11 August 2014
My afternoon tea stop, in Killarney is popular with visitors enjoying horse and cart rides, but I’m totally disarmed when I get out of my car, there is a sincerity and lack of cynicism that I’d normally associate with a tourist location that surprises me, a recurring theme throughout my visit. A fabulous ice cream at Murphy’s Parlour and a chat with one of the cart drivers who poses for a picture sees me away with a smile.
In Dingle the next morning, I’m met by Martin Bealin of Global Village Restaurant who generously spent most of the day with me showing me the sights. These include the local brewery where they make Tom Crean’s, a very good Pilsner style beer, then onto the Dingle distillery where they’re making a name for themselves producing an superb gin, originally produced to maintain the cash flow whilst their whiskey was maturing. It’s a few years yet before the whiskey will be ready but if it’s anything like the gin, it’ll be very good indeed. An hour with Maya Binder, a Swiss-trained German cheese maker who produces some wonderful soft farmhouse cheeses is heaven to a cheese lover like me.
I didn’t want to leave Dingle, it’s a special place; a town of 1800 with 52 food establishments, amazing producers and a happy, relaxed vibe, I look forward to returning.
The next stop, after an inspiring drive along another stretch of the coast and I’m searching for the famous Woodcock Smokery, winner of numerous awards including several three star awards from the Guild of Fine Foods. I find it, and the owner, the wonderful Sally Barnes, on a rough track in the middle of nowhere and within 20 minutes I know I’ve met a friend, we’re exchanging inappropriate jokes and stories of travels over a mug of builders tea in her kitchen. She’s an amazing lady and her passion for both the products she makes and conservation are an inspiration. It was a delight to learn from her and meet her granddaughter who works there too, her daughter is taking a break to climb mountains for charity, what a family!
A great dinner that night at Mary Anne’s pub in nearby Castletownsend, a really good fish pie and plaice stuffed with crab and leek, they’re packed full on a Tuesday night and I’m pretty sure I only get a table due to the owner loving MasterChef, and having a good memory.
My final day sees me heading into Cork to see the English Market. This is without doubt the best food market I’ve been too in the UK or Ireland. The produce is perfect, the prices are better than I pay wholesale in the UK and the stall holders know their products. The best way to experience the market is to lunch at Kay Harte’s Farmgate Cafe which sits on a balcony above the market watching a constant changing scenery below, all of her produce comes from the market itself and my lunch of smoked and cured Mackerel and Herring and a plate of the best liver and bacon leaves me full and happy for the rest of the day. A night of pure luxury at the wonderful Hayfield Manor in Cork sees me heading home to Dorset the next morning with fond memories and plans to return.