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All Ireland 2007

sam A group of us went up to the All Ireland. It was a great weekend – dinner in Chapter One followed by a pint or two. Then breakfast of a smoothie from Fallon & Byrne and a rake of sandwiches bought from same for the game.

It wasn’t much of a match, but as long as Kerry keep winning, we won’t be complaining (and my apologies to any Cork fans out there!

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Eurotoques and Lots of Food

Trevor Sargent and Ross Lewis My brother Sean and I headed away last weekend for a conference put on at Brook Lodge in Wicklow by international chefs association, Eurotoques. The topic of the conference was on sustainability and agriculture. Speakers included Minister for State Trevor Sargent, Ross Lewis of Chapter One, Lorcan Cribbin of Bang Cafe, and Matt Cooper.

I met some old friends and acquaintances and had a great time. They laid on a barbeque for lunch, and in the evening we had a immense dinner at the Strawberry Tree, which is Ireland’s only certified organic restaurant. The meal was smashing, and Evan Doyle is a great host. Highly recommended!

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Senior Football Semi-Final

Dublin Fan I went up to Dublin with some friends this past weekend for the clash of Kerry against Dublin, and am back in Kerry again quite tired!

Hogan StandIt was a great fun, not just because Kerry won. There was brilliant atmosphere, and I had my first encounter with the pheomenon of Hill 16 full of Dubs (photo right) albeit from a safe distance. Dublin fans are quite impressive and sure know how to make noise!

Other highlights of the trip were a delicious smoothie from Fallon & Byrne, which went some way toward healing a hangover. Tasty sandwiches from the same got us through the match. I didn’t have such good luck finding a decent cappuccino, though, even though we tried several new places (when will baristas finally stop burning the espresso and scalding the milk?)

On Saturday night, we ate at the Mermaid Cafe, then moved on to Mulligans (the great culchie meeting place), then the Palace Bar, and from there spotted former Kerry great, Bomber Liston, among other familiar faces.

The All-Ireland beckons, and my head hurts already…

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Kenmare Horse Fair

Kenmare Horse Fair I spent today out and about in the Kingdom, and happened unwittingly onto the annual horse fair in Kenmare. What a picture of contrasts! The pristine town was packed with a very different crowd from the usual, and the rambunctious mood of a traditional fair (that’s quite rare to come across nowadays) clashed with Kenmare’s 5 star image.

Kenmare CattleTraders lined the streets hawking work boots and power tools, and many of the town’s shops closed for the day.

Tourists seemed somewhat befuddled by the crowds and mayhem, but many were visibly pleased by the animals on show – from ducks to cows to ponies.

One would think from this photo that members of the Tidy Town Committee will have nightmares for weeks to come…

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New Shop in Cork

The Blue Olive, Cork There is a great new gourmet shop in Cork called the Blue Olive that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area. It’s run by the personable Ken and stocks interesting wines, cheeses, ready meals, and lots of tasty snacks (including our ice cream!)

The addess is Marble Hill, Boreenmanna Road, Cork.

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Newgrange vs. Tara

Newgrange Before getting back into the world of ice cream, I just want to add something more about my trip. When coming back from Belfast, we decided to stop at two of Ireland’s most important historical sites – Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. I especially wanted to see the latter before the proposed motorway becomes a reality. So I entered “Newgrange” into the GPS, and we wound our way through the suburban sprawl that is the new Ireland.

It’s been many years since I’ve been to Newgrange, and when we arrived, I found out the disappointing news that the only access is through the visitor centre, 10 minutes away by car. You have to drive there, join a tour, and they bus you back and escort you through. This didn’t appeal to me much, as I am allergic to bus tours, and I grumbled and suggested they signpost this fact on the access road. The woman on guard said rather curtly that if I had come through Slane, it would have been well-signposted, and that I couldn’t expect to waltz in on a World Heritage Site. I pointed out that Slane is not on the way from Belfast, and that I had just done a bit of waltzing on the Giant’s Causeway! I understand the need to preserve Newgrange, but does the visitor centre really need to be so far away, and in the depth of January when there is hardly anyone there, does every visitor really need a bus tour?

Hill of Tara

So we headed on for Tara, and it is quite a contrast. There, you can wander around as you like, and little effort has been made to protect or explain it (the church/visitor centre was closed this time of year). Certainly this amazing site should be protected as well, and it should be free from motorways. Is it really possible that we value suburban sprawl so highly and give so little value to our heritage and our history? Of course one might argue that if Tara were made into a heritage site, you’d be back to heritage centres and the bus for access. Then again, the new motorway would probably get you there and back faster!

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Travelling North – Derry to Down

Giant's Causeway Although my sister married a Derryman, they are living in Germany now, and it’s been years since I’ve visited the North, outside of a short trip to Belfast. So I was looking forward to cruising the Derry and Antrim coast, and it didn’t disappoint.

Antrim CoastIt’s so unspoiled, compared to the Republic – there are none of the endless, ugly holiday home estates that mar the landscape from Dingle to Donegal. There are caravan parks and holiday homes, but they seem to be limited to the towns. Instead, there is beautiful landscape and open roads. It’s a fabulous place for touring.

It’s easy to spend a few hours on the Giant’s Causway, and it’s a deserved World Heritage Site. Even with those hours, it’s not too much to travel the coast from Derry to Belfast in a day.

Anna's HouseWe had booked a place for two nights outside Belfast - Anna’s House, which gave us peace and quiet with easy access to Belfast restaurants. This place is a true gem, and Anna’s hospitality is unsurpassed. She whipped up home-baked breads and scones for breakfast, met us with tea and cakes in the evening, and did everything in her power (which is considerable) to make us comfortable. Not to be missed.

The first night we ate at Macau on the Ormeau Rd., since I was craving something ethnic. An appetiser of coconut-battered prawns of amazing size and tenderness was followed by a sizzling pot of monkfish. Yum! Why does it have to be so far away from Dingle?

Chocolate RoomThe following day I wandered around the Lisburn Road in the morning. I want to put a Murphys Ice Cream shop there! It’s cosmopolitan and has lots of cafes and galleries. There are many places for rent – due to gentrification and spiraling rents. While there I visited Swantons Gourmet Foods – a place that would get any foodie’s heart thumping, and had an excellent hot chocolate in the Chocolate Room.

For lunch, we headed toward Holywood and ate at the Bay Tree, where we had some excellent soup and leafed through their new cookbook.

For dinner, it was hard to choose among all the good restaurants. In the end we chose  James Street South. It was the best meal I had in a long time – a sublime black pepper risotto followed by tender red snapper, and a camomile creme caramel. For people who say Belfast is hot when it comes to cuisine – yes, yes, yes!

Fresh FieldsThe next morning, we headed for Warrenpoint, where we have our first customer in the North – Fresh Fields. I guess you could say we are now an international company!

I chatted with the personable Neil about the ice cream, and it seems to be going well. Apparently he has had many customers who have heard of us, and he has re-ordered the ice cream several times.

The shop is delightful – lots of produce and a very intelligent array of gourmet foods. We spent our last pounds on tasty snacks for the road, and headed back toward the South…

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Travelling North – Galway to Donegal

Glenveigh National Park Armed with the fantastic Bridgestone Guides and some recommendations, we headed up the country from Dingle in search of good food, good scenery, and a bit of a break in the bleakness of January.

RouteAlthough the weather can be bad and some places closed, Winter is a good time to travel, since nothing is booked out, you have the countryside to yourself, and there are real bargains to be had in terms of lodgings.

Since it’s the quiet season in the world of ice cream and the workload is diminished, it’s a perfect time to explore parts of the country one doesn’t usually get to…

The first stops were in Galway – deliveries of ice cream to Ard Bia in Galway city (sadly we didn’t have the hunger to enjoy their lunch menu due to too much snacking) and to the multi-award-winning McGeough’s Butchers in Oughterard.

We pushed on then, heading up through beautiful Connemara for a stroll around Westport, then on to Sligo, where we had booked into Cromleach Lodge.

Cromleach LodgeThis highly-rated establishment has been recently refurbished, and it was very comfortable.

I think we were the only people spending the night, and there were only two other tables booked at the restaurant. Perhaps because the kitchen was so quiet, the meal was a bit of a let-down. The breakfast in the morning, however, was fantastic.

The next day we drove to Donegal, stopping for the cliff walk before Bundoran to take advantage of a break in the rain, although the high winds made things a bit difficult. In Donegal town, we visited Aroma and were not disappointed in the cakes. Top class baking.

Green Gate ArdaraWe decided to spend the night in Ardara, having heard great things about the rustic Green Gate B&B, where there’s no TV or phones, and where the legendary ex-Parisian bookstore owner Paul had made headlines after cancelling all his American bookings (he had one too many head elsewhere after seeing how basic it was). And yes, he is accepting Americans again, but be warned – it is as basic as it is charming…

Nancy’s Bar in Ardara sadly does not do food in the off season, as I’ve been told they do the best chowder in Ireland, but it is definitely worth a stop. The Guinness was mighty, the atmosphere homey, and the conversation great…

Donegal CastleThe next day we drove around the coast, then headed into Glenveigh National Park for a walk. Although we ended up drenched from the rain, it was a good stroll, and some tea in Glenveigh Castle helped to warm ourselves.

We spent the night in Castle Grove House in Letterkenny, which we loved. On a quiet, restful site, it has tasteful furnishings, high ceilings, tasty food, and two drawing rooms with huge roaring wood fires to warm the bones.

The following morning we filled the van with diesel and headed toward the border…

(Part 2 to follow – Antrim, Belfast and Down)

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Kieran Murphy is a director of Murphys Ice Cream living in Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

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Murphys Ice Cream

Murphys Ice Cream has shops in Dingle, Killarney and Dublin 2 (Wicklow Street).

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