Irish Towns are for Foodies

Irish Towns are for Foodies

KINSALE, IRELAND - As far as foodie towns go, this sleepy little village at the mouth of the River Bandon is one of the more appetizing. Kinsale, on Ireland’s lovely southwest coast about 35 kilometres from Cork, started out as a medieval fishing village and is now a modern yachting and deep-sea fishing haven.

Its relaxed charm is intoxicating and, thanks to its abundance of cafes, pubs and fine restaurants, it’s earned the title of “Gourmet Capital of Ireland.”

Here, food is celebrated every October at the Kinsale Gourmet Festival and enjoyed at popular local dining spots like Max’s Wine Bar & Restaurant, Fishy Fishy Café and Blue Haven.

Kinsale’s reputation has spread and people from around the world arrive each year to enjoy the surroundings, fine food and local hospitality and learn how to make some of the town’s renowned dishes at the cooking schools that have opened here in recent years.

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Above: Students at the Bally Maloe Cookery School.


They stay at charming establishments like the Perryville Manor House, a B&B that feels more like a private home. The main sitting room, with its turf fires and cosy furniture, offers a warm welcome, and the guest rooms are elegant and spacious. Here, too, the focus is on fresh and local ingredients. The menu even details where all the food originates: “The healthy brown bread and fruity conserves are made here in the house to my own family recipe,” boast the owners, the Corcoran family.

The eggs, produced by happy hens owned by Ruth and Siobhan, are truly the most flavourful and delicious I’ve ever eaten. I finally understand all the fuss over free range eggs.

Potential Jamie Olivers can kick-start their culinary careers with a lesson at Ballymaloe Cookery School in nearby Shanagarry. The culinary school, which sits in the middle of its own 100-acre organic farm and gardens, offers daily afternoon demonstrations, more than 60 cooking courses (pizza, gluten-free, vegetarian, one-pot wonders and canapés) as well as a prestigious 12-week certificate course. You can combine an afternoon cooking demonstration with a walk around the organic farm and gardens, which feature ornamental fruits, vegetables, herbs, a maze and a wildlife meadow.

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Above: Perryville Guest House in Kinsale, Ireland.


The on-site shop has a wealth of cooking utensils, tools and books, including those of Darina Allen, whose passion for cooking with local, fresh, organic ingredients is the driving force behind Ballymaloe(www.cookingisfun.ie; www.ballymaloe.ie).

 

Foodies have also made The Cliff House in Ardmore a stopping point on their pilgrimage. The considerable skills of Michelin-star Chef Martijn Kajuiter are evident whether you choose the tasting menu or the a la carte options. West coast scallops, organic salmon from Bantry Bay and locally raised Black Angus beef, plus local produce dominate the menu.

The delicious meal I enjoyed at the Cliff House was enhanced by the stunning view; the glass-walled dining room overlooks Ardmore Bay. (www.thecliffhousehotel.com)

The spa at The Cliff House uses the Irish Voya skin care line (www.voya.ie) that’s based on certified organic wild seaweed. I am a convert to the detoxifying effects of seaweed, so I opted for the seaweed bath. In an outdoor tub on a terrace overlooking the ocean, I soaked in a bath of floating trails of seaweed. I felt like a mermaid but probably looked more like an otter floating in the kelp. Combined with the serene setting, it was relaxing and energizing at the same time.

From the Cliff House, you can explore the beautiful surroundings. Right from the hotel, there are nature walks like the five-kilometre Ardmore Cliff Walk, while the two-kilometre Lady Louisa’s Walk from Lismore Castle takes in the River Blackwater.

With its stunning hard sand beaches that are ideal for strolling, Ardmore is a popular holiday spot and area activities include sea kayaking, fly-fishing, deep-sea fishing, horseback riding and golf.

From Ardmore and The Cliff House, it’s about a one-hour drive to Waterford, deservedly famous for its glorious harbour. No wonder everyone since the Vikings has based themselves here.

A stroll along the water’s edge — past shops, restaurants and lots and lots of boats — is a pleasant way to pass time here. Waterford is the prize at the end of a natural, expansive inlet from the ocean, and the cruise in by boat along a gorgeous coastline with its spectacular waterfront properties is quite impressive.

Of course, Waterford is world-renowned for its crystal and to see how it’s made, head to the House of Waterford Crystal on The Mall with its visitor centre, factory tour and shop. The tour shows how crystal is blown, shaped and cut into gorgeous and intricate pieces. Originally started in 1783, Waterford Crystal quickly became a symbol of style and beauty. (www.waterfordvisitorcentre.com)

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Above: A tall ship sails into Waterford harbour.

The Viking Triangle is a vibrant historic quarter that includes a number of monuments. Regnall’s Tower is at its heart, and is the oldest civic, urban building in Ireland, dating from Viking times. It was named for Viking Regnall who founded the city in 914.

While the 18th century Christ Church Cathedral is “relatively new,” there has been a church on this site since Viking times, and was the scene of the marriage between Strongbow (Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke) and Aiofe MacMurragh.

That union between the daughter of the King of Leinster and the Norman invader Strongbow, ushered in English involvement in Irish politics. Also part of the Viking Triangle are the French Tower, Medieval Under Crofts, and the Bishops Palace Georgian House of Elegance. (www.discoverwaterfordcity.ie)

This tour of Ireland has so much for foodies and history buffs to digest.

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