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Showing posts with label Hook Lighthouse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hook Lighthouse. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Brunch at Hook Head. Then take the tour.


Brunch at Hook Head
Then take the tour.
On a good day!

A reviving brunch first. Followed by the refreshing lighthouse tour t. Vice versa perhaps? 

It’s up to you when you visit the fabulous Hook Head Lighthouse in County Wexford. And it’s a place you may visit any time of the year, even during the winter, even during the Christmas holidays.

Let us start with the brunch as I did on a recent Sunday. They have really upped their food offering here since a 2016 visit and brunch is available all day every Saturday and Sunday and they hope to extend it throughout the week during the school holidays. 

Oh, by the way, the lighthouse and cafe are open year round. So if you’ve seen the beautiful views on a calm day, do not hesitate to go down on a rougher one and you’ll get a different “tour”.
Not such a good day!

During our December (02.12.18) visit, the weather was mainly cloudy and very windy at the Hook and that meant it was quite spectacular, a great day to visit! Even if we had to work our way through spray flying across the narrow approach road from time to time. Indeed, there is a wooden “rampart” by the wall surrounding the lighthouse and we got an invigorating splash or two as we took in the views from that vantage point.

Before all that though, we sat ourselves down in the spectacularly situated café in the former lighthouse keepers cottages and found that the food offering wasn’t bad at all! Indeed, it was considerably better than the breakfast fare endured earlier at an expensive hotel in the north of the county.

The two rooms were close to full. No wonder it is proving so popular. You may also choose from a more general menu for lunch or just for snacking.
Brunch

The Brunch list includes morning mainstays such as Eggs Benedict and Ballyhack Smokehouse Salmon. There’s also a Protein Packed Avocado Toast and another vegetarian option is Toast and local mushrooms, both options on toasted sourdough.

The general menu offers Soups, salads and sandwiches and quite a few more substantial meals such as a heart-warming Pie of the Day and they also have a Children’s Menu. At any time, you can drop in for a cuppa and a scone, a dessert perhaps.

Very encouraging too to see they are committed to the environment. Quite a few examples of that from their compostable napkins to their use of paper rather than plastic straws.

Back to the food and we ordered their Home-made Pancakes, described as Beer and cardamon sugar pancakes. No shortage of toppings: banana, crispy bacon, Ballyhack smokehouse salmon, cream cheese and, of course, maple syrup. We choose the banana and syrup and a generous  pot of decent quality tea.

So having made your way to Hook (about two hours from Cork, take the Passage East-Ballyhack Ferry), you may as well do the guided tour. Indeed the guides here are regularly praised and our fellow was also top class.
Take the ferry, from or to the Waterford side

If these walls could talk. You say to yourself as you enter the 800 year tower that houses the Hook Lighthouse on the tip of Waterford’s Hook Peninsula. 

You soon find out, they do talk. In the first room, with its ribbed vault structure just like the two rooms above, a monk, a digital one, appears and talks about when he came here in the 6th century (maybe!). He was Welsh and called Dubhain. Having founded a small monastery, he and his fellow monks noticed the many shipwrecks in the area and set up an open fire to warn mariners.
Inside the lighthouse

Good, but not good enough for the next person you meet, on the next floor. This is William Marshal, another Welshman and a powerful knight, who was very influential in the south east of Ireland at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th century. He built the nearby Tintern Abbey and the town of New Ross and more, including this lighthouse (sometime between 1210 and 1230). Monks were again in charge, living here, keeping the faith, keeping the flame.


As you climb the solid building, you see where the monks cooked, lived and slept. Many changes then during the centuries, before, in 1996, the lighthouse was automated and the light keepers (no longer monks!) departed after almost 800 years. And the modern keepers are commemorated on the third floor, projected onto the wall to tell their story.

Out then onto the windy balcony to take in the fabulous views over the seas, over the land. The famous bird sanctuary of the Saltee Islands is visible to the east and to the west you can see The Metalman, another landmark for mariners, this on a cliff near Tramore in County Waterford.
Games and picnics

As well as the light, a fog signal was operated at the lighthouse. For centuries a cannon gun was fired off the edge of the cliff during fog. This was replaced by a hooter, which in turn was replaced by rockets. In 1972 a foghorn worked by compressed air was installed. 
If you didnlt have the brunch or lunch before climbing and descending those 115 steps, you’re probably well up for it now! Enjoy.

Quite a few walks too in the lighthouse area but be careful. Not all tragedies here have happened to people in boats.

Our guided tour was in English and it is also available in French, German, Spanish, Irish and Italian. Whales and dolphins may be observed from the shoreline around Hook Head with a good pair of binoculars. It is a great visit, to what is believed to be the oldest operational lighthouse in the world, and you can find out much more, even see a video visit, see the web cams too, on the website here

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Winter Weekend in Wexford


Wexford Winter Weekend

Top chef Kevin Dundon circulated among the visitors to his Dunbrody House Hotel Market last Sunday and we had a chat as we bought some of his conserves and relishes. He’s particularly proud of his Lemon Curd and the Brandy Butter. Lots of other food on offer too from local producers and no shortage of Christmas crafts either in the cluster of yards and sheds. 

Dunbrody House is in a wooded area above the small fishing village of Authorstown. The market is on every Sunday from noon until 4.00pm. It was packed at the weekend with both car parks close to full. And if you want to take a break from the shopping, then you may relax in the onsite pub with a drink and live music.

We had started the weekend a day earlier in Wexford town itself with its narrow busy streets. After the morning trip from Cork, a spot of brunch was in order and we found a good one in Button and Spoon, just a few steps up Church Lane from the quay. Excellent food and friendly people there.

Had a look around after that and called to Greenacres to do some Christmas shopping. Not difficult at all in that well-stocked emporium and a good amount of Irish produce, such as Bean and Goose Chocolate, Melanie Harty’s jellies and Tom Cowman’s Wexford Honey, included. And if you’re a sportsperson, you’ll note the sculpture of local hurling hero Nicky Rackard in an action pose on the street outside.
Not Nicky Rackard!

Headed north then, up along the coast until we came to the Strand Inn which has a fantastic position overlooking the sea and the pier at Cahore. They too put the emphasis on local (including Yellow Belly Beer) and there’s a fine menu there - I enjoyed my plate of Prawn Pil Pil as the daylight began to retreat. Must go back in the summer-time!

Our destination for the night was the Ashdown Park Hotel on the edge of Gorey and, after a warm welcome, we took a break here for an hour or two. We had a table booked at Table 41 on Main Street, about a ten minute walk away. A very tight menu in this upstairs venue but quite good food on offer and friendly service in this relatively new venue.

Back in the hotel bar, we were disappointed to find no craft beer at all, not even a bottle of any of the local brews. They did have some Irish gins though and we had a bit of a “tasting” with Blackwater, Drumshanbo and Short Cross in the mix. Breakfast was nothing to write home about.

Actually, there’s a much better brunch menu, believe it or not, in the cafe at the Hook Head Lighthouse, and it’s available all day Saturday and Sunday. They have upped their game here, as should all visitor attractions. Places like Good Day Deli (in Nano Nagle Place) and the Café in Cork’s Crawford are excellent examples. Some not so good that I can think of are the Skellig Visitor Centre on Valentia and Spike Island, unless they’ve improved over the last 12 months or so.

The weather was mainly cloudy and very windy at the Hook and that meant it was quite spectacular, a great day to visit! Even if we had to work our way through spray flying across the narrow approach road from time to time. Indeed, there is a wooden “rampart” by the lighthouse and we got an invigorating splash or two as we took in the views from that vantage point.

Dunbrody was our next stop and, after that, we came back down, just a few minutes drive, to Aldridge Lodge (near Duncannon). This is a Michelin Bib restaurant with just three rooms and luckily we had one booked.
Yogurt from the breakfast bar at Aldridge Lodge

Everything was just perfect here, from the warm welcome by owner and chef Billy Whitty to the fantastic evening meal based hugely on local, even family, produce. No full bar here so no draught or whiskey. But no shortage (they carry the local Cleverman beers) and we finished the pleasant evening with a drop of the Stonewell Tawny.

We would leave the following morning but not before a treat of a breakfast.The plaice was served with a poached egg (hen or duck), mushroom and tomato. It was a great start to the day. Time then to say goodbye to this highly recommended place and head to the village of Ballyhack to take the ferry to the Waterford side (8 euro single trip); we were home in less than two hours overall after two great December days in the Model County!