Kitchen Bitch

Cooking in the Kitchen with Sass & Class

Emerald Isle: From Medieval to Modern October 7, 2010

Filed under: Travel — thekitchenbitch @ 6:21 PM
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View of Rock of Cashel from Hore Abbey in the valley below.


Day 4: Touring the Tipperary Region

Mom and dad herded us all out of bed and into the car to do some sightseeing. We first made our way to the Rock of Cashel, a royal stronghold for the Kings of Muenster in southern Ireland from the 4th and 5th century. In 1101 it was turned over to the church and made into a cathedral. A redheaded tour guide showed us around the ruins.


My brother Louis and I posing at the bottom of the Rock of Cashel.



The Rock of Cashel



The cemetery at the Rock of Cashel



The family posing at the Rock of Cashel


According to one Irish legend, if you jump around the site’s statue of St. Patrick’s Cross on one foot counterclockwise nine times you’ll be married within the year. My sister’s boyfriend Bart and I tried to do it, but it turns out it’s pretty hard to jump around on one foot on uneven ground.


Jumping around St. Patrick's Cross


From the Rock of Cashel we could see the ruins of the Hore Abbey, and we knew we had to go check it out.


View of Hore Abbey from the Rock of Cashel


Since there weren’t any tour guides, we tromped through the tall grass to see Hore Abbey from all sides and gave ourselves a tour of the place.



Bart jumping for joy at Hore Abbey



The KB, her dad, brother Louis and sister Annie checking out the rear of Hore Abbey


The restaurant we were supposed to eat at was right next to the Rock of Cashel, but Ma lost her notes, so we were already headed to the small town of Cahir (pronounced CARE) before we realized what we’d done. For some strange reason, one of the townspeople recommended a local cafeteria to us. We’d already stormed the place before we realized what it really was.

Let’s just say that Ireland is not a foodie’s paradise. After lunch at said cafeteria, I began calling Ireland “The Land of 10,000 Bad Tastes.” Almost everything is under-seasoned, and I don’t believe the Irish take advantage of the wonderful world of herbs and spices. You’re practically guaranteed to get either French fries or mashed potatoes no matter what kind of dish you order, and all the pubs we’ve visited offer similar dishes—fried fish and chips, seafood chowder, hamburgers, bacon and cabbage, and bangers and mash.

I’m trying to give Irish food a shadow of a doubt though, and I’m hoping the food will get better along the way. One thing the Irish do amazingly well is butter, which is probably because there are cows everywhere you look. It’s rich and creamy and almost always local.



Crossing the Suir River on the way to Swiss Cottage


We pondered visiting Cahir Castle after lunch, but the docent didn’t do a very good job on selling us on taking a tour. Instead, my mom was eager to check out the Swiss Cottage, an extraordinary example of a cottage orne, or rustic ornamental cottage used by the wealthy as a backwoods playground. Think of Snow White’s house but with servants instead of dwarfs.


The Swiss Cottage


John Nash designed the cottage for the Butlers in 1810. The couple wanted to escape the pressures and frivolities of wealthy life by hiding out in the countryside and dressing like peasants. Stylistically, an ornamental cottage should blend in with its natural surroundings and all of its designs should ceom from nature—no two things should be alike—so the windows and sloping eaves are all different. It even has a thatched roof. The cottage really was just gorgeous.


A side view of the Swiss cottage



All the "kids" hugging a 1,000-year-old tree at the Swiss Cottage


Afterwards, we headed back to the castle for a homemade feast. The sweet smell of rosemary-lemon chicken wafted through the air as I whipped up mashed potatoes and fried up bacon and Brussels sprouts.



My Lemon-Rosemary Roast Chicken with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts with bacon


The family was hankering to hear some traditional Irish music, so we headed to Tipperary town to a pub called the Kickham. There, a group of middle-aged and elderly Irish men and women gathered together to play traditional Irish folk songs. Let’s just say that the simple beauty of it blew us all away. I took a few videos, but I’m working on getting them on the blog. Here are some pics to satiate your curiosity in the mean time.


The traditional Irish band at Kickham Pub in Tipperary



The KB with the 81-year-old singer of the traditional Irish band in Tipperary.


Day 5: Kinsale: Gourmet Capital of Ireland


A view of Kinsale marina



After eating so much bar food, I was excited to visit Kinsale, the alleged Gourmet Capital of Ireland. A port town, Kinsale is situated in the Cork region on the estuary of the Bandon River, one of the most scenic harbors in Ireland. When we arrived in the Kinsale at 11 a.m., the tide had yet to come up, so many of the boats were actually sitting in mud—a very strange sight to see, indeed. By the time we left at 4 p.m., the tide had risen up about 20 feet by the time we left, and large fish dotted the waters.


Kinsale at Low Tide



Kinsale at high tide


We split up to explore Kinsale. Most of us went shopping, while others went hiking, fishing or to visit the local monastery and church. It really was a picturesque little town, and we found some of the best shopping we’d seen since we started our trip.



Ma and I shopping in the quaint town of Kinsale



Guinness Painting and accompanying kegs in Kinsale


My sister Annie and I happened upon one Irish artist’s main art gallery. Eion O’Connor does bright colorful painting of the the Irish countryside and farm animals. I really wanted to purchase this cow painting, but I opted for a bright print of the countryside instead.


Cow painting by Eion O'Connor I almost purchased



My very own Eoin O'Connor painting - Glenmalure


According to my guidebook, the town’s annual Festival of Fine Food draws food lovers from all over Ireland. The variety of restaurants in Kinsale spoke volumes for the town’s culinary heritage. There were tapas bars, Indian and Basmati restaurants, seafood spots, wine bars and what looked to be verifiable Italian restaurants—this was a far cry from the pubs and Chinese restaurants we’ve seen in almost every town across the south of Ireland. We made reservations at Fishy Fishy, a lovely spot not far from the marina that our host, Teresa, suggested.


Fishy Fishy Cafe in Kinsale


We started with oyster shooters, steamed mussels and Irish brown bread. I ordered the pan-fried cod with creamed cabbage, crispy potatoes and whole-grain mustard cream sauce. It was by far the most gourmet dish I’ve eaten in Ireland.



Pan-Fried Cod, creamed cabbage and crispy potatoes with a whole-grain mustard sauce.


My brother ordered a light and yummy rendition of fish and chips made with haddock.



Fish & Chips at Fishy Fishy


We shopped around for another hour before beginning the two-hour drive back to the castle. I rode with my Aunt Margie, who’s a little nervous and jumpy about driving on the left side of the road, so I tried to nap as we weaved our way around the myriad roundabouts the Irish use to control traffic instead of traffic signals. My aunt hates them, but I think it’s a great system because then the state has almost no need for traffic lights or stop signs. Just yield and go.

Exhausted from our travels and knowing that we’d be waking up early to visit the Cliffs of Mohr on Thursday, we stayed in and hung out around the castle instead of going out. We knew we’d be able to visit Nellie’s pub down the street another night.


3 Responses to “Emerald Isle: From Medieval to Modern”

  1. rowemk0035 Says:

    These are great pictures! I would love to go to Ireland however the closest I got was to England. You are right that Ireland is not a ‘foodie’ country. I assume that the food was influenced by English cooking (My own novice opinion) and the stories from Scotland of “fried twinkies” hints their food isn’t much better. Once again it looked like a great trip and wonderful pictures.

  2. Narda Says:

    Amazing pictures, now I’m considering going to Ireland some day.
    The castles, the cottage, the river, it all looks dreamy. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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