Showing posts with label Ireland's Ancient East. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ireland's Ancient East. 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

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Lunch at Rugby Legend’s Killaloe Restaurant


Lunch at Rugby Legend’s Killaloe Restaurant
Keith Wood's Up and Running at Home Venue


Chicken Burger

When up the country, and what a country it is, we often ignore the straight way home to Cork. Never know what you’ll find on a detour. 

Although, to be frank, when we left Galway and headed for Cork via Killaloe, we had a good idea of what we’d find on the delightful Shannonside. Call to Wood and Bell, we had been told, the restaurant opened last November on Main Street, Killaloe, by local and Irish rugby legend Keith Wood and business partner Malcom Bell.


We had been to Killaloe previously. It, and Ballina across the bridge in Tipperary, are beautifully located by the Shannon, just below Lough Derg. From Scarrif down, we were close to the lake and stopped at one spot nearer to Killaloe, where dozens of families were enjoying the sun both in the cool water (well, I presume it was cool!) and on the grassy banks.


Soon we were in the little town and looking for Wood and Bell. It is easily found, on main street, and we were lucky enough to get parking just outside. We were welcomed in and seated by the window with the menus at hand.


Lunch is served Wednesday to Friday between 12 noon and 3.00pm and you have a pretty good choice: salads, sandwiches, wraps, meatballs,  Nachos, scampi, burgers. Soup and chowder too but maybe a bit too hot for that particular day!

I go for the Crispy Buttermilk Chicken, Roast Garlic Aioli, salad leaves, tomatoes and crispy onions and fries of course. And I get quite a surprise when a burger arrives at the table. But that’s where I find my chicken - pity they didn’t say that on the menu. In any case, I get stuck in and enjoy every little bite.



No mistaken identity though with OBC’s choice: Open Wrap with Roast Mediterranean vegetables, mozzarella, pesto, rocket and olives. Quite a lovely dish, really full of flavour.


Wood and Bell has the advantage of having their own walled garden nearby, overlooking Lough Derg and the River Shannon. The garden, cared for by Wood and his wife Nicola, now produces much of the fruit, vegetables and herbs for the kitchens.

They do a Kids Menu here also and desserts. You can also get wine and bottled beer here (including some craft). We enjoy an non-alcoholic beverage on this occasion, one with a sporting connection. The VitHit range comes in a number of flavours, in 500ml bottles and is reasonably priced. We had the Lean and Green Apple and Elderflower one. Quite a treat!

By the way, they have a spacious and impressive room upstairs where you can enjoy dinner. Check the website for all the details.

After the meal, we headed down and over the bridge to Ballina. There was a cruise just about to set off for the lake. We were tempted but, as we had been on the boat on the Corrib the day before, gave it a skip, promising we’d be back to this lovely place, another gorgeous corner of the Hidden Ireland.

Main Street,
Killaloe,
Co. Clare, V94 AK57
info@woodandbell.com
+353 61 517480

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dooks Fine Food. Fethard’s Medieval Walls. And a call to the Apple Farm.


Dooks Fine Food. Fethard’s Medieval Walls.
And a call to the Apple Farm.
Salmon and salads at Dooks in Fethard

My latest trip to Tipp saw me take a walk along the medieval area of Fethard, lunch in Dooks restaurant, and call to the Apple Farm, near Cahir, on the way home. 

People go to Fethard to mostly visit the Coolmore Stud and dine or drink or both in John McCarthy’s famous establishment on the Main Street but I did neither, holding them back for the next trip! McCarthy’s, by the way, is a busy spot. It is one of Ireland’s oldest unchanged pubs, is also a restaurant and, believe it or not, an undertakers. Be careful which menu you ask for.


No such problems at Dooks Fine Food which has a prime position at the bottom of the main street, alongside the Clashawley River, at the junction of the Clonmel and Urlingford roads and opposite a large car park. Richard Gleeson’s restaurant and deli is spacious and bright, lots of local food for you to enjoy inside, or on the seats outside and, of course, at home if you shop at the deli.

Chicken and salads at Dooks
Fethard, by the way, is hardly an hour from the east side of Cork city - you have the M8 motorway for the majority of the way and that leaves just about 16 kilometres on secondary roads.Take the Cashel exit and you’ll have no problem finding the little town. And no problem finding Dooks either.

Richard was preparing a large plateful of a colourful Mozzarella salad when we arrived. It was eye-catching and tempting and featured in our lunch, well at least one serving of it. Dooks had opened long before that of course as they do breakfast here, served from 7.30am. Quite a choice including a very interesting looking fry of Rosemary, orange and fennel sausage, oven roasted tomatoes, fried eggs and Dooks white yeast toast.
The walls of Fethard

But back to the lunch. My pick was the Roast salmon fillet, with horseradish cream and pickled shallot and that came with my choice of two salads: Roasted aubergine, balsamic reduction, toasted mixed seeds, feta and mint, and the second one of roasted carrots, toasted sunflower seeds, pickled shallots, Dooks ricotta and tarragon. Quite a plateful (for 13.50), full of good stuff, even those seeds a lovely feature.

It was the OBC (official blog chef) who got the delightful cherry tomato, Toonsbridge Mozzarella and basil salad. She also choose the Roasted aubergine and her meat was the Lemon, Garlic and Buttermilk marinated chicken supreme with rocket pesto, another plateful of well cooked produce, well presented and well dispatched.
North Gate in Fethard

We did have a look at the short but “well-formed” wine list, spotting some favourites there such as the Bodegas Menade Verdejo from Rueda and the Domaine Chaume Arnaud Vinsobres from the Rhone. But we stuck with the non-alcoholic, a refreshing Sparkling Elderflower by local producers Irish Hedgerow. With the sun beating down outside, we also skipped the coffee and were a little sorry for that omission when we spotted some delightful pastries as we paid at the counter. Next time!
Apple Farm
We had walked around the very impressive medieval remains, before lunch, following the long stretch of wall (parts dating from 1292) by the river and moving by the various gates, Water Gate, East Gate and, most impressively, North Gate, also the cluster of two castles and the old Holy Trinity Church (key available at O’Sullivan’s pharmacy).
The Fethard Town Hall (right)

Holy Trinity Church
Fethard
The Town Hall has had variations and alterations and various functions since its 16th century beginning and is now in use for tourist purposes. Here too you will find the Fethard Horse Country Experience and from here you may arrange a tour of Coolmore Stud. Check it all out here.  I’ll be doing just that the next time I’m in Fethard.

On the way back to Cork, we made a short detour from the M8 to the Apple Farm on the Clonmel road. And stocked up on jams, cider, and fruits, including some of the delicious juicy sweet cherries. It is a busy spot but the drought is taking its toll and plums, we heard, may not be as plentiful as last year when the harvest comes in.
Indeed, a day after our visit, owner Con Traas was tweeting: The last rain fell at our farm on 19/6, a mere 0.2mm drizzle. Since May 11th (2 months to the day) we have recorded 23.2mm total (about a weeks rain here in normal circumstances). We have exceeded the criteria for both absolute drought and partial drought.

I know the constant sun has been great this year but we could do with some rain now! Wonder what the weather was like in Fethard when those Norman builders were hard at it all those centuries ago.


Recent Tipp calls:


Not so recent:



Sunday, May 7, 2017

Doneraile. Dine and Stroll. Lovely Cafés. 166 Hectares.

Doneraile. Dine and Stroll.
Unusual Cafés. 166 Hectares.
Looking for something to do as the weather improves? Why not take a trip to Doneraile, just off the main Cork-Limerick Road, about 40 minutes from Cork city. 

There are two lovely cafés in the village. If you arrive early, you may work up an appetite in the huge Doneraile Park; stroll along by the Awbeg River that runs through and say hello to the deer that graze on the slopes. 

Dessert at The Tea Rooms
If you eat first, well then you may walk that off in the 166 hectare park, landscaped in the Capability Brown style, which has at least two pedestrian entrances from the main street, one via Fishpond Lane. 

One of the cafés is in the old kitchens of Doneraile Court; the house itself though is not open to the public. It is advisable to book ahead as both cafes are quite busy.

Ploughmans at Townhouse
The Tea Rooms in the park are in an atmospheric high-ceilinged room, complete with a set of servants’ bells. Not that many tables inside but they do have a large outside area in a sheltered spot. 

The regular menu offers soup to start with, and then all kinds of sandwiches, lasagne, quiche, ham with salad and brown bread. And don’t forget to check the specials board. Prices are keen and service is quite good.
Deer. Or Unicorn?
One of the works in progress in the park is the boxed gardens, quite close to the main street. It is well worth having a look at this walled garden which has a line of gardeners’ cottages at one end. The park also has an entrance for cars, a car park and children’s playground.

You may have the best of intentions of visiting the park but, if you dine first at the Townhouse Café  on main street you may still be there much later, lounging on a comfortable armchair or sofa. 
Doneraile Court

You certainly won't leave if the weather has turned cold or wet as the open fire will be blazing alongside in this high ceilinged Georgian Room.

The Townhouse
Having looked and tested all the eye-catching furniture in use downstairs, you may well be tempted to check further upstairs as the owners carry on a House Interiors business in the same building. And if a group of you come together, then more than likely you’ll treat yourselves to afternoon tea in the Botanical Room.

The comfort and decor are amazing and the food, while simple by comparison, is excellent also. Traditional baked honey roast ham, with Townhouse slaw on doorstep brown or white bread, makes for a very affordable lunch treat (for less than a fiver). 


If you want something more substantial, then perhaps the Ploughman’s Plate or the Savoury Tart of the Day will fit the bill. And there is much more, including a Warm Chicken and Bacon salad. In a hurry? Grab that soup and sandwich offer.

People call in all hours of the day to sample the sweet things here. Sweet or savoury, it is all well done, well served and well priced. Another attraction in Doneraile.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

48 Hours in Kilkenny. Sweet Start to Sweet End

48 Hours in Kilkenny

Sweet Start to Sweet Finish
Street food: Farmers Market taco from the Bula Bus

Let me take you to Inner Ireland, to Kilkenny in particular, the heart of the Ancient East.

Must say I was more interested in the inner part of me when I arrived, with the sunshine, on a recent Thursday at noon. Parked up and headed to the Weekly Farmers Market. Not as many stalls as I’d been led to believe but no shortage of food.

One of the first spotted was Charly’s Cheesecakes who have been trading in Cork’s English Market recently and who now have a spot in the Coal Quay on Saturdays. 

Close by were the boys from Bula Bus, the bus based restaurant in the back yard of Billy Byrnes’s pub in Kilkenny. Started at their stall with a hearty Smoked Czech Sausage in a baguette and a dollop or two of Californian Pickled Cabbage (a short-cut version of sauerkraut). CL was also well fed, no shortage of either quality or quantity in her Braised Beef Taco.

Muscles and Medals galore.
So we sat on one of the stone benches and indulged and soon over came Derek of Charly's with a couple of his cheesecakes for dessert! Both gorgeous, but that Malteser must be one of his very best. A cup of coffee then from another stand and we were ready to walk!

Our first port to call was the Smithwick’s Experience. The family first started brewing here over 300 years ago (1710) and we had an enjoyable tour and tasting in the old building in the centre of the town.
Inside the Medieval Mile Museum
 Back towards the castle area then to see a modern art show in the Butler Gallery. Across the road, we dallied in the gardens of the Butler Townhouse enjoying the flowers, especially the magnolias.


Time then to check in at Hotel Kilkenny, up past famous St Kieran’s where I was well fed in 1963 after playing a “friendly” against them at Nowlan Park. It is a fine hotel but disappointed at the lack of Irish craft beers and spirits in the bar. We were dining out that night, at the Royal Spice, one of the better Indian restaurants around.
Kilkenny Castle

Up good and early and again the sun was shining for a packed Day Two. The new Medieval Mile Museum is quite an eye-opener, with something for young and old, great views into the past and some good views too over the city.

What I particularly liked about it was that fact that the small folks in history got a mention! Oh yes, the Butlers and other nobles are well covered here. But be sure and go upstairs to the Kilkenny Room for some interesting stories about ordinary life in medieval times.

You'll see the quotes on small blue-ish panels. If you are not on a guided tour, you can open these doors yourself and see the actual letters of the time, all of them hand-written, some of them some of them beautifully so.

One concerns a complaint (about 1700) that "severall idle women doe make and sell unwholesome bread halfe baked in open ovens". Two men, who may have been members of the bakers guild, made the complaint.

There is a document where you learn that Kilkenny employed a "whipsbeggar" whose job was to drive strange or unfamiliar beggars out of town. In 1547, the mayor was given the task of making a dipping stole (stool) for punishing of bawdy hoores, and cnaves (knaves).


We had visited the Castle a good few years back and were delighted to do so again. Some magnificent rooms and furniture here, history in every nook and cranny, lovely views over the Nore River and of the castle grounds. A highlight is a visit to the gallery though you may have a strain in your neck as you take in the very unusual painted ceiling. The high walls are full of paintings, mainly of the Butlers.
Operation transformation at Nicholas Mosse
A pastry and a coffee (the latter good quality, but steep enough at €3.15) in the coffee shop at the Design Centre across the road was enough to keep us going as we headed out to the countryside. We drove to Bennettsbridge, the base of outstanding potter Nicholas Mosse. Here, we added a few bits and pieces to our modest collection.


The Nore flows through Bennettsbridge under a lovely old multi-arch bridge. The next river we would see was the Barrow in Graiguenamamagh on the Kilkenny-Carlow border, a beautiful village, with quite a few river-boats parked for the winter.
Goats graze in Bennettsbridge
 We took a walk past them and past a couple of representations of the monks (one a farmer, another a fisherman) after whom the village was named. By the way, the better boats seemed to be on the Carlow side! Then again, maybe they are ahead with the spring-cleaning!


Our base that night was at the renovated Kilkenny Inn and we enjoyed a lovely meal in their new restaurant, Kernel. Up bright and early - so was the sun - the following morning.
Farming monk in Graiguenamanagh
 St Canice's Cathedral is a few hundred yards away and we spent the best part of an hour there going through the treasures, treasures that include the beautiful east window (and its fascinating story), St Kieran's Chair (used for enthroning the local bishops for over 1500 years), the fascinating effigy tombs and, of course, the Round Tower. I think if I had time for just one visit in Kilkenny, this would be it.


I didn't climb the tower this time but, they do say, if you like a place you should always leave something to draw you back! 
Kilkenny side of the Barrow
 But we weren't leaving the pastries of Cakeface behind. We got a late tip to call to the cafe, a very busy one, in Irishtown and helped ourselves to a few of their colourful and unusual cakes and a loaf of crusty sourdough!

Carlow side of the Barrow
 Soon we were on the road home after a lovely (if busy) stay in the Marble City and its surrounds. We’ll be back, if only for the food!  And the Round Tower, of course!


St Canice's Cathedral and Round Tower

Lots of notes and photos taken, so I have individual posts on some of the visits. Hope they help you on your trip to Inner Ireland! 

See also: The Smithwick Experience. Royal Spice Indian Restaurant. From the Bula Bus. CakeFace Pastry The new Kernel Restaurant
Effigies on the tomb of Piers Butler (died 1539) and his wife Margaret Fitzgerald (1542)

Cakeface