Sunday, 26 August 2012

Cork Craft Month 2012

Cork Craft Month 2012 
Blackwater Woodturners
 “Cork Craft Month 2012 is a month long celebration of the amazing abundance of high quality craft produced in Cork County and City.”
Mianra Soaps
 I got a sample of it yesterday in Cornmarket Street and it is amazing. There are displays all over the city and county and you may see the details here. The Cornmarket Street display is just for two days and today (Sunday 26th) is the final day.
Paul Ryan's lamps
You’ll find the exhibit indoors, next door to KT Max, across the road from the Cornstore. There are not many stands but all have quality. Cronin’s Forge from Durrus are displaying their ironworks while Paul Ryan has a great selection of handcrafted designed lamps.
Mianra Soaps
 The two that really caught my attention though were the Artisan Soaps by Mianra, better than those of Provence,  and the work of Blackwater Woodturners (Lorcan and Anne Dunne).
Mianra Soaps
Look out for these amazing works and more as the craft month continues until September 9th.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Lismore visit

Enjoyable visit to the lovely town of Lismore, in County Waterford, Ireland.

Lismore: The Town
Lismore: The Castle
Lismore: The Vee, a mountain pass
Lismore: The restaurant, O'Brien Chop House, recently voted best in Munster

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Gougane Barra. The Friendly Forest.

Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra, as most of you know, is the place where St Finbarr, the Cork saint, had his refuge before heading for the big marsh where the city now stands. He perhaps followed the course of the River Lee which has its source in Gougane.

The first thing you will notice on the way it is the small chapel, popular for weddings, on a little island on your right. This dates from the 19th century and may be visited. Just close the door after you, as requested, as the birds get in and cause problems. 

It is a remarkable forest with many walks and tracks and indeed, there is an oval drive right into the heart of it, something you don’t get in many forests in Ireland.

I drove all the way in and, unlike some drivers, stopped, got out and had a look. There are two walks from this upper car park, one marked strenuous, the other moderate. Of course, we picked the tough one, an hour and three quarters up to a point above the trees and back down again by a different path.

But it isn’t really all that tough, not if you have decent footwear, a walking stick and use commonsense. It is called The Mountain Trail or Slí Sléibhe. It is marked with little red feet and the pathway itself is obvious. It ascends through the trees and, via little wooden bridges, crosses back and forth over the infant Lee and eventually out on to the open mountain.

It travels along the tree line with magnificent views to the south before coming back down through mature larches and back to the internal road. It was a pretty good day and I worked up a decent sweat and enjoyed it very much indeed.

Got back to the car and then checked out the nearby moderate walk. This was just a ten minutes circular stroll over much the same kind of pathway and gave a good idea of the forest. Well worth having a go off this one if you don’t have time for the Mountain Trail.

Both trails have clearly defined walkways and there are many manmade steps to help you on your way. But be sensible. Don’t go up on your own. Get the weather forecast. Wear good shoes and bring that stick.

You can see the Mountain Path at the official Coillte site.  You’ll also see that there are quite a few more tracks. Lots if info there and lots of signs in the forest itself. A friendly forest! Must go back myself soon and try another one.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Lismore. Well worth a call

Lismore. Well worth a call

Cathedral ceiling

Local saint

The beautiful West Waterford town of Lismore is well worth a visit. So say I, with all the zeal of the newly converted. But, no kidding, I am not its only advocate. Take a look at its performances over the years in the Tidy Towns competition. In both 2011 and 2010, it was named Ireland’s Tidiest Small Town and there is a long list of honours before that including being Overall Winner in 2004.

It just gets better. There are some lovely buildings here, including the Heritage Centre  and of course the ancient Cathedral
Town Park waterfall.
 But the star attraction here is the old castle. I have written about it recently and this is the link. It is a superb place, featuring a long history, beautifully laid out gardens, sculpture all over gardens and also in the recent gallery.

Town park
 The town is on the Blackwater and that is included in many walks, most of them well sign posted and some of them giving you great views of the castle. The magical woodland trail known as 'The Towers' is located just 3 miles outside of Lismore Town. And not too much further away is the spectacular drive through The Vee.

Lismore Castle, just down the street.
A day trip? It may not be time enough to sample the many attractions. And if you want some fine food, I can thoroughly recommended a visit to the fabulous O’Brien Chop House.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Saturday in East Cork

Saturday in East Cork
Youghal's Town Crier announces events for the day

Food of Nations Market & Craft Fair
part of events for  Gold Wing Treffen visit.

Reminder of recent bad weather on the Blackwater

Greenbarn, near Killeagh, have a great garden selection. Also Oska outlet shop
and household and gift items. Bought Margaret Browne's seasonal
cookbook Through My Kitchen Window.

Castlemartyr: Enjoyed terrific lunch here
in this pub and met chef Mike Hanrahan

This is where Shortt's get their veg. Did a bit of food shopping here
German liner Aida overshadows regatta yachts in Cobh

Busy on the promenade!

Pont Aven sails out - with daughter and friends on board. Bon Voyage!

Regatta yacht

Regatta yacht

Missed the Gold Wing Treffen in Youghal but snapped them in Castlemartyr
as they returned from Cobh.

More Gold Wings in Castlemartyr

The Titanic Bar has been restored and is back in business.
This pic is of the dining area and they also have an
outside decking area overlooking the harbour.

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Murphy’s Big Family Test

The Murphy’s Big Family Test

Da, Mickie and Ma
Sister and Tommy

Cork family, the Murphys, Ma and Da and the four teens, is in danger of being torn apart as their kids begin to stretch the boundaries. Nothing is sacred anymore as religion and sex are tested by the growing teens.

Squabbles are frequent as the parents struggle to cope and the unlikely cure is Fish and Chips and Mushy peas from Petrassi’s. Wonder though for how many Thursday nights (Ma doesn’t do the shopping ‘til Friday) that solution will work!

The background*: Set in Cork, its story carries us back to the sixties, Vatican 2, the Late Late Show and introduces us to the Murphys: Mam, Dad and their four children, Eddie, Annie, Mickie and the hero of our tale, 12-year-old Tommy, a precocious kid who is starting to question family values and the Roman Catholic Church. He believes God put us on earth to "have fun," and he's trying to figure out why his family isn't having any.

After breaking box office records all over the U.S., "Over the Tavern," by Tom Dudzick the beloved American hit comedy about a family in Buffalo, has been lovingly transformed by Dolores Mannion to an Irish family in Cork City.

This is a family drama (teenagers, finances, pressures of work) and could well be over a shop or indeed not over anything at all. It is essentially a comedy, though there is hurt too. After all, comedy and tragedy are opposite sides of the drama coin, never far from each other.

The song, Little Arrows, is used as a theme for the show and this line - But you'll know it when they hit you, 'cause they hurt a little bit – is appropriate as the rule of dedicated nun Sister hits home on the bare palm or indeed as some cutting jibe finds its mark. Many of us will remember those little hurts, maybe not so little, hammered at school and hammered again at home for being hammered at school.

Could tell some tales here, none of them too serious, but the silence enforced by the schools system at the time led to unspeakable horrors and many of those involved at the receiving end never got to see the comedy side of the coin.

But there is comedy galore here, much of it brilliantly illustrated by the teenage actors. Highlight perhaps was when the gangly Eddie, the eldest son, needlessly blurts out an admission to an indiscretion in the steely presence of the oppressive Sister.

It is his younger brother Tommy that Sister Mary Agnes is after, a chase that ends with the nun collapsing on the Murphy floor and her life being saved by the very same Tommy. The good sister’s condition had been exasperated by the protective mother seizing and breaking her ruler, by the remarks of the father, overzealous to get his family back on the right religious track, and by a shout or two of “shit” from Mickie, the youngest.

In the end, there is a reconciliation of sorts with the nun, who is to retire, and then between the members of the family with Da taking them out to eat at Petrassi’s. Just wonder how long the peace lasted! Maybe not much longer than the mushy peas.

The experienced pair of Fionula Linehan and Gerry Conway are brilliant as the parents while Martina Carroll, another experienced player, turns in a very believable Sister Mary Agnes (wonder why she wasn’t booed at times!).

But the kids steal the show. I know Tommy had the lead part but I wouldn’t really want to pick one above the other. Of course, Michael Morris (Tommy) is top notch but then so are Michael McLaughlin (Eddie), Diandra Ni Bhuachalla (love her pouting yet fragile Annie) and Michael Barry (Mickie).

So well done to the cast, to director Dolores Mannion and her crew and to the Cork Arts Theatre for reviving this popular show. Indeed I'm sure all in local theatre will be encouraged by its success on Wednesday night and particularly by the talent shown by the four young people.

I enjoyed it and I’m sure you will too. It runs until Saturday, the 1st of September. Wednesday was the opening night and Cllr Joe Kavanagh (deputising for the Lord Mayor) attended and congratulated all concerned, saying he was proud to see all the local talent involved. We were all proud when we stood up at the end to applaud.

• From the website of the Cork Arts Theatre

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Family Fun Day at Tramore Valley Park

Family Fun Day at Tramore Valley Park
Amazing potential

The former Kinsale Road Landfill will host a day of family fun activities to celebrate the unveiling of the master plan for Tramore Valley Park by Lord Mayor Cllr. John Buttimer on Saturday 25th August.

A family sports day, birds of prey, bouncing castles, face painting, balloon making and zorbing are some of the activities organized throughout the day. A picnic area with food stalls, electric vehicles, polocrosse demonstrations and rally vehicles are also planned to encourage visitors to view the master plan for the area and discuss the various elements with representatives of Cork City Council.

Michael O’ Brien, Senior Engineer, Cork City Council said “The aim of the event is to showcase the potential of the former landfill in a new role as a year round active and energetic family leisure and recreation destination; we hope to engage a large cross section of the public for feedback as well”. He added “The open day will allow members of the public the opportunity to explore and enjoy an area of over 160 acres which in the future will be transformed into a large, flexible area to cater for wide range of events, attractions and programs unique to Cork.”

Guided walking tours, wildlife talks, orienteering trails and an open top bus are some of the imaginative ways visitors may discover the untapped potential of the area over the event all of which will be stewarded by local resident and community associations.

Tramore Valley Park Family Fun Day takes place on Saturday August 25th from 11.00-16.00 at former Kinsale Road Landfill, admission is free and ample onsite parking is available.
For further information, please contact Cork City Council at 4924187, 4924731, 4924333, 4924729.

The potential for the space is amazing. Cork’s year round active and energetic family leisure and recreation destination. Read a summary of the master plan here.  

Rockets - Magic - Giant Bubbles

Water Heritage Open Day at Lifetime Lab!

Lifetime Lab at the Old Waterworks will host a family fun Water Heritage Open Day on Saturday 18th August from 11am to 4pm. Admission is free and children and adults can enjoy a series of stands and activities.

Throughout the day visitors are encouraged to become environmental detectives while investigating interactive exhibits, discover the engineering trail around the old Victorian waterworks, participate in hands on experiments at the learning zone and experience birds of prey up close. Fun activities are planned for ages including creating giant bubbles, launching water rockets, hook a duck, face painting and lots more.

Lifetime Lab manager Mervyn Horgan said “Our 2010 open day was voted Best Interactive Event by the Heritage Council and this year we are aiming for best overall event” adding “We have had a great response from the public so far and expect a larger attendance this year, we have more volunteers and lots of extra family friendly fun planned with entry and all activities free on the day”

When asked about the weather spoiling the day Mervyn replied “The fun will happen inside as well as outdoors and we are fortunate to have our own marquee, so we are well prepared”

Lifetime Lab is located in the old Cork City Waterworks buildings on the Lee Road. The interactive Visitor Centre is open 7 days a week until 5.00pm with environmental exhibits, a steam centre, coffee dock, a picnic area and children’s playground to explore and is fully wheelchair accessible.

For further information, please contact Lifetime Lab at:             021-4941500       or view the website

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Many Attractions of Driving the R584

Macroom to Bantry, via the longest road

One of these days, I’m going to head for Bantry on the R584, the road from Macroom. But don’t expect me to arrive on the same day! It is such an interesting journey, with lots of stops.

First halt will be the Gearagh (right), a mixed deciduous alluvial woodland in the flood plain of the River Lee. It is one of the last semi-natural forested floodplains in Europe and is unique in Ireland. Well worth a walk.

How many of you have seen the signs for the Toy Soldier factory? Well, for the boys (the young and young at heart), that factory is only just down the R584 from the Gearagh. They have factory tours, school activities and workshops.

Then cross the Toons River, in the area where they now make Mozzarella cheese. Now, Friday to Sunday, you can sample that cheese and other buffalo products at a new shop and cafe at the Toons Bridge Dairy. And not just buffalo goodies. Here too, you can get lots of stuff from the Real Olive Company.

Head on towards Inchigeelagh and its lovely lakes. If you forgot your jacket, then call to Lee Valley Clothing Store / who export to many countries. 

There is a cafe here for refreshments, of course also available is the long established Creedon’s Hotel, before you take in River Island and the local lakes (above). 

Next call is the Gaeltacht village of Ballingeary. Here you may learn Irish, go fishing for brown trout, hire a boat, enjoy a score of bowls. Never get to Bantry that way, I suppose!

But there is one nearby detour that must be made and that is to Gougane Barra (the retreat of St Finbarr, the founder of Cork City and the source of the River Lee), a beautiful spot indeed.
Gougane Barra walk

No need for any detour to see Keimaneigh, the next landmark, as the R584 cuts through this pass, made famous by the story of the deer that, to escape its hunters, jumped from one high rock to another at the other side. He’d have done well in the Olympics!
Carrigass and the sign for nearby bridge!

Having cleared the pass, there are some fine views of the valley to the west, but must keep my eyes on the road! I am now looking out for Future Forests.

This is a garden centre but not like any I’ve seen. Visit the website and you’ll see for yourself. Visitors are welcome. You may buy online but this place is well worth a visit and bring the kids who’ll be entertained and educated.

Now we are getting close to Kealkil and my next call, Carrigass Castle. Just a few walls remain of the 16th century castle, built by the O’Sullivan Bere clan. Here, many walks begin: to the Kealkil Stone Circle, to the corrie lake called Loch na mBreac Dearg and much more. There is an old bastible suspended over the fire in one corner but it may be better to check out the little cafe nearby ( and picnic sites), handy before or after your walk.

I’ll be heading for Bantry but there will be one more stop and that will be a call to the fantastic Manning’s Emporium. Think I’ll have a bite to eat here. Make that bites as they now have a Sherry tasting facility that I need to try out. Get those tapas ready.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Lismore Castle. A brilliant visit!

Lismore Castle. A brilliant visit!

Spent a few delightful hours at Lismore Castle  Gardens and Gallery last Friday. The brilliant sunshine enhanced the experience. It has been years since I was there and the improvement is unbelievable.

I felt that the visit compares very well with similar places that I’ve visited in France and is great value for the 8 euro entry fee, especially so if you are interested in history (Sir Walter Raleigh was a former owner), plants and art. There are also links with chemistry (Robert Boyle was born here) and the movies as Fred Astaire visited his sister who lived here between 1932 and 1944. And there is much, much more.

You get to see the castle but you don’t get to enter it other than the relatively recent Gallery. In 2003, a plan was conceived to transform the long derelict West Wing of the Castle into a gallery. It was opened in 2005 and has since shown some 40 leading international artists. It is a well laid out, well lit place and there is a refreshment area, a small shop and toilets in the block.

The current show features the sculpture of Hans Josephsohn and sculpture also features in the Lower Garden, the first part of your visit, an informal area with trees, shrubs and lawns, ideal for showing some large pieces including works by Eilis O’Connell, the 2005 Three Lismore Columns by David Nash and, perhaps my favourite, Antony Gormley’s Learning to be I (1992).

The Upper Garden is a “complete of the 17th century walled garden, 1st constructed here by Richard Boyle, the First Earl of Cork, in about 1605”. Key flowers and plants are identified by hanging tags and the same apply to some trees and shrubs in the lower garden. The Upper Garden is also put to work as here vegetables (they supply some to the O’Brien Chop House) and fruits are grown. You could spend days here going through the various plants.

And here too there is sculpture, including another by Gormley, best know for his Angel of the North in Gateshead. I liked the Bridget McCrumm 2001 piece Hunting and enjoyed too the much older (1907) bronze called The Irishman by Edwin Whitney Smith.

Quite a visit. If you do go, remember that Lismore has much more going for it, including a lovely town park, the St Carthage Cathedral, the Blackwater, lots of walks and nearby you have the spectacular drive through the Vee. Give yourself plenty of time and if you feel like lunch or dinner why not try O'Brien Chop House in the town.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Sunshine in The Vee. Grubb and Grub

Sunshine in The Vee
Grubb and Grub

When the sun shines in Ireland this year, you’ve got to hit the road (unless of course you are working!). It shone strongly last Friday and I headed for The Vee, a beautiful place that I hadn’t visited in quite a while.

Many of you have been there but just in case you haven’t: from Cork City, head for Mitchelstown, then follow the signs for Ballyporeen and next Clogheen and you’re almost there. The last two villages are in Tipperary and they looked well last Friday as did the many neatly kept roadside houses in between. Lovely drive.

After Clogheen, the road rises into the Knockmealdown mountains and when you come to a very sharp turn up there you are on the Vee. Some say the name comes from the turn, others that it comes from the V shaped gap in the mountains (which were there before the road).

There are some terrific views up here, especially over the Golden Vale. And, if you’ve brought decent footwear you may climb up further up on the Sugar Loaf, the name of the mountain here. Just a short walk up and your view improves.

Even better, up by the grave of Samuel Grubb (photo). The grave has been there since 1921 and there is an account of the burial here.  I heard or read somewhere that he was buried in an upright position, the better to take in the view, but cannot recall the source. Maybe it is just a tall tale.

Another distinguishing feature in the area is the lake called Bay Lough which is a little further on and at the opposite side of the road. It has a large enough car park and you may walk down to to the water. Quite a few cars were parked there the other day with many of their occupants admiring (well, at least looking at) a number of brightly branded sheep grazing nearby.

After the Vee, you will come to a Y in the road. If you go left, you are heading for Cappoquinn and will be passing Mount Melleray. We were heading for food in Lismore (O’Brien Chop House, highly recommended) so took to the right. Next time though, Melleray will be on a agenda.
Just in case you haven't been, there is much to see and do in Lismore itself.