at Malin. The distinguishing factor here is seaweed. I didn't see it when my dish arrived and asked the server. She explained they use it in the cooking, in the sauces and in the dressings. It was an element in my Fish (haddock on the day) with Abernethy Black Garlic Butter on a flatbread with a small side salad. 

Fish (haddock on the day) with Abernethy Black Garlic Butter on a flatbread with a small side salad


William McElhinney is the man leading the quiet revolution here and not just with the seaweed. Convinced that our ancestors used some kind of hot stone to make their bread, he is trying to replicate the method with a special oven. 

His Ineuran wood-fired oven is used to make beautiful and versatile flatbreads that are the base on which many of the dishes are served. Their Vegan Ineuran Flatbread are all cooked in the wood fired oven using local, seasonal or organic produce with the wonders of seaweed. Here, on the stone, he also cooks his local meats (from Boggs Butchers) “with our own seaweed spice mix along with Carraigín moss”.


We had a lovely chat with his enthusiastic daughter, Réaltín, and she  filled us in. Not alone that, we finished up with two of the loveliest cakes that we’ve ever tasted. Couldn't get over the amazing Coffee Cake and Carrot Cake as we devoured the slices before taking on the steps at Fanad Lighthouse a couple of hours later. 

Fisk
Mackerel Fillet with spicy tomato sauce

In Downings, you’ll see a blue sign with the word Fisk on it, but your eyes may well be drawn to the splendid view of Sheephaven Bay in the opposite direction. Take that in and then look towards Fisk and more than likely you’ll see lots of people around. “Will we ever get in here?” you ask. It takes a bit of persistence, we had to come back the following night.

Fisk is all about fish, is tiny and is hugely popular because of the innovative way in which the fish is cooked and presented. Cutting edge in a hole in the wall. Fisk (guessing it may be Swedish for fish) has room for about 15 people and takes no bookings. But they do start a waiting list each evening and you can pass the time in the adjoining Harbour Bar, another popular spot here.
Sardines with pickled veg




Fisk specials
The menu keeps changing and there’s always a specials board on the white wall. Also inside it is a bit higgledy piggledy with a few tables of various sizes, even a shelf on the wall where four guests on high stools may be accommodated. 

The place may not be the most comfortable but the fish is different class. Different fish too - you don’t often see sardines and mackerel offered in Irish restaurants. Certainly not sardines with pickled veg. Virtually all small plates here and some delicious wines to pair with them. No point in giving you their phone number so get in early and be prepared to wait a pleasant hour or so in the bar.

Johnny’s Ranch Truck
Johnny's Fish 'n Chips

You’ll have to wait a wee while too at Johnny’s Ranch Food Truck by the quayside in Ramelton. Johnny Patterson apologises for our very short delay: “Your order is cooked from scratch, no precook here.” He opens most evenings here and you could check his Facebook page to make sure or maybe ring in your order to 083 8399305.

What surprises first timers to this food truck is the long menu, not just fish but meat too from the butcher about fifty yards down the street. That butcher provides the meat for “Ulster’s Best Burger 2019”. There’s even a Lennonside Beef Stroganoff with rice or chips. The local meat finds it way into tasty baguettes and tacos and more.

And the Fish ’n Chips from Ulster’s Best Takeaway 2019 is the stuff of legends. For just €8.50, I got three large pieces of battered haddock and a big box of chips. Took the package over to a rickety quay-side seat and took my delicious time with that fresh fish and superb chips. Well worth seeking out of an evening, early or late!

Also on this trip: Kinnegar Brewery
 Mary T. From Mallow to Donegal's Castle Grove
Superb Day Out at Oakfield Park & Buffers Bistro