Showing posts with label Wild Atlantic Way. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wild Atlantic Way. 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
Downings. A Great Base for Donegal Visit

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Killorglin's Kingdom 1795. Up and Running

Killorglin's Kingdom 1795. Up and Running.

House Focaccia with Toonsbridge Mozzarella, Piquillo Pepper, Tomato and Basil.
This is Chef Damien Ring's take on the more usual Caprese salad. 
Simple and simply delicious and excellent value too at €7.85.


 Buttermilk fried chicken on a blaa, smoked tomato, Coolea cheese, harissa mayo, is another of Damien's 
lunch-time dishes, another superb combination. You don't often see a Blaa in Kerry. 
Just €8.00, again excellent value in this impressive new restaurant

Looks great outside, even better inside. You'll find it on the corner of Main Street
and Market Street. Kingdom is well worth a visit.

You'll find many variations of Tiramisu in Ireland and many will fall short against this beauty from the kitchen
 of Kingdom 1795. The building once housed the Kingdom Bar and the leasing records start in 1795.





Restaurant manager Suzi and Chef Damien are the young couple behind this impressive new restaurant in the middle of Killorglin, County Kerry. The pic (right) gives you an idea of the amazing design and you may see more here.  The food though is the main thing and the only way to check that out is to make a dinner reservation and get in there! Best of luck to the couple who honed their skills over the past three years in the lovely Screebe House in Connemara.


Kingdom 1795
Main Street
Killorglin, Co. Kerry V93XED7
Highlights info row image
(066) 979 6527


Also on this trip: Malarkey in Killarney

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tasting Malarkey's at Rebel O'Connell's New Kingdom Base

Tasting Malarkey's at Rebel O'Connell's New Kingdom Base. 

Amazingly substantial 6th course of Tasting menu; amazingly delicious too!

It’s hot in the kitchen at Malarkey, the Killarney restaurant just opened by chef-patron Seamus O’Connell, best known for his years of good food, fun and frustration in Cork’s Ivory Tower. 

Pilsner from 9 White Deer
Service is in full swing. Probably just as well the restaurant, with its eye-catching decor both upstairs and downstairs, is not packed. The staff are extra busy though because they are also showing their new beer garden to the trade in Killarney and serving boxty and bubbles to their many guests.

After a superb meal, I take up an invite from one of the staff to have a look out back and am surprised at the overall size of the premises that Seamus has taken on and at how much work has already been done here.

Before I go, I get a chance to saw hello and have a brief word with the man himself. And he tells me that his biggest problem in these early months is the lack of staff, especially chefs. Seamus himself just has to work harder but there is no sign of the kitchen pressure on the plates. We have just enjoyed a superb 7-course Tasting Menu.

Choices are amazing here. Our Tasting Menu (Tasting Malarkey) is €50.00 each and he has a different Tasting Menu (Fusion De Luxe) priced at €70.00. There is a set menu (with lots of choice) for what seems good value at €30.00. And if you really want choice, just take a look at the A La Carte where you’ll have to allow extra time to make decisions; there are no less than 19 starters listed, including four of boxty.

Wild Salmon cured with Alder smoked salt in herbs


Wood pigeon, with beetroot

The finalé at Killarney's Malarkey. Toffee Apple crumble with smoked treacle ice-cream.
Nettle and Knotweed Soup (duck and orange centrepiece)
Crubeens with smoky onion poitín
Halibut with lobster sauce. And it is, but there’s some delicious bits of bacon and cabbage as well.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Tasty Morning With Karen Coakley On Kenmare Foodies Tour.


A Tasty Morning With Karen Coakley
On Kenmare Foodies Tour.
Enthusiastic Emma at Maison Gourmet
Henry Street is abuzz this sunny mid-May morning. Shoppers out and about, drivers trying to find parking. All kinds of small shops here, cafés and bars too. But we’re in a back lane watching bakers at work. We’re privileged because we’re with Karen Coakley, the Kenmare Foodie herself, and her Kenmare Foodie Tour takes you to places you won’t get to on your own, allows you see what goes on behind the scenes (away from the bustling street and the busy counters) and in most places you get to chat with the person or persons who started the food (or drink) business.

Margaret of Kenmare Ice Cream is one of those protagonists. Rose also plays a key role but she has to leave on business and it is Margaret that tells us the story. Both are Ballymaloe trained and were looking to start something in 2007. A gourmet deli was the first aim and they did much work on that before a discouraging coffee stop in Adare put them off. By the time they got back to Kenmare the ice cream idea was born but not yet taken seriously!

Margaret at Kenmare Ice Cream
But after research, it quickly gathered momentum and they got some equipment. How do we sell? They bought a tricycle, added three planks, and Margaret went off selling while Rose made the ice-cream. By the end of that summer, with over 11,000 scoops sold, they knew they were on to something.

Soon they had to scale up. They found “proper equipment” , including a 24 flavour cabinet, and a UK expert came over to give them two days training. They had  started making French style ice cream but now switched to the Italian style. “Because it’s all about flavour,” said Margaret. “More so than the richer (egg based) French style. Raspberry Ripple was our first flavour, and still my favourite. We stay as clean and green as we can. Four years ago, we started making whipped ice cream and that is now a big success. We do high quality but at a good price.”

Their Bia Bia is a full scale cafe, including ice-cream of course, in Railway Street while Kenmare Ice Cream, where we visited, can be found on Henry Street (open 11.00am to 11.00pm in season when Margaret and Rose have 22 people employed). Oh yes, you may still see that tricycle around Kenmare on special occasions but their famous cow, Moodini, is parked up for a while, awaiting a suitable grazing spot!
Patrick and Emma talk sourdough
If you’re arriving in Kenmare from the West Cork side, you’ll spot Maison Gourmet on top of Henry Street on your left. It was here, on the terrace at the rear that we joined up with Karen and her group. Soon, we met Emma, the French lady behind the bakery/café. And she took us out the back, to the lane where the bakery is and where we got our hands on the dough and fashioned our little baguettes (which we would collect, nicely baked, at the end of the tour).

Here they use a rather special butter, the Isigny AOC (now AOP). They can’t use Irish butter. It is good but it doesn’t have the same elasticity as the Isigny. Emma, having been part of large bakeries in Carcassonne and Toulouse, is delighted to be in Kenmare and you can see that Kenmare is delighted to have her and her bakery. Amazing too how many French visitors find their way to Maison Gourmet. Maybe it's that tempting smell of the breads, cakes and Java coffee.

Thirty years ago, she met Patrick who was already a baker, fell in love with the baking and the baker. Emma has “flirted” with Ireland since she came here as an au pair when she was twenty. Then, 3 years ago, she and husband Patrick “took the path of our dream and we opened a bakery in Kenmare. That was the best idea that we ever had.”
Beara Gin truffles at Lorge

Their butter and flour may be imported from France but they also use lots of high quality Irish produce in the busy café. But it is the breads (including sourdough) and pastries that attract me, all those classics from butter croissants to pain au chocolat (again the very best of chocolate is used) to Macarons to Mille Feuille, strawberry tartlets and more.
Olivier (On the Wild Side)

More chocolate down the street where’ll you find the Lorge shop. Hard to believe he started making chocolate by accident. His “factory” at nearby Bonane is housed in the old post office and is now a thriving business. Karen told us he is currently working with Beara Gin and indeed we sampled some of those delicious white chocolate truffles and, later, bought some bars and a bag of his marshmallow.
Alain knows his wines

Soon we found ourselves down by the town park where the weekly market was in progress. As we walked, Karen was dispensing food and recipe ideas, lots of tips all the way through the morning. 

At the market, we sampled the cured meats (including a beetroot and pork saucisson and a delicious chorizo) by Olivier of On the Wild Side. Later we called back to get some of his paté and also those Merguez Lamb Sausages. Cheese samples then, including Milleens and Coolea, from Christian’s cheese stall where he had many choices for his customers.

“How about a glass of wine?,” said Karen. Oh yes was the answer. We headed for the Vanilla Grape, a wine and card shop owned by Alain and Christine. “We are here 15 years now,” said Christine. “though those shelves are over 100 years old.” Frenchman Alain is always on the lookout to give his customers wine at a good price, not easy though considering we “had two tax hikes since the recession”.

But he did have just the job for us, a Cà Vittoria apassimento style, not from the Veneto but from Puglia, and well priced at €19.50. As we sipped the Nero D’Avola, we discussed serving temperatures with Alain saying the fridge is not a friend of wine. Had another chat with him later in the afternoon and bought myself a bottle of Chateau Vincen from Cahors much to the delight of Alain who himself is from the area (Figeac).
Making coffee with the Syphon

Alexa and Dave are the duo behind Babors Beans at the Brewhouse in the Square. Here they are serving top quality coffees, sharing bites, monstrous burgers and zesty cocktails to brighten up your day. But we’re here for the coffee that they roast themselves.

Dave told me they have eight single origins and five blends. He has to keep an eye on the price. “You have to watch the market as the price changes every day. It is too expensive to buy from the individual farmers. I get mine from Inter America Company. 

He is, of course a passionate enthusiast. “You can drink 10 to 15 cups a day and it’ll do no harm if you drink a lot of water as well!” He showed us two ways of making coffee, with the Syphon (which I preferred) and with the Chemex. We also enjoyed an espresso. By the way, not alone can you buy 250 grm bags of the various coffees here but you can also get the implements including the Syphon and Chemex. The new roastery is close to being ready and then he’ll be doing classes and demos and no doubt Karen will have that on her tours as well!

After all that, it was back up to Maison Gourmet to collect our loaves and say goodbye to one another. The tour takes about three hours but it was so enjoyable, with so many different and informative chats, that the time flew.
Christian and his cheeses

Get all the info on Kenmare Foodie Tours here.   Karen is always working on varying the tour and soon there’ll be a fish call.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Kinsale Hotel & Spa. A Hidden Gem With Stunning Views.


Kinsale Hotel & Spa. A Hidden Gem With Stunning Views 
Room with a view

In 1837, Rathmore House, the seat of J. Thomas Cramer,  was " a handsome mansion embosomed in flourishing plantations”. The house is no longer there but the splendid Kinsale Hotel and Spa far exceeds anything that Mr Cramer would have offered his 19th century guests. Set in the midst of 90 acres of Rathmore parkland, with terrific sea views, this hotel is truly an eye-opener, a hidden gem, and one that deserves to be better known.
20 metre pool

Now, with the previous staff enlivened by a new management team, renovation is ongoing and there is a spring in the collective step, according to Aoife Lohse, Sales and Marketing Manager, as she gave me the tour starting in the spectacular lobby.

The team here are happy to cater for weddings of any size, from 40 to 240 in the magnificent Rathmore Suite. And don’t forget they have an outdoor option as well, used as recently as May 4th for a civil wedding. And remember it doesn’t have to be a wedding. Any large function, even a party, can be accommodated here.
One of the terraces, with another just above

Weddings though are well suited to the hotel. There’s a covered walkway for the bride and groom to use on arrival. And, with those 90 acres, there’s no shortage of scenic places to take those photos. “It is a one shop stop,” says Aoife.

Relax!
When you book a room in the Kinsale Hotel, you are sure of a view. On one side, you’ll wake up to the sights and sounds of running water, a beautifully landscaped area on a steep slope between the main building and the lodges (more on those later). On the other side, there are splendid views over the Oysterhaven inlet.

And the rooms are excellent, from the Classic through the Executive and Superior to those extra-spacious and supremely comfortable Suites. Something for everyone, for couples or families. The Classic sleeps up to 2 adults and 2 children and has everything you need for a truly relaxing break away. 
The woodland view

The other rooms will have more equipment, better views over the bay perhaps, but all are excellent with something in the range to suit most budgets.  Besides, the Kinsale offers Accessible Rooms giving you the same level of luxury, complete with peace of mind. These  are designed for wheelchair access and feature accessible bathrooms to ensure that you're comfortable and secure during your stay.

Spa
In addition to the hotel itself, there are some twenty self-catering lodges in the grounds, quite close to the hotel and reached by a covered walkway (you can do B&B if you prefer!). These are very family orientated, very popular for extended family gatherings and also for hen parties. The lodges are of various sizes and are being refurbished.

If the fully equipped gymnasium is not enough for you, or if you find all the gear too daunting, why not take a walk in the grounds. Lots of space in  the 90 acres of parklands and over 5 kilometres of paved walkways.


Like a swim? You’ll enjoy the amazing 20 metre pool here. It’s got a huge window running on one side with great views out over the countryside and the inlets. And the sauna and steam room are among the most generously proportioned around. The facilities here are very popular and the gym and leisure centre has some 700 members. There is also a fully equipped Elemis Spa, quite an experience, from initial contact through the various stages and finally the rest room!
Preparing for a wedding

The Rockpool Restaurant has been renovated recently. Those of you who have been there previously will be amazed with all the light streaming in from the side windows, the effect enhanced by the fact that the old partitions have been taken down. You’ll have great views as you look out those windows.

And some tasty stuff to look at on your plate also. A new dinner menu was launched just last week. Snacks include some tasty small plates ranging from a Chicken Kebab to an Oyster Bay Open Crab Sandwich. Starters include choices from Kinsale Bay Mussels to Oysterhaven Bay Scampi.
Enjoyed this lunch dish (Wild Atlantic Hake)

They offer quite a range of main dishes. The fish lover is well catered for with Wild Atlantic Fillet of Hake, Monkfish Fillet, maybe the Oysterhaven Bay Fish ’n Chips. No shortage of meat options either with Wagyu Beef Burger, rack of Irish lamb and Steak listed. You’ll also find Salads, Curry, Chicken Supreme, and a Homemade Vegan Burger.
Sautéed Chicken Salad at lunchtime

And you’ll have dessert, Of course! Pick from the Mango Banoffee Pie, the Raspberry Belgian Chocolate Ganache Tart (I’ll have that, please), the Almond and Pistachio Cake, the White Chocolate Cheesecake and the spectacular Kinsale Hotel Signature Sundae (maybe I’ll have that!). Choices galore.
Lemon posset

The corporate side is very important here and they have great relationships with local firms whether for entertaining, team-buildings (they have their own private beach) and more. They have not just one heli-pad, but two.


Lots of complimentary onsite parking for the motorist too! All the bedrooms have WiFi, Saorview TV, Tea & Coffee making facilities, Iron & Ironing Board, Elemis Spa at Home products and 32” flat screen televisions and more. 

The hotel not alone has lovely surroundings but is very well located, close to the airport and the city, on the doorstep of Kinsale and its renowned food culture, and West Cork is just a short drive away. So much to see and do in this area.

The Kinsale, as Aoife saysm, it quite a one-stop shop: Weddings, Spa, Girl's Getaway, Corporate, Family Breaks, Health Club, Active Retirement Breaks, Dining. Check it all out at www.hotelkinsale.ie 


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Clare: A County of Cliffs and Karst, Caves and Cheese. And so much more!


Clare: A County of Cliffs and Karst, Caves and Cheese. 
And so much more!
Ancient Poulnabrone

You think of Clare, and the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren (a Karst landscape) always come to mind. They are indeed amazing visits but there is so much more as I found out in a recent two day trip.

There are two excellent cave visits. Aillwee is probably the best-known but this time we choose to go to Doolin to see the extraordinary stalactite there. We visited two cheese makers, the well-known St Tola and Burren Gold. Then there was the Burren Perfumery in an isolated spot but still managing to employ over 30 people in the season.
Superb packaging at Burren Perfume

Perfumery garden
As you travel between the perfumery and Aillwee you’ll the grey Burren stretching away at either side. And here too there are reminders of the past, a castle (Lemanagh), a fort (Caherconnell) and, most memorable of all, the ancient tomb at Poulnabrone. Just a few of the many attractions listed on the very helpful leaflet Burren and Cliffs of Moher GeoPark.

Okay, let us start with the cheese. We spent most of the first morning with Brian at St Tola and you may read all about it here. Our last call that afternoon was to the Farm Shop at Aillwee Caves where, if you’re lucky, you can see the Burren Gold being made. We had a lovely chat with Dave here  and an even lovelier tasting.

In between the cheese stops, we called to our B&B, the Fergus View, and got detailed directions for the afternoon from a very helpful Mary. And that was how we ended up at Poulnabrone. 

This is a Portal Tomb built, from great slabs of limestone, over 5,000 years ago (around the same time as the pyramids were being built) on the grey pavement of the Burren. The remains of over 30 people have been found on this ancient site. It is indeed much smaller than the pyramids but still you look at it in awe. 

And that awe continues as you eyes take in the extent of the grey pavement  (formed 350 millions years ago) all around as it stretches into the distance and you pick it up on the flanks of the distant hills.
Moher

Moher ??
And we got more great views of the unique landscape as we made our way to Sadie Chowen's Burren Perfumery . This  small company is “making cosmetics and perfumes inspired by the landscape around us. Everything is made on site, by hand, in small batches”. They include perfumes, creams, soaps and candles in the portfolio. We enjoyed  a little tour there through the perfume area, the herb garden and the soap room. There is also a Tea Room with homemade local food. The perfumery is open daily all year round.

The following morning we headed for Doolin on the coast, not to take a boat to the Aran Islands and not to take one along the Cliffs of Moher, but to visit the cave there. It is privately owned, by the Browne family. In addition to the cave, there is a café and a nature walk.

Mike Dickenson and Brian Varley, from a Yorkshire pothole club, discovered the cave in 1952. They crawled in. You don’t have to do that nowadays but you will have to bend down in certain parts. We had a terrific guide in Cathy and first she took us down the stairs which is enclosed in a concrete shaft stretching some 80 feet down; then, with our helmets on, we continued down to 80 metres.
Doolin's amazing stalactite. 10 tonnes, 23 feet.

Now, we get “orders” to turn out all mobile phone lights and we are briefly in darkness. A few lights come on in the blackness. Next there are oohs and aahs as the great stalactite is revealed, all 10 tonnes of it, all 23 feet of it (the longest free hanging stalactite in Europe!).  Amazing!
Doolin sheep

As Cathy takes us around and then under it, we get to know it a little better. One side (the whiter one), with drops of water still dripping, is longer than the other which has no drip and has stopped growing, it is “dead”.

Above ground, the nature trail takes visitors on a short rural walk where you will encounter some farm animals including rare breeds of pygmy goats and Soay and Jacob sheep, ducks and chickens. The ducks and chickens weren’t there on our trip, having been decimated by a rogue mink. But replacements were due!

There is also a well-regarded café and a shop and an area where you’ll see some information (mainly on posters) about the cave which was opened to the public only in 2006. As part of the planning permission, there is a limit of around 50,000 visitors per annum.

We had one or two other visits in mind in the Lisdoonvarna area but with the weather bright and clear, if quite breezy, we decided to head for the Cliffs of Moher. And the guy on the parking gate told us we’d made the correct decision, that the views were great.

And so they were. We joined the crowds (11 buses and more than half a mega-car-park full of cars) but the people were well spread out over the area and no sense of crowding at all. We walked and walked and took in the outstanding views. 

Something struck us as we strolled around. Most of the visitors were speaking a language other than English and those speaking English had either American or English accents. Of the small group in the morning’s cave visit, we were the only two “natives”. I know it was a working day (Friday) but still we wondered do we Irish really appreciate what we have on our doorstep. 
Ball retriever.

Over the past few years, we’ve often been asked what did we do this year. And we’d mention Kerry, Clare, Waterford, Wexford, Mayo, Donegal and so on. And the response often is. “Yes, but where did you go on holidays?” Quite a lot of us don’t consider it a holiday unless we go abroad.

We finished off the afternoon by taking the coastal route, calling at Liscannor (birthplace of John P Holland, inventor of the submarine) and a very lively Lahinch where surfers and golfers were out in force before reaching Berry Lodge at Spanish Point. Here we got a splendid welcome from owner David.

Plan to head to Clare again fairly soon, perhaps starting in the southern part of the county. Anything I should see, visit? After that, I’ll fill you in on a few places to eat and stay.
Surfers get a lesson on Lahinch beach while repairs (following last year's storms) continue in the background.