Thursday, 26 November 2015

On the Ballycotton Cliff Walk

Quit regular lines in "pattern" on this rock
"Every time he takes a photo, he expects me to stop."

Didn't look too promising at 10.30am yesterday
but cleared up nicely.

 The Mary Stanford lifeboat, now restored by local effort, was key in many rescues when based
in Ballycotton, most famously the Daunt Rock rescue in 1936. She was retired and set to be scuttled
until rescued. She's looking well now. Read some of the story here .

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Guinness Cork Jazz Festival 2015. Fun and Sun Saturday. On Again Tomorrow

Guinness Cork Jazz Festival 2015
Fun and Sun Saturday
On Again Tomorrow
Lamarotte from Holland
Mainly 38 Tonnes from Grenoble but the guy on the right of the middle row
is from the OhnO! Band from Holland, regular and popular visitors to the city,
and also pictured below in Winthrop Street

Enjoyed the Spring Rolls
(veggie and prawn) from Wok 'n Roll

Start of the march

Dancing on the march

On the march

More dancing in the street

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Take A Walk in Fota Gardens

Fota House and Gardens
Still lots of colour in the walled gardens, and outside.
It is a recommended visit. Talk the dog (on a lead) and take a walk.
See the gardens and the arboretum.
The only charge is three euro for the car park.
Front view of the house

Autumn colours

This pine (pinus negra) from the Crimea was
planted here in 1847. At the entrance from
the car park, there is another 1847 pine,
this from Monterey, California.

Quite a bit going on in Fota in the coming months.
Next up is the Fright Night. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Atlantic Sea Kayaking. Into the dark, and then the light

Atlantic Sea Kayaking

Into the dark, and then the light

At Reen Pier
In a dark corner, with slim branches just overhead and rocks in front, I lifted a piece of seaweed from a floating bunch. Immediately it sparkled with white light, a string of “pearls” falling back into the seawater, one or two remaining that bit longer on the piece, even on my hand. Magic at night in a sea inlet in West Cork.

We are in a kayak with guide Jim Kennedy of Atlantic Sea Kayaking in another. We had met him at his base on Reen Pier (map here) on the eastern side of the inlet; Castletownsend (nearer the sea) is on the western side. We left the base sometime after sundown and now, ninety minutes or more later, we are like kids with a new toy. It is called fluorescence and comes from dissolved organic matter in seawater.

There was more of it in certain corners of the inlet than others and Jim knew exactly where to find the best examples. You have to slightly disturb the water - with your hand or paddle - to see it and then it sparkles and vanishes until you do it again.

Any chance of a push?
Neither of us had seen it before. Indeed, neither of us had been in a kayak before. But with Jim, one of the most highly qualified in the field, looking after us, we relaxed into that confined space and enjoyed our two hours (two miles) that started with some fading light and ended in darkness (aside from some house lights in the area).

Bit by bit, we got into the swing of things but we weren't paddling all the time. Quite often we stopped, looked and listen. Jim told us where to look. We headed up the inlet, away from the sea. It was a calm night, not very cold. We were well wrapped up and had all the safety gear.

And it wasn't just looking and listening. We even used our noses as the teasing aromas of steak and onions drifted down our way. There were a few boats tied up in the area but most are rarely used but there was cooking going on in one!
 As the daylight ebbed, hundreds and hundreds of crows began to noisily gather. It happens this time of year (October), Jim told us. A big bunch would join up with another and they'd wheel and dive and then set off together to meet even more flocks coming in from all sides. We spotted a few egrets too, finding themselves spots for the night.

But the crows were the main attraction and they eventually settled in the treetops on the bank. The racket was enormous but, bit by bit, they quieted down and, eventually, there wasn't a sound to be heard.

It was dark now and other birds, including curlews, were flying unseen overhead, scooting past with quite a swoosh. They can see you, Jim reassured us.

One of the trees in which the crows briefly gathered
Then we swung into a corner on the left, a “boats graveyard”. One wreck appeared like a ghost as we skirted a small island. A pause now to take in the peace of the place, the calm water, a leaf slowly spinning on the spot, making no progress. And then it was time to head back, crossing over towards the Union Hall side where the outgoing tide would give us a little push.

We were in no rush, taking our time under Jim’s gentle guidance. And then we stopped. In the dark. And then we saw that light! And would see it, and call it up, again and again as we meandered back. At this point, the two of us had little idea of where to find the beach. So just as well that Jim took us in tow and we paddled gently back to complete a two hour trip of nature's delights.

  • Jim and his wife Maria have been into kayaking for close on twenty years now and do trips and tours both here and abroad. I'm told there are some even more magical ones in West Cork, involving caves, music, even food and wine! It is an amazing company, a huge asset for Ireland. Well worth checking out here and Very Highly Recommended.
* It was a great day in West Cork. We started with lunch in Clonakilty, at Richy's Bistro. Then it was time for chocolate tasting as we visited Allison Roberts at Clonakilty Chocolate. Base for the night was Casey's in Union Hall. We had a neat and tidy room here, a room with a view over the lagoon in the fishing village. The bar was downstairs and great to see they had Black's Kinsale Pale Ale on draught. A couple of pints went down well at the end of a perfect day.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Kinsale Harbour Cruise. All Aboard The Spirit

Kinsale Harbour Cruise
All Aboard The Spirit

Mouth of the harbour
One of the advantages of being retired is that you can be ready to go out and about when the sun shines. It shone recently and we headed off to Kinsale to take the harbour cruise and then followed that up with lunch at the new Seafood Cafe in the Blue Haven.

The cruise is run by Kinsale Harbour Cruises on a double decker boat called the Spirit of Kinsale. The upper deck is open and the best one for the views; it is also larger, its comfortable seating accommodating about two thirds of the fifty passengers allowed. In season, they do three to four cruises a day.

Sailing boats by Charelesfort
They don't encourage bookings, just turn up at the departure point 15 minutes ahead of the cruise time. Timetable is here. During the forty five minutes cruise, there is an excellent commentary played on the public address, mainly in English but with some Irish inserts. Local tales, including that of the White Lady, are told.

However, non-English speaking foreign visitors are not catered for in the commentary and I didn’t see any information leaflets for them either. Considering the Spanish involvment in local history, a few words in that language would have been appropriate, particularly since there were a few onboard.
In the drink

The boat leaves the marina, with the town on the left (port) side. Also on that side as you go on, you see the old village of Scilly and the massive Charlesfort. The Spirit of Kinsale makes its leisurely way in the direction of the mouth of the harbour to a point from where you have a decent view of the Old Head of Kinsale.

The boat doesn’t go out to sea and turns well before the mouth of the harbour and then, as you come back, you can see James Castle and the Blockhouse, again on your left. Of course, you can see these on the way out as well. There was plenty of sailing activity on the water and sometimes you may be lucky and spot some seals, otters, herons, shags and cormorants.

The Spirit of Kinsale then proceeds up towards the bridge over the Bandon River, giving some lovely views of the town, its hotels and houses, and the various docks and marinas before doubling back to the start/finish point.
Trident Hotel

It is a very pleasant trip indeed and luckily for us it was enhanced by the warm sunshine. We were welcomed aboard via the PA but I thought that there might have been a little more personal interaction with the passengers; there wasn't even the automatic “Have a nice day” as we stepped ashore.
Kinsale houses

Cork Film Festival looks to the future

press release

The Cork Film Festival looks to the future for historical 60thanniversary edition
Festival puts the spotlight on emerging film talent and the Academy Awards 

An international event, focusing on emerging talent in the film industry, will form a central part of the action-packed programme for the upcoming 60th edition of the Cork Film Festival. The spotlight will also be on the Irish winner of the Grand Prix for Best Short film, which for the first time, will be put forward to the Oscar long-list for award consideration. 
A 15% discount on Festival Passes is available right up until the official launch on 13 October. Further details are available on The Festival will take place between 6 and 15 November
For the first time this year, the Irish and international short films to win the prestigious Grand Prix awards, will go forward to the Academy Awards long-list for Oscar consideration. This major coup for the Festival was announced at the closing gala of last years event.
The 37 Irish shorts competing for the Grand Prix Irish short presented by RTÉ, which includes a prize of €1,500, have now been chosen. Titles include Love Is A StingThese Dog Days and Looks Like Rain, with 18 of the 37 entries made in Cork. The full list of competitors is on the Festival’s website.

Commenting on this sneak peek announcement, Cork Film Festival Creative Director James Mullighan said “It has been a really strong year for both short and feature film submissions in terms of quantity and quality. Film submissions are up almost a third on 2014. The Academy Award accreditations have certainly cemented the Festivals reputation internationally as one of Europes leading film events.”
Another significant development for the Festival was the announcement in June that RTÉ, Ireland’s national public service media, was to become its principal partner. The partnership marked the biggest festival association between RTÉ and Cork City and, exists alongside the continued and long standing work with the Festivals principal funder, the Arts Council.
Ten feature films have now been shortlisted for competition. Five for the Gradam Spiorad na Féile / Spirit of the Festival Award and five for Gradam na Féile do Scannáin Faisnéise/Cinematic Documentary. Making the list were films from Italy, Poland, Philippines, South Korea, China and the US.
In keeping with its long-standing dedication to nurturing new film talent, the Festival is also delighted to announce the extended Talent Development Campus will be a central part of this years programme. 
More than 100 filmmakers will make their way to Cork for the Campus, which is a must-attend four day intensive training and networking series, for anyone trying to break into the film industry. Emerging film talent from across Ireland, the UK, Norway, Poland, Serbia and further afield, will have the chance to rub shoulders with more than 40 international film industry experts, who will lead the training series.
“This is just a taster of the fantastic programme we have developed to give emerging filmmakers a stepping stone to success. We are firm believers in doing everything possible to nurture new talent and, with the Talent Development Campus; we will help and guide those making forays in a challenging industry” commented James Mullighan.
He continued; “To celebrate the Festivals 60th edition, we wanted to stay true to its strong history of promoting new filmmakers, but we also wanted a fresh approach. I believe we have achieved this with the Talent Development Campus. I am really excited to meet the filmmakers of the future at these sessions.”
A brand new session, CRITICS makes its debut at the Talent Development Campus. UK and Irish film critics will discuss the importance of film-writing in the industry and, how their reviews can make or break a new filmmaker’s career. Critics from The Irish Times, Sunday Business Post and the UK’s Little White Lies are confirmed to attend.

2014’s hugely popular FUND seminar, where experts advise filmmakers on all things financial, is making a welcome return. While INTERACTIVE@CORK, an entertaining mix of exhibitions, showcases and case-studies on digital innovations in film, will feature talks from global practitioners selected by the world renowned XO Labs.

The Festival has a sterling reputation for giving new talent a platform for their work. Famous names that have cut their teeth there before finding global success include Oscar-winning director Neil Jordan, whose first feature-length film Angel was shown at the 1982 Festival. Actor Cillian Murphy’s first starring role was in Quando, which premiered at the Festival in the 1997 Shorts programme. 
The fast-approaching Festival will celebrate its landmark anniversary with some 150 events over ten days, from 6 to 15 November. With more than 20,000 admissions expected, the creative team has developed an extensive and varied line-up that will push the boundaries, while also pleasing more classic cinematic tastes. 
Full details of the complete 60th anniversary Festival programme will be released on the official launch date, October 13th.

The Gradam Spiorad na Féile/Spirit of the Festival Award is returning for its second year. The jury this year is chaired by Irish filmmaker Gerard Stembridge. The films chosen to compete for the €1,500 prize are: 

Couple in a Hole, dir: Tom Geens, UK.
The Nightless City, dir: Alessandra Pescetta, Italy
Performer, dir:  Maciej Sobieszczanński, Poland
Ruined Heart, dir: Khavn, Philippines
Tangerine, dir: Sean Baker, USA

The debut Gradam na Féile do Scannáin Faisnéise/Award for Cinematic Documentary is judged by a jury chaired by Claire Aguilar, Sheffield DocFest’s Director of Programming and Industry Engagement. The films chosen to compete for the €1,000 prize are:

Above and Below, dir: Nicolas Steiner, USA
Magic Mountain, dir: Anca Damian, Romania, Poland, France
My Love, Don’t Cross That River, dir: Jin Mo-young, South Korea
On the Rim of the Sky, dir: Hongjie Xe, China, Germany
The Russian Woodpecker, dir: Chad Gracia, UK, Ukraine.
Most competing films will see a visit to Cork by the filmmaker.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

House of Waterford Crystal Tour

House of Waterford Crystal Tour
During a recent trip to the city's Harvest Festival, I took the opportunity to take the factory tour at Waterford Crystal. It was, pardon the pun, brilliant, much better than anticipated. And great to see a strongly beating heart right in the centre of the city even if some of the limbs are in rather distant places.

But the people that make the high end pieces, eye catching and stunning pieces, work right here in Waterford and you get close up when you take the guided tour.
It will cost you a small fortune to take Cinderella to the ball!
Your guide will fill you in on the background of glass-making and on the history of the Waterford operation in particular. Then you move into the factory and start in the atmospheric Blowing Department. Next stop is the Mould Room where short-lived timber moulds are fashioned for the large pieces. You’ll see moulds there for many sports trophies, including that for the Irish Open.
Next up is the Quality Control room. If the piece is not up to standard, it is scrapped and the glass recycled. Waterford don't do seconds! Now into the Hand Marking Department where a temporary grid is applied to assist the cutter. The concentration in the Cutting Department is intense. Each of the craftsmen has trained for a minimum of 8 years to master the craft, applying the clear and sparkling cut that is the distinctive hallmark of Waterford Crystal.
Now we are into the Sculpture Department. Amazing what these folks can fashion from a solid block of glass, sometimes indeed, if the piece is particularly large, from a few blocks. Some of the pieces take months to complete.
Blow, glow
Ready for sculpting
The Engraving Department is next, all done with a copper wheel and again maximum concentration! It can take from hours to days to complete the engraving on many of the international sporting trophies and limited edition inspiration pieces.

And that is more or less it. The tour ends in the shop and you are let loose! And do watch out for those magnificent trophies and unique pieces. I had been a little sceptical in advance but found the experience very impressive and would highly recommend it. Get all the details here.

Horse-racing trophy (Churchill Downs)
See also: Dinner at Bodega Waterford

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Ballynatray House. A Blackwater Gem

Ballynatray House

A Blackwater Gem
The grounds and gardens of Ballynatray House were listed among the attractions for the recent Heritage Week. The estate is beautifully situated on the Blackwater near Youghal and just 35 minutes from the eastern side of Cork City.

The current big house, more like a French Chateau, dates from the late 1800s, though there had been many dwellings on the commanding site before that. The ruins of Molana Abbey are here and nearby is the Templemichael ruin and also the church at Glendine.

Molana Abbey
We had been looking for the entrance and car park together but that is not exactly the case. So, if you are heading that way from Cork, turn left immediately before the bridge that spans the Blackwater in Youghal. A few minutes later, you will see the entrance, consisting of a gate and a small boxy lodge at each side. Turn here, carefully, and drive back a few hundreds yards, keeping a keen eye out for a small “hidden” car park on your left. Then walk back, carefully, to the entrance, and go through the pedestrian gate (Templemichael).

The walk from Templemichael follows the main drive through Parkland and Reedbeds with spectacular views of the wooded Blackwater River, to the Pleasure Ground and Kitchen Garden, over a mile from Templemichael. Please contact the office on +353 (0)24 97460 - (0)24 97899 or e-mail should you wish to visit the gardens.
The walk is really a loop with a gravelled path to the right taking you along the bank of the Blackwater. If you’re interested in birds, walk quietly. We were surprised, going over the little bridge at the start of the walk, when we saw a flock of wild ducks, hundreds of them. They were surprised too and took off in a panic.

Further up, we spotted a few herons. They too took off and landed on the opposite shore where no less than fifteen of the big birds were gathered together. You will also see lots of of pheasants around here as these are bred on the estate.

As you near the house, you will come to the ruins of Molana. They are fenced off for safety reasons but you can still get a good look. Splendid views of the house will start at this point and a few hundred yards later you’ll be on the lawn and directly in front of the large well maintained structure with the various gardens close at hand. These are all detailed here.

You may also stroll down to the boathouse and here you’ll see some old timber structures in the water, probably used for fishing as there are wires on pulleys in place from the bank. Back to the house and be sure and climb up behind it where you’ll get a fine view of the building and the magnificent sweep of the Blackwater.
The house and the river
Then you may walk back by the tarred road and see the magnificent trees, some ancient ones. And, even more encouraging, you’ll see lots of younger trees, including  some recent introductions from Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and China, on the long road towards replacing the seniors. Well done to the Estate for this important work for future generations.

Ballynatray is also used as a wedding venue and the house is available for rental and this may mean that the grounds are sometimes closed to the public. So, if you are visiting the gardens or the arboretum, do be sure and ring in advance  on +353 (0)24 97460 - (0)24 97899 or e-mail And do take note of where that entrance is!
The entrance!
It was heading for lunch-time when we finished the walk. Back in Youghal, we headed to Aherne’s and enjoyed a splendid dish of hake in the bar. Grilled Hake with champ, spinach and a tasty Provencal sauce was the full description on the specials board and the cost was €22.00. We visited Le Gourmet  afterwards for some bread and cake (Pear and Almond). They have a great selection and indeed you may also get a sandwich, and more, including paninis and salads, here for your lunch as well. Sage Cafe is another handy spot for lunch. And if you'd like to finish off with a high class ice-cream why not pop up the street to Fantastic Flavours who have a great selection.
Hake at Aherne's