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Travel the North Coast from Dunfanaghy to Gweedore

Darina Allen

Teaches Us Forgotten Skills

Premier Issue

Autumn 2012



Premier Issue 1 | September – November 2012

Irish Style Living & Enterprise

Features: 20

Food & Drink Producer – Visit the Burren


Charity ISLE – The Donkey Sanctuary in Co. Cork rescues abandoned donkeys and captures the hearts of everyone that visits.


Travel ISLE – Escape to the wilds of Donegal – we’ve

48 62 70

Premier Issue September – November 2012

Smokehouse and Burren Brewery in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare.

Founder and Creative Director Lisa McGee Logo Design Louisa Condon The Ant Team


put together several great driving routes to enjoy the scenery.

Arts & Crafts ISLE – On the cusp of the Gaeltacht region in Spiddal, Co. Galway – a talented group of artists and craftspeople make Ceardlann Spiddal Craft Village an inspiring place to visit.


Entrepreneur ISLE – Meet the founder and

Chef ISLE – Darina Allen teaches us Forgotten Skills that will come in handy during a recession.

Contributing Writers Margaret O’Brien Lorna Sixsmith John Ward Ruth Wildgust

Columns: Editor’s Page – Founder and Creative Director, Lisa McGee, welcomes you to our Premiere Issue


Product ISLE – Lorna Sixsmith rounds up some of the best Irish designed and made products for the home.


Blog ISLE – Ireland has its fair share of bloggers and

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News ISLE – The latest news on tracing your routes, a

ISLE magazine ®is a registered trademark. ISLE magazine is published four times a year and is a FREE online magazine. Registered offices are at 25 Radharc Darach, Nenagh Co. Tipperary IRELAND Phone: +353 (0)86 347567; Email: Company Registration number 506406.

Lorna Sixsmith brings you a selection of five.

sample of festivals on the event calendar and more.

Taste ISLE – What’s happening in the food and drink

world in Ireland.


Getaway ISLE – Relish the magic of Inch House in


Museum ISLE – Glasnevin Museum proves to be filled with fascinating facts and history

North Tipperary.

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Online Business Manager Alison Poyner Contributing Photographers Eddie Cleary Tom Doherty Paul Sherwood

director of the company Bog Standard based in Co. Down, Northern Ireland.


Website & Magazine Design One Little Studio


All contents of this magazine are copyright ©ISLE magazine and they may not be reproduced in any form without written consent from the publishers.

Lisa McGee, Founder and Creative Director Lisa with Nenagh Castle in the background. Cape and scarf compliments of John Hanly

rted at the r r donkeys sta Lisa’s love fo in love with he ll fe she en wh ckie. age of four in England, Ja ey nk do t’s grandparen

Welcome to the Premiere Issue of ISLE magazine It seems a long time ago when I came up with the initial concept for this magazine. ISLE magazine has grown from my blog Nenaghgal (http://nenaghgal.blogspot. com) which I launched in 2009. As the blog evolved to focus much more on Ireland alone, I felt I wanted to do something even bigger and better. That’s how ISLE magazine came to life. I moved from New York City to Nenagh Co. Tipperary in 2007 – many people said to me “New York to Nenagh? Are you crazy?” Actually I never thought I was. I had first visited Nenagh in 1998 and many times subsequently and I soon fell in love not only with the town but the entire island of Ireland. So when I moved - I was coming to place I already knew and loved. They say Nenagh is a “stranger’s paradise” and I have to say I’ve always felt that way not only in Nenagh but in all of Ireland. ISLE magazine is my way of promoting Irish businesses, encouraging visitors to travel through our amazing landscapes, to try our food and enjoy our drink, take home our Irish products and tell others to come and visit. It is about the living Ireland of today. This issue our travel feature (page 36) takes us to the north coast of Donegal – a favourite spot of mine. Our featured food producer is the Burren Smokehouse (page 20) in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare where Birgitta Curtin showed us the utmost hospitality. In Spiddal, Co. Galway, just inside the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) region, we introduce you to the talented artists and craftspeople at Ceardlann – Spiddal Craft Village (page 48). Up in Co. Down, we meet Alix Mulholland the founder and owner of Bog Standard for our entrepreneur feature. A story very close to my own heart is our charity piece that features The Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co. Cork (page 30). And finally, we take a look at one of Darina Allen’s latest cookbooks, Forgotten Skills of Cooking to give us inspiration and confidence in tackling good basic recipes. This issue, our columns feature Irish products, Irish bloggers, news pieces, Irish museums and a place for a well earned getaway. Our website will continue to develop and you’ll be able to see even more content in our blog. Each issue will be archived on the site so whenever you discover us – you’ll be able to go through all the back issues. And of course, I love hearing from our readers – so let me know what you think

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Vibrant Palm pendant lampshades come in range of different colours and are 100% recyclable. Requiring some easy assembly, they are the perfect light for playrooms, dens, children’s bedrooms and other rooms requiring an injection of personality and colour. Palm €49.95



Irish Products We Love Compiled by Lorna Sixsmith

Rosemarie Durr creates exquisite hand thrown stoneware pottery which is more reminiscent of china than pottery. It is this fineness that gives people such enjoyment using it along with its distinctive powder blue glaze. It is for everyday use, suitable for dishwasher/microwave/ oven. Plates €10-18, Bowls €24-34

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Since 1893, John Hanly Ltd, located on the banks of the Nenagh River, has been weaving beautiful pieces such as this merino cashmere throw. Made of 5% cashmere and 95% merino wool it is super soft and certainly luxurious. (Measures 136 x 189cm/ 54” x 71”). €125

Home Sweet Home - a whimsical picture hand drawn, painted, collaged, glittered and soldered by the fair hands of Clare Jordan. A perfect little housewarming gift or treat yourself when you have finished all the decorating by adorning your house with this little picture. €55 at

te - a beautiful Beats Per Minu nd sa ou Th e re Th ndered and m a delicately re print created fro ds, designed by bir ing of five humm carved lino cut ion of 100, each ited to a collect e Fán Regan. Lim red, making it th be m nu titled and 0 €9 ed print is signed, m fra ed €130 / Un perfect gift. Fram gr in nt ri ep th www.

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Established in 1976, Nicholas Mosse Pottery has just relaunched their website. Now their entire range, including nine patterns and over 60 shapes is available for purchase online. They now have a wedding list included in the site which will make brides all over the world happy.

Jenny Walsh likes to design things that will make people smile – objects that even for a second, brighten up someone’s day – just like this Cuckoo Clock did for us, €28 at

Jennifer Slattery’s new collection ‘An Imperfect World’ was inspired by her grandmother’s collections of vintage china and antique cutlery. The ‘Dinner party’ table runner and napkins feature enlarged cutlery. Images have been digitally printed onto linen. Set of 4 linen napkins €68; Table Runner 92 x 12 inches €98.

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Words By Lorna Sixsmith

Irish blogs are creating quite a stir online and here we visit a few favourites

Lorna Sixsmith is an enthusiastic and widely experienced blogger, who blogs at, and

Foxglove Lane by Catherine Drea


atherine maintains that everything is beautiful if you pay it enough attention and a visit to her photography blog which captures the beauty of the grassy meadows in West Waterford will assure you of the beautiful in the ordinary. Her photography features the southern Irish landscape in its constant state of change and incorporates images of hedgerows, wildflowers, grasses, lakeside reeds, early dawn mists, gloaming sunsets, forest paths, stone gateposts, winter

trees and above all, Catherine’s beloved wild foxgloves for which her blog is named. Foxglove Lane is a blog that incorporates soulfulness in its beauty. It began its life as a personal and hobby blog in February 2011, born from her passion for photography since the age of ten. Following the favourable comments she has received, Catherine has now incorporated a shop into her blog and her beautiful photographs can be purchased as prints.

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Irish Fireside by Liam Hughes and Corey Taratuta

A Mexican Cook in Ireland by Lily Ramirez


ily started blogging as an easy way to share recipes with friends and on finding that her blog became more and more popular, she decided to open an online shop called My Mexican Shop ( and a market stall selling Mexican foodstuffs. Lily’s blog is a wonderful resource for recipes from exotic Mexican meals to a medley of Irish-Mex creations (Mexican meals with Irish substitutions) and a taste of Ireland too. Lily admits that she couldn’t even boil an egg ten years ago but as she missed Mexican cooking when she came to live in Ireland, she gave cooking a try and never looked back. Check out Lily’s blog for recipes ranging from Lily’s Beef Tacos to Mexican Chilli Dogs to Mexican Chocolate Ice-cream. Enjoy her take on Ireland too as a Mexican cook living in Ireland with an Irish hubby and enjoying all things Irish.

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rish Fireside is a blog that celebrates all things Irish focusing on beautiful landmarks, forgotten buildings, spell-binding scenery, hidden little-known secrets, travel tips, Irish customs from bygone days. It has a relevance for anyone planning a visit to Ireland and also for those living here as natives as we find out new information about our country. Blog posts are written by the founders of Irish Fireside, and guest posts are submitted by locals who wish to share some lesser known places or buildings of interest and by holiday makers who have enjoyed their holiday to Ireland. There is a definite essence of ‘coming home’ to this blog. It helps visitors to plan their itinerary and feel that they know the country well even before they arrive. It is a blog that is informative, fascinating, friendly, interactive and above all, passionate about Ireland.

A Year of Festivals in Ireland by Mark Graham


ark Graham set himself the challenge of visiting three festivals a week in Ireland for a year. It’s been going so well, he has decided it won’t be ceasing for some time yet. Hence, if you’re not able to visit as many festivals as Mark, you can enjoy reading about them on his blog. An honest, fun, engaging and well written blog, A Year of Festivals recounts the more ‘serious’ festivals such as the 12th July parades in Northern Ireland as well as sharing the joy of music and visiting the more obscure festivals such as the Dublin Bay Prawn festival or the Scarecrow Championships. You get to see the real Ireland in this blog: the positivity, the muck, the craic, the characters, the humour, the ability to create a festival from almost anything. It is almost like reading a ‘behind the scenes’ Irish story. Enjoy.

From my Kitchen Table by Barbara Scully


arbara Scully writes from the viewpoint of her kitchen table deep in South Dublin suburbia. Her love and appreciation for Ireland shines through the blog posts as well as her frustrations with all its madness and its idiosyncrasies and yes, its politics too occasionally. Barbara’s blog reflects on life in Ireland often showing her pride in being Irish or sharing her joy as she celebrates life as a middle aged wife to one husband, mother to three daughters and owner of four cats and a dog. Occasionally she writes about an Irish issue that really annoys her and these blog posts might come across as belligerent but are always entertaining. One thing is for sure, if you are looking for a blog that provides a ‘warts and all’ take on Ireland and all things Irish, then do check out this blog.

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Compiled by Lila Connolly

Some newsy bits from all around Ireland

The Gathering 2013

ism Ireland; Image courtesy of Tour Trim Castle, Co. Meath

Reaching Out

Tracing one’s roots back to Ireland has great significance to the 70 million Irish Diaspora around the world. To make it even easier, Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO) uses a simple idea – instead of waiting for people to trace their roots- they go the other way. Mike Feerik, Chairman and Founder, began the project in October 2010. It initially started in South East Galway but in 2013 he hopes to roll it out nationwide. Henry Healy, who only recently linked with his own distant Moneygall cousin, President Obama, has also joined the team. Ireland XO identifies people who left Ireland and then traces their ancestors worldwide. For more information, visit their site –

Mike Feerik, left, with Henry Healy.

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Haven’t you heard? The world is coming to Ireland in 2013 – come and be part of it – The Gathering. Next year Ireland is celebrating a yearlong celebration of all that is great about Ireland – great music, great food, great sport, great travel destinations, great festivals – you name it. Ireland is calling out to everyone around the world to come to Ireland and be part of it. We love the idea of “Love in Loom” held at Foxford Woollen Mills in County Mayo. It starts the 1st of January – and visitors can weave a thread into a loom which will then signify a weaving of all these lives together. Of course there are loads of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, walking and film festivals, family gatherings and much more. Visit to see the calendar of events.

Just Launched

The Dingle Peninsula Food & Drink Trail Brochure

Pinpoints over 20 restaurants plus food experiences, shop s and accommodation. All have gua ranteed the use of local seasonal prod uce. Pick up in Dingle Tourist Office & other Kerry Tourist offices. Grab one before the Ding le Food Festival - 5-7 October.

The Grafton Media Blog Awards 2012 Come celebrate blogging in Ireland on 13 October at the Opsrey Hotel, Naas Co. Kildare. Categories includeBeauty/Fashion; Arts/Culture; Best Blog in Irish Language; Best Personal Blog and many more.

Upcoming Festivals Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival 19-31 October 2012-09-15

Throughout Meath. 4th Year. Highlights: House of Horrors at Tayto Park; Jackula at Solstice Arts Centre & Pumpkin Patch at Langford’s Cottage. Savour Kilkenny Food Festival 25-29 October 2012-09-15

Setting Sail

Irish sailing heroine Annalise Murphy supported 10 of her fellow UCD students recently as they launched the team that will represent Ireland at the 2012 Student Yachting World Cup. The prestigious event which began in 1979 will be held in La Rochelle, France from the 27th of October to the 3rd of November. The annual regatta attracts the top student sailors from around the world including Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK and the USA. The UCD students earned the right to represent Ireland having won the Irish Student Yachting National Championships in

Sailors back row (left to right): Simon Doran, Theo Murphy, Cathal Leigh Doyle, Alyson Rumball, Barry McCartin. Front row (left to right): Dave Fitzgerald, Ellen Cahill, Aidan Mclaverty, Bella Morehead.

Dun Laoghaire in March. The highly experienced team will not just be representing UCD but all corners of the island of Ireland. The 10 sailors hail from all over the country including Antrim, Cork, Down, Mayo, Sligo, Wexford and Waterford and between them share a wealth of skills and knowledge. Like them on Facebook Irelandsailingteamucd or go to www.ucdsailing.

Kilkenny City 6th Year. Highlights: Food Camp; Demonstrations & Food Market Dublin Book Festival 13-18 November 2012-09-15

Smock Alley Theatre, Temple Bar 8th Year Highlights: Over 30 events for adults, Children and schools (most are free). Bulmer’s Comedy Festival 22-25 November 2012-09-15

O’Keeffe’s – Clonmel, Co. Tipperary 6th Year. Highlights: Biggest & best line up yet with over 20 comedians plus hottest acts from Edinbury Fringe.

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Compiled by Lila Connolly

Products Tickling our Taste Buds across Ireland

Something Sweet – It took the recession to get Malachy and Elaine Dorris to think outside the box and figure out how to survive the loss of both their jobs in the construction industry. Re-training Malachy as a chocolatiere resulted in their new company Lough Derg Chocolates. Just shy of its first birthday in November the new venture has gone from strength to strength. A new website and striking packaging has allowed them to diversify plus Elaine recently won the Network North Tipperary Best New Business Award which has opened up new publicity opportunities. Their assorted range is online, here Chocolate fudge 150g bag for €6.50 and box of 12 truffles for €10.99.

Liquid Gold - In Limavady, Co. Derry, husband and wife team Richard and Leona Kane have built a successful and award winning business making Broighter Gold – their cold pressed rapeseed oil. It is used throughout Northern Ireland at notable places such as the Belfast Cookery School, Hastings Hotel Group Hotels and many restaurants in not only Belfast but also Comber, Bangor, Garvagh and Strangford along with The White Sage in Adare, Co. Limerick. The company recently won two big awards at IFEX 2012 – top accolade for Overall Product of the Show along with Best Product Packaging Gold Award. Bottles can be purchased online – 500ml €4.99/ €5.99. For more information and to find out where to purchase throughout Ireland visit them at

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Tasty Trout - Over 50 years ago, Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomaston, Co. Kilkenny opened its doors for business. Today Ger and Mags Kirwin continue to run the business started by Ger’s parents selling their delicious trout fillets and the latest introduction, trout caviar. “Trout caviar is good enough to eat off the spoon. It has large, golden-orange beads and a subtle flavour with a nice ‘pop’ when you bite into it,” says Mags. When it received thumbs up from Russian buyers at a Bord Bia showcase, it was the ultimate accolade for the Kirwan’s. You’ll find it at fine restaurants throughout Ireland or buy for yourself in two sizes; 50g/€11 or 100g/€19.95.

Founding Fathers – Dingle is soon going to be the site for Ireland’s newest distillery – The Dingle Whiskey Distillery. Situated in the most western part of Ireland and in fact Europe – this distillery is offering a most unique opportunity to be a “Founding Father” and the chance to purchase one of the first 500 casks of this single malt whiskey. It’s the chance to possess a piece of history with one cask – one owner and with its own unique taste. As the story of the distillery unfolds those interested can view videos and register their interest on the site,

Spicing things Up – Chef Arun Kapil came to Ireland from London in 2004 but he was soon missing the taste and smells of the spices from his homeland India. Green Saffron was founded in 2006 and is truly a family affair - his Irish wife Olive, his parents, brothers and cousins all help out. Specializing in farm-fresh whole spices sourced directly from small plantations in India, each week the fresh spices are ground and turned into bespoke blends. In May, Green Saffron won the coveted SIAL D’OR country award for Ireland for their “Turkey Delight” Christmas blend – spices which are based on a Tamil Nadu style mix – ideal for making Christmas (or Thanksgiving) leftovers into curry. Purchase Green Saffron blends and their other products at

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There’s no better place for a little getaway than at Inch House Country House & Restaurant located in the heart of the countryside in North Tipperary. Written and Produced by Lisa McGee Photography by Tom Doherty

Inch Magic


When driving the road from Nenagh to Thurles in North Tipperary– if you look to your right at just the perfect moment before reaching the village of Inch you will catch a spectacular sight of Inch House through the fields. The house, built in 1720, was bought by John and Nora Egan in 1985. Four years later they opened the doors to guests and five years after that the restaurant opened. The drive up to the house from the main road winds through their fields and towards the end

of summer they are a golden yellow from the wheat ready for harvest. The Georgian style house is impressive with tall windows in the two front rooms and a large welcoming hallway as you enter. Ahead of you is a wide staircase with a huge stained glass window behind it and upstairs are the five bedrooms – each furnished with antiques in a style that fits the period of the house. The house has its own chapel which has been recently renovated and it was used by the original Autumn 2012 Isle 15

owners who were Catholic landlords and the parish priest used to come every week. It is still used for family occasions, anniversary masses and time for reflection but sadly cannot be used for weddings. If you are coming for a meal in the restaurant, which is open five nights a week, you are initially ushered to the sitting room where you place a drinks order and review the menu. This room has high ceilings, stunning moulding and wonderful collections of antique silver and unusual objects displayed on the side tables. In the evening the dark blue wallpaper and stars on the ceiling add to the magic. Once you have placed your order you have time to relax and chat and then you are ushered to your table in the large dining room on the other side of the house. Here the atmosphere is warm and intimate with deep red walls and table impeccably laid. Nora Egan loves Nicholas Mosse pottery so you’ll be sure to find butter pats and water jugs from the traditional Irish pottery on your table. Inch House is a family affair – the Egans have eight children in total and the youngest son Joseph works side by side with his father on the farm. Mairin Byrne, their second oldest daughter, works the front of the house greeting guests and also handling their online marketing, especially Twitter. Mairin and Nora also travel around Ireland to food festivals, demonstrations and making deliveries of their now famous black pudding. They started making their black pudding commercially in February 2009. The recipe is based on a traditional recipe from 16 Isle Autumn 2012

Mary Ryan, pictured left, Nora’s mother. Using old methods and locally sourced ingredients it’s become a real winner. Originally available for re-sale only locally, they continue to expand their retailers throughout Ireland. Much to their delight – the pudding has just won Black Pudding Coupe Winner : Concours de Meilleur Boudin 2012. There is also a range of chutneys and dressings with the Inch label– orange and plum sauce; mango and plum chutney, red onion marmalade, honey mustard and balsamic dressings and at Christmas time their cranberry and port compote. The restaurant was an AA Rosette Winner for 2011/2012 and they also received AA Five Diamond Award Winner 2011/2012 plus John and Sally McKenna gave the house an award for “100 Best places to Stay in Ireland”. Guests at the house will be sure to enjoy a fabulous breakfast whether it be locally sourced free range scrambled eggs with Burren Smokehouse smoked salmon (see more about the Burren Smokehouse on page 20) or a traditional Irish breakfast which will of course include their black pudding. For evening meals the Egans use as much as they can from their own farm. They grow Record potatoes which they use in their garlic potatoes, steamed or jacket potatoes. They also grow their own rhubarb, cooking apples, herbs and lettuces in season. They source organic lettuce and herbs from The Green Bowl Company in Cahir. Inch House Country House & Restaurant, Nenagh Road, Thurles, Co. Tipperary; Phone: +353 (0) 504 51348 – Autumn 2012 Isle 17

Walk through


Do y an unu ou know su we sho al museum uld Let us feature? know – info@ islema gazine .com

The Glasnevin Museum and Cemetery offer a rare and fascinating glimpse at Irish history

While it may seem odd that a cemetery has become such a popular attraction, Glasnevin Museum is so much more than just a cemetery. Opened by the great ‘Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell in 1832 – its purpose was to give people of all religions or none a place to be buried with dignity. Over 1.5 million people are buried here including Daniel O’Connell himself, Michael Collins, Charles Stewart Parnell, Éamon de Valera and many more. The museum itself only opened in April 2010 and in that short time it has made quite a name for itself. Trip Advisor gives its tour guides rave reviews for their passion and personality along with their great insight and knowledge. The museum has won several prestigious awards

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including International Museum 2011 by Museum & Heritage Association; Outstanding Achievement in Visitor Attractions by Themed Entertainment (US based) and the Grand Prix at the Digital Media Awards 2011. In addition to the cemetery the museum houses The City of Dead exhibit which cover burial practices and religious beliefs. The Milestone Gallery houses a 10 metre long digitally interactive table highlighting the lives and relations of the hundreds of people buried on the grounds. The Tower Cafe opens at 10am daily for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea and there is also the Glasnevin Trust Shop. Glasnevin Museum, Finglas Road, Glasnevin – Dublin 11 Phone: +353 (0) 18826550

Stories to Inspire Every issue we feature stories on Travel, Arts & Crafts, Food & Drink Producers, Chef and Entrepreneurs. This issue meet the owners of the Burren Smokehouse and Burren Brewery in Clare– travel north to Donegal - hear the story of a young entrepreneur in County Down - meet a creative bunch of people in Galway, visit a sanctuary for donkeys and reclaim some long lost cooking skills with inspiration from a talented woman in Cork.

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Betterin the

Burren 20 Isle Autumn 2012

In the heart of Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Birgitta and Peter Curtin have made a business and a life revolving around their successful smokehouse and family run pub. Photography by Eddie Cleary Written and Produced by Lisa McGee


Birgitta and Peter Curtin are a charismatic couple both with energy to burn and each passionate about their areas of two family run businesses – The Burren Brewery/ Roadside Tavern and The Burren Smokehouse. Birgitta is one of those women who you know she could get anything done for you and she’d do it with enthusiasm and a smile on her face. It’s hard not to be captivated by this Swedish beauty who walked into The Roadside Tavern back in 1981 while touring around Ireland with a few friends from Sweden. “We came into the Tavern and almost immediately I was introduced to Peter (Curtin). The next day we headed to Doolin to hear music and when I walked into the pub and there he was again. He offered me a drink and I decided to sit with him and let my friends go on ahead and well, the rest is history. “ Autumn 2012 Isle 21

Sitting in the Roadside Tavern with Birgitta, you can feel the history of the place all around you Sitting in the Roadside Tavern with Birgitta, you can feel the history of the place all around you. It hangs on the walls, it’s in the furniture – the benches and stools and if the walls could speak they’d recall many a late evening with brilliant music sessions and a mighty craic. The pub is a legendary venue for traditional music and has hosted such notable musicians as Christy Moore, the Fureys, Davy Spilane and many more. The pub has been in the Curtin family for over a century since 1865. It was Peter’s grandparents, Christopher and Nora who first brought it into the family followed by 22 Isle Autumn 2012

his parents John and Mary. Peter comes in shortly after we sit down . He’s a tall teddy bear of a man and in no time he’s giving us a taste of the lagers and a stout he’s been making in his micro-brewery The Burren Brewery. Started just over a year ago, they are brewed above the pub in a custom made room. Peter tells me he’s a disciple of Brendan Dobbin of Peter Dobbin & Dobbin (Contracts) Limited. “I bought all the equipment from Brendan, bought the recipes and lease the yeast for the stout and ale.” He continues to tell me the complex process of brewing and also tells me about the history of his family

in the area. “My grand-father arrived in Lisdoonvarna in the 1800’s. At that time Lisdoonvarna had a Victorian Spa and it was a place that the wealthy came to get ‘healed by the waters’. My grandfather opened a bakery in the Roadside Tavern and it had a very high reputation in the area. Of course yeast is incredibly important in baking as it is in brewing so you could say I have a true veneration for yeast.” After giving us a taste of each – Burren Red, Burren Gold and Burren Black (my favourite) we are then given a tour of the brewery. His enthusiasm for his craft

is catching. Peter explains the complex relationship between roasted barley and black malt – the power of yeast. “Yeast is my religion,” he chuckles. We hear about the flavours – the Burren Black has complex coffee and caramel flavours and the red ale is a traditional old-fashioned Irish ale, very malty. Later, lunch in the Roadside Tavern is a simple smoked salmon platter with organic greens and Burren Smokehouse smoked salmon. It was one of the simplest and most delicious meals I’ve had in a long time. Just up the road literally a minutes’ walk is the Burren Smokehouse which another Autumn 2012 Isle 23

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huge part of this family run business. Started by Birgitta and Peter in 1989, they decided upon the idea after visiting some smokehouses back in Sweden. The waters off the West coast of Ireland are the perfect breeding ground for the delicious smoked salmon they produce. “The first shipment of our salmon has just made it all the way to Kuwait,” Birgitta informs me. I’m not surprised to hear this as earlier she’d told me about how they got into Dean and Deluca in New York and how their salmon is also sold at Harrod’s in London. In fact, it is with another branch of Dean and Deluca in Kuwait that Birgitta secured this latest export deal. She spent months sorting through all the legalities – stamps and duty and in April this year – that first shipment finally left and made it all the way through. The potential in this market is expected to grow and they are looking to bring in more Irish produced food goods which could open the door for cheese and other producers. Birgitta is going to spend some time fine tuning the process before adding in other producers but once it has been streamlined she’s more than happy to help others export to the new market. With more products being shipped at once – costs will go down making everyone happier and of course, exporting Irish goods only strengthens the message about the quality and taste.

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Birgitta gives us the tour of the smokehouse. Our first stop is the salting room and we meet Paul Bradley who is washing down the salmon after they’ve been salted. For the next step of the process, they are placed onto wire racks and head the smoker. She emphasises that every step of the process from filleting to packing is all done by hand. They hot 26 Isle Autumn 2012

smoke and cold smoke the salmon along with mackerel and trout. After smoking – the salmon are sliced by hand and placed carefully on scales for weighing before packaging. The core staff in both the smokehouse and visitor centre is fifteen but rises during the summer. The shop has plenty of not only the Burren Smokehouse’s own product but also

Most recently Bord Bia awarded them “Best Organic Prepared Food” at the National Organic Awards 2012.

other food producers – rapeseed oil, jams, honey and much more. In addition there’s an area to read about the life cycle of a salmon – one can sit in beautifully handmade traditional Sugam chairs. Hard work pays off as the Burren Smokehouse has won its fair share of awards over the years. Most recently Bord Bia awarded them “Best Organic

Prepared Food” at the National Organic Awards 2012. Three of the four products they entered won – Irish Hot Smoked Organic Salmon with Honey, Lemon and Dill; Irish Cold Smoked Organic Salmon with Honey, Whiskey & Fennel and their Cold Smoked Halibut. This was no mean feat as there were over 6000 entries. In September 2009 they also won Producer Autumn 2012 Isle 27

of the Year and in October of the same year they received a gold medal in the fish category at the Blas na hEireann Awards – the only Irish food awards that focus solely on taste. And taste has certainly played a part at the Roadside Tavern as well – earlier this year, they won Best Gastro Pub in Munster 2012 by the Restaurant Association of Ireland. 28 Isle Autumn 2012

In addition to that scrumptious salmon platter, the also serve up Irish Stew using local Burren beef and Bacon and Cabbage in additional to smoked eel . The visitor centre at the Burren Smokehouse is open seven days a week throughout the year and of course, The Roadside Tavern always beckons.

Visiting Lisdoonvarna and the Surrounding Area:

Be forewarned – Lisdoonvarna is transformed in September when the annual Match Making Festival is held through the entire month of September. Crowds of up to 20,000 descend upon this small town with the hopes of finding true love. Finding a place to stay in September could prove tricky but it’s a great place to visit throughout the year. To find out more about the festival check out their website -

The Burren Smokehouse Visitor Centre is open year round, seven days a week. Inside you can purchase not only their award winning salmon and other fish but also other locally produced foods, clothing, postcards, cookbooks and more. For more on the Burren Smokehouse – visit their website -

Where to Eat: Another short distance from the Burren Smokehouse is the Wild Honey Inn – not only do they have 14 en-suite bedrooms but they also have a fabulous menu. Dinner is served six days a week and lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I’d highly recommend enjoying one of your meals here. Chef Aidan McGrath and his wife Kate Sweeney run the inn and their hospitality is second to none.

The Roadside Tavern and The Burren Brewery:

What Else to See: Save the Date Aillwee Cave – One of for 2013: Ireland’s oldest caves – take the tour (only 30 mins); experience the Burren Bird of Prey or go on a Hawk Walk all in the heart of the Burren.

Cliffs of Moher – if you are nearby you just can’t miss visiting them. One of Ireland’s top destinations they are a designated UNESCO Geo Park.

Burren National Park – has the most unusual landscape in all of Ireland. The word burren derives from the Irish word Boíreann meaning a rocky place. It’s just that and well worth visiting.

Slow Food Clare – 18th and 19th May, 2013 – Birgitta is the chairperson for Slow Food Clare which will be celebrating its seventh year in 2013. In May of this year I attended the festivities and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I went seafood foraging, enjoyed delicious meals, watched several cooking demonstrations and ate my way through the stalls. For food lovers who want to learn more- taste and experience the flavors from small food producers, put the Slow Food Clare festival on your calendar.

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In Liscarroll, County Cork – the Donkey Sanctuary provides a haven for donkeys in need of refuge, care and most of all love

Saving Irish Donkeys


There is something about donkeys that has always captured me. Maybe it’s those long fuzzy ears or their petite stature but whatever the reason I’ve loved them all my life so it made total sense for me to feature The Donkey Sanctuary in the first issue of the magazine. The sanctuary is located less than an hour from Limerick just down the N20 in Liscarroll, County Cork. It’s a wonderful place to visit for children and adults alike – the first time I took my daughter Sophia it was a beautiful day

Written and Produced by Lisa McGee Photography by Eddie Cleary

and the donkeys were out in the fields enjoying the sunshine. Since then I’ve been another three times and each time I go away with a smile on my face. When we headed to Liscarroll on the first weekend of March this year to photograph it for the magazine– the day did not look promising at the start but we were blessed throughout the day with spots of sun and very short rain showers. It was a day I will never forget. We arranged to meet Paddy Barrett early in the morning – Paddy’s Autumn 2012 Isle 31

Lisa Paddy &


Paddy with the donkeys

father Garrett Barrett founded The Donkey “Rest Fields” in 1964. The land was bought in 1924 by Paddy’s grandfather who was originally from Limerick. When he died in 1945, Garrett took it over. Garrett was an ISPCA officer and he used to drive around the country taking care of the horse caravans and making sure the animals were okay. On these sojourns 32 Isle Autumn 2012

around Ireland, Garrett started noticing donkeys abandoned by the side of the road and he started bringing them back in a little trailer and taking care of them. This was how it all started and Paddy was soon out with his father helping care and rescue animals in need. When his father died un-expectedly in 1981, Paddy took over and continues to this day to provide a

Outside the hospital

X-ray of a leg

haven for these friendly creatures. In 1987 the “Rest Fields” became affiliated with The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon, England which was founded by Dr. Elisabeth Svendsen M.B.E. Since the sanctuary began all those years ago, 3594 donkeys have been taken in over the years. Today there are 661 donkeys housed at the sanctuary right now both

in the public areas and in the barns on a separate site. Donkeys are fostered out to homes in pairs and there are currently 394 donkeys in 193 foster homes but that number has decreased significantly during the recession. The Donkey Sanctuary in Cork could not exist without The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon – they receive 70% of their funding from England. The rest Autumn 2012 Isle 33

Sophia, my daughter, enjoys some donkey love.

Lorcan, an adoption donkey

comes in from donations and these are of vital importance as it costs about three million euro a year to run the sanctuary. There are fifty four full and part time employees at The Donkey Sanctuary and thirteen quality time volunteers. There are so many things donkeys need to live a happy and healthy life – a top priority being regular hoof trimming – you can imagine the cost of trimming all those hoofs every eight to ten weeks. Of course to keep down the rising numbers of 34 Isle Autumn 2012

donkeys – castration is a very important procedure that is carried out on all male donkeys that come into the sanctuary. Plus there is constantly monitoring of their health and the hospital which was donated is a vital part of the sanctuary. Visiting The Donkey Sanctuary is free but there are many ways you can contribute to the cause. One of the most popular things to do is to adopt one of their five donkeys that are up for adoption. The five donkeys Lorcan, Roisin, Jacksie, Julie

Paddy a nd his wife Eileen

Anne and Richie are situated right behind the visitor centre and to adopt them costs €20 per year. When you adopt them you get a photograph of them, a beautiful drawing plus details about their life and how they ended up at the sanctuary. Many groups do fundraisers – from walking and running to hosting garden parties to raise funds for the donkeys. You can also give gifts like a Hoof Trim Gift (€12) or a Dental Check Up Gift (€52) or even a Hospital Surgery Gift (€1000). Of course, if you

have enough land and want to give a pair of donkeys a place to live and thrive – do consider fostering. Once you visit The Donkey Sanctuary – I expect you’ll be as hooked on them as I am. The Donkey Sanctuary is located in Liscarroll, Mallow, Co. Cork. Ph: +353 22 48398; Email:; Website: and they are also on Facebook: www.facebook. com/The DonkeySanctuaryIreland. Autumn 2012 Isle 35

Donegal Drives

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Donegal or Dun na nGall in Irish means fort of the foreigner and remains a welcome bastion to all travellers who invariably come away enchanted. Written by John Ward Photography by Eddie Cleary

I John Ward is a native of Donegal. For information on the county, visit his website where you can download the sites mentioned here for free onto your sat nav or smart phone GPS devices.

If you can appreciate that its remoteness serves as one of its key strengths, you will be rewarded for your efforts in coming to one of the wildest, most beautiful places in Ireland. Donegal is far enough away to merit daily flights from Dublin to Carrickfin airport and we recommend arriving via this spectacular route which will allow your first glimpse of the famous mountains and the wild Atlantic. Landing by the coast at Carrickfin, you may be tempted to venture no further and simply grab a deckchair. This is one of many long sandy beaches in the county. Donegal has more coastline than any other county and equals both Kerry and Mayo for its number of Blue Flag beaches – clean, family-friendly beaches with summer lifeguards, Carrickfin beach being one. Autumn 2012 Isle 37

Once you’ve hired a car, you’ll be heading towards the Paramountesque Errigal mountain via the N56 then the R251. This is Donegal’s highest mountain at 752 metres and if you’re fit enough, it is a wonderful climb. Below Errigal lies the Poisoned Glen, so called from a poor translation of the original Gaelic name for the area. The Dunlewey Centre in the heart of the valley has loads of activity from walking to boating. More poignantly, look out for the Bridge of Sorrows, the point where families bade farewell to their loved ones emigrating to far off shores. You are driving through the Derryveagh 38 Isle Autumn 2012

mountains, the heart of Donegal where Ireland’s largest park at 11,000 acres, Glenveagh National Park, is home to golden eagles, herds of red deer and stunning gardens. On first sight, you will think you’ve stepped into another world as you make out the silhouette of a turreted castle on the shores of a lake in the middle of a huge valley. Enjoy a tour of the castle and hear of its colourful owners. For art lovers and those looking for a hidden gem, nearby Glebe House and gallery is a bit more original as its last owner, the artist Derek Hill, was a self-made man unlike the scion that was castle owner

Henry McElhinney. A comparison of the two places will have you talking for hours and you can grab a bite to eat in either, although Glenveagh wins on the food front. Driving further along the R255, you’ll be rejoining the main N56 road. Just before you do, look out for Doon Rock where the O’Donnell chieftains of the area were inaugurated. From here, follow a path to nearby Doon Well which became a holy well thanks to a powerful healer called Lector O’Friel. The water became famous for its restorative elements and there are Prayers of Station still practised here

by believers. Drive on to Kilmacrennan along the R249 to the riverside village of Ramelton which has the redolence of yesteryear and was birthplace to Dave Gallagher, the greatest captain of New Zealand’s All Blacks. Our final stretch is the few miles along the shores of Lough Swilly to Rathmullan. It was here that one of the pivotal events in Irish history occurred in 1607 when the chieftains of the area, both the O’Donnells and Tyrone’s O’Neills left Ireland for good, the last of the old Gaelic order in ‘The Flight of the Earls’. There’s a heritage centre to tell you more. Stay Autumn 2012 Isle 39

A travel writer famously gave the beach the moniker of the ‘second best beach in the world’ in the 1950’s

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in the wonderful Rathmullan House, a distinguished country house with shoreside gardens and a highly regarded restaurant. Day Two. There’s a great sailing school in Rathmullan but if you’re keen to get on the road, you’ll head north towards Fanad Head. Stay close to the coast as the view from Knockalla mountain overlooking Portsalon beach is breathtaking. A travel writer famously gave this beach the moniker of the ‘second best beach in the world’ in the 1950s (beaten by a beach in Hawaii). Portsalon’s links golf course is also held in high esteem. Further along from Portsalon is the Great Pollet Arch, a spectacular sea arch that signals the rigours of the Atlantic coast to come. Stop off at Fanad lighthouse to view Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head in the distance, and even Scotland on a clear day. After the lighthouse, head to Carrigart over the Harry Blaney bridge. Drive towards Downings for the start of the 8-mile Atlantic Drive, a scenic coastal drive that deserves a number of pit stops, none more so than The Singing Pub which is famous for its traditional music sessions. A leisurely beach stroll, windsurfing or a choice of two golf courses are on offer in

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Dunfanaghy is that cool seaside town you’d imagine on your Irish vacation

Downings or there is nearby Ards Forest Park. En route to Dunfanaghy, you could opt for the five mile scenic route around Horn Head, one for the birdwatchers among you. Dunfanaghy is that cool seaside town you’d imagine on your Irish vacation with a number of welcoming hostelries. Staying in Arnold’s hotel, you’ll be 42 Isle Autumn 2012

treated to more good food and can book horse-riding along the beach. The Mill restaurant nearby is also highly renowned. McSwynne’s looped coastal walk includes a blowhole that makes for some memorable photographs. Quaysidebased Narosa will take care of surfers, while history lovers should look out for the Workhouse telling of the life of ‘Wee

Hannah’ and her life in 19th century Donegal. Music lovers throng to the Dunfanaghy Jazz and Blues festival in mid September. Day Three take us further along the N56 to Falcarragh. You’re now in the Gaeltacht, a recognised Irish-speaking community. Look out for the edifice on your right called An tSean Bheairic or the old

barracks where you can immerse yourself in the lives of our rural ancestors. Nearby Gortahork throws a special documentary film festival every June, the Guth Gafa, when the village of 200 suddenly increases its population ten times over. From its first sighting at Magheroarty pier, Tory Island draws you in. Its craggy appearance on the horizon has a special Autumn 2012 Isle 43

aura. This is an island like no other, complete with its own monarch, a unique painting school of fishermen, sacred clay that keeps rats from houses and even its own friendly dolphin. We recommend you spend most of Day Three on Tory, experiencing the full wonder of the Atlantic and walking from East Town to West Town, looking out for the host 44 Isle Autumn 2012

of birds that have colonised the island. Finish off Day Three here to sample the great Tory hospitality and look out for the enchanting dolphin and dog double act on the pier – the dog barks for his friend to appear every morning and off they go to play. Day Four. Back on the mainland, you’ll be travelling along the R257 to Bloody

The gory name reflects the way the sun lights up the rocks to a reddish hue on summer evenings

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Foreland. The gory name reflects the way the sun lights up the rocks to a reddish hue on summer evenings. It is a wonderful vantage point from which to see the coasts of north and west Donegal, the play of light on the water and the full might of the Atlantic. South of here, Gweedore is renowned for its traditional Irish music, and we recommend you drive down to 46 Isle Autumn 2012

Dungloe to visit the Daniel O’Donnell museum celebrating Donegal’s singing sensation and local hero. If you’re hoping to meet the man, your best chance is a round of golf on nearby Cruet Island golf course. This nine-hole course is renowned for its spectacular views and for its par three sixth hole with the Atlantic as your fairway no less

visiting Northern Donegal and the Surrounding Area:

An Ireland Blue Book House

Weekend Getaway

Rathmullan house is the ideal spot for a true getaway. Overlooking Lough Swilly, the stunning Georgian house has elegant lounges, gardens to wander through, a swimming pool and tennis courts plus a golden beach literally steps from the house. There are three restaurants on the premises which all have enticing menus using local ingredients. Rathmullan House in located in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal. Phone: +353 (0)7491 58188

www. irelands-blue-b ook .ie


Dunfanaghy is the ideal base for partaking in loads of outdoor activities. Located overlooking Sheephaven Bay it has craft shops and cafes plus the Arnold’s Hotel – which just won a Trip Advisor Certicficate of Excellence 2012. Phone: +353 (0) 74 9136208 – www. From here you can go walking at nearby Horn Head, Glenveigh National Park or Tory Island. Download “Rambles in the Dunfanaghy Area” off their website. Golf just five minutes away at the Dunfanaghy Golf Club – www.dunfanaghygolfclub. com or for the ultimate outdoor experience go horseback riding on the beach with Dunfanaghy Stables, located just behind the hotel


Located in the heart of the Gaeltacht region, Gweedore has beautiful views of Mount Errigal. Stop into An Clachan Art & Craft Gallery. They stock a wide range of Irish arts and craft. Phone: +353 (0) 74 9580091 Book a night or two in An Chúirt – Gweedore Court Hotel. Phone: +353 (0) 74 9532900 Autumn 2012 Isle 47

Creativity in


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Ceardlann An Spidéal is a collection of 10 studios in Spiddal village overlooking Galway Bay, home to a vibrant community of craftspeople who are busy creating and selling their work Words by Margaret O’Brien Produced by Lisa McGee Photography by Eddie Cleary

C Margaret O’Brien has worked in journalism and PR for 25 years, both in London and Ireland. She has contributed to The Independent on Sunday (UK), the Sunday Business Post, Irish Examiner, Food & Wine and Munster Interiors magazines. She lives in Spancil Hill, Co. Clare.

Ceardlann (the Irish word for workshops) in Spiddal provides a great opportunity for visitors to purchase gifts or mementos directly from the people who’ve crafted them. Both locals and tourists enjoy chatting to craftworkers in situ about their sources of inspiration and creative techniques. The crafts on display are rich in heritage and variety. A traditional weaver works on her looms while across the courtyard, the son of Ireland’s most renowned basket weaver carries on the family tradition by threading willow that he has grown and harvested into baskets, platters and other treasures. The community includes artists who work across a variety of media, including porcelain, handmade paper and glass. Visitors will also find striking photography of Connemara’s rugged landscape and a range of clothing with quirky slogans in the Irish language. If you’re yearning for a cosmopolitan coffee or French pâtisserie in an Irish seaside setting, the award-winning Builín Blasta Café is just the place! For more details on Ceardlann, see Autumn 2012 Isle 49

Andrea Rossi Acrylic Artist Andrea Rossi creates energising art that brings a smile to your face. A native of Brazil with a degree in fine arts and graphic design, she paints images of Ireland with a Latin twist. She met her Irish husband in London 12 years ago and moved to his home county of Galway as ‘an ideal place’ to raise their children. Her work is inspired by Ireland’s culture and scenery, while also being influenced by her Brazilian roots. She sells her artworks as well as craft-based objects and greeting cards depicting her art. She also showcases the niche business she has developed creating name plaques for children. These are highly personalised gifts children can treasure. “I incorporate illustrations that tell the unique story of each child, including perhaps their favourite hobbies, objects, pets, places, family and friends.” Andrea also runs art classes for small groups of children and for adults. Andrea Rossi, T: +353 (0)87 0670897, 50 Isle Autumn 2012

Rob D’Eath Contemporary Ceramics Spiddal Crafts Village was established in 1984 and potter Rob D’Eath was amongst its first tenants. He became involved with clay after a eureka moment in the mid 1970s when he observed the rugged beauty of Korean Ceramics in a museum in Jakarta, Indonesia, while traveling in South East Asia. Rob’s current range of functional ceramics, featuring items such as mugs, jugs, teapots and casserole dishes are wholly influenced by his surroundings. “I look out my studio window here in Spiddal and I’m inspired by the sea, rock and earthy colours.” His studio has evolved over the years to incorporate a gallery space where he shows and sells a comprehensive range of contemporary Irish ceramic art and design including work by Cormac Boydell, Sara Flynn, Mandy Parslow and Christy Keeney. His decision to show other people’s work was driven by his awareness that few galleries in Ireland displayed ceramics. Sliding Rock Ceramics, T: +353 (0)91 553376,

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Geraldine O’Rourke Mixed Media Geraldine O’Rourke is an artist influenced by her surroundings. The blue of the sea shimmers from her textured hand-made paper and the porcelain tiles she creates to use as centrepieces in her mixed media work. She swims in the Atlantic daily and her affinity with the sea manifests itself in drawings of jellyfish, seahorses and other ocean life. Her stunning representation of graceful seahorses reveals her fascination with these mysterious creatures that inspire and move her. She creates paper from a mixture of textural materials such as pulp, twine, metals and dyes to form the backdrop for the porcelain fish that are individually crafted and incised, then fired in a kiln at temperatures of 1280 degrees. Geraldine’s work welcomes the viewer in to share the tranquillity of her underwater experiences. She sells cards and prints of her artwork as well as an exciting new range of porcelain jewellery. Geraldine O’Rourke, T: +353 (0)91 504840, www.

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Ciaran Hogan Basket Making Ciaran Hogan has a serious pedigree in the world of basket making. His father Joe is one of Ireland’s most renowned basket makers and Ciaran recently decided to follow the family tradition. Surrounded by sheaths of sturdy willow, Ciaran seems to cast a spell over his raw material to cajole, flex and intricately weave it into baskets and other items that have been created in this fashion for hundreds of years. He points to a sciob, a traditional basket used

for straining and serving potatoes. It’s fascinating to think that these were used as an everyday kitchen tool before the Great Famine. It is calming to watch centuries of creative tradition unfold and Ciaran’s studio is worth a visit for this privilege alone. He is generous with his time and willing to share his skills. He offers weekend basket-making in autumn and winter and these 2-day courses are priced at €125. Ciaran Hogan T: +353 (0)87 1516062 Autumn 2012 Isle 53

Máire Ní Thaidhg Handweaving Máire Ní Thaidhg has been weaving her magic in Spiddal Craft village for nearly three decades. Working at speed, she multi-tasks on three looms, including a large loom for making tapestries and throws, a traditional loom for scarves and a mechanical loom sourced in the Hebrides. As you watch her weave you appreciate how labour intensive this process is. Máire admits that even during the quieter winter months when other craftspeople take a well-earned break, she has to continue weaving to ensure her stock is fully replenished for the busy summer season. She uses a variety of natural yarns including wool, cotton and cotton-linen in her individually designed scarves, stoles, wraps and throws. Her gift for textile art is possibly best exemplified by her tapestry wall hangings that feature the varied and vibrant landscapes and seascapes of Connemara. Many of Máire’s tapestries are made over the winter months on commission basis. Máire Ní Thaidhg, T: +353 (0)91 553478

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Eric Byrne Celtic Coin Jewellery Every community deserves a character and Eric Byrne is certainly the live wire in this village. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious. A native of Dublin, Eric has operated his Celtic Coin jewellery business at Spiddal craft Village for nine years. He developed a range of jewellery and mementos using coins, some of which date from the establishment of the new Free State in the 1920s and including those used in Ireland up to the introduction of the Euro in 1999. Shoppers typically seek out a coin with their own birth date or the birth date of a friend or family member “What they get is an instantly personalised gift,� says Eric. He also provides a unique gift range combining diverse materials such as gold, silver, copper and brass, with bog oak and Connemara marble to create unusual and sculptural pieces of jewellery. These include brooches, hair slides, bookmarkers, golf ball markers and cufflinks. Celtic Coin Jewellery, T: +353 (0)91 553478

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Sue Donnellan Glass Art Sue Donnellan left her native Dublin two years ago to start over as a stained glass artist in Spiddal. Part of Connemara’s attraction is its shifting light and the ever-changing colours of the landscape and sea, factors that greatly influence her work as evidenced by her captivating stained glass window panels, lamps, jewellery, candle holders and pictures. She describes the process of making stained glass as “a labour of love, as each glass piece is hand cut and individually

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copper foiled and soldered by hand. As you build the image very gradually, it can take anywhere from five to 50 hours or more to create just one piece.” Her glasswork is lead-free and she uses only organic products where possible. As part of her commitment to the environment she uses 100 percent of glass waste by firing the offcuts in a kiln and moulding them into one-off pieces of jewellery. Glass Art Design Studio, T: +353 (0)86 8067352, www.

Gearóid ó Murchú Irish crafts An Spailpín Fánach (the Wandering Labourer) is run by Gearóid ó Murchú who was one of the first people to occupy a studio at Spiddal Craft Village when it opened 30 years ago. This busy little shop is full of clothing and other items dedicated to promoting the culture and history of the area, particularly its standing as a ‘Gaeltacht’ where the Irish language is spoken. While the shop sells products for native Gaelic speakers, it also attracts visitors eager to buy mementos that incorporate the Gaelic language. Tourists can choose from a wide range of clothing items with quirky Irish language slogans or Celtic designs, screen-printed by Gearóid and his team. Clothing products for children, teenagers and adults include high quality t-shirts, hoodies, sweat-shirts and fleeces. The shop also stocks a comprehensive range of Irish music and books and beautifully crafted fashion handbags. It sells products online and ships worldwide. An Spailpín Fánach, T: +353 (0)91 553343,

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Seán Ó Mainnín Photographer and Photo Gallery Seán Ó Mainnín worked as a newspaper photographer for nearly 30 years, enjoying nothing more than taking photos of landscapes, seascapes and nature in his spare time. What was once a hobby is now his career and Seán sells his dramatic prints of Connemara. He never tires of the savage beauty of the region, from the flat, boggy land and rocky shorelines in the south to the sweeping mountains, lakes and beaches in the north. There is a special place in his heart for the native Connemara pony, Ireland’s only surviving indigenous pony breed. Seán also offers weekend and day courses for seasoned or budding landscape photographers who own a digital SLR camera. Operated under the company name Connemara Light, these courses are offered year-round with a maximum of five on each course. Seán offers a photographic portrait service and his team offers website and graphic design solutions in the Irish language at Grafaicí.ie. Seán Ó Mainnín, T: +353 (0)87 2220241,

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An Siopa Buí Crafts Shop An Siopa Buí translates as ‘the yellow shop’ and this retail space, which specialises in selling crafts-based materials, is as bright and energetic as its name suggests. It offers a fantastic selection of hand crafted children’s toys and souvenirs and is one of the best suppliers of card making materials in Ireland. An Siopa Bui also runs regular workshops in card making. These include focused, themed classes

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such as its very popular ‘Wedding Workshop’ that teaches participants how to create their own personalised wedding invitations, to regular cardmaking classes for both beginners and advanced card-makers. An Siopa Bui is also a children’s party venue, offering crafts based activities such as jewellery making and card making, as well as painting. An Siopa Bu, T: +353 (0)91 504 692,

Builín Blasta Café Builín Blasta Café, which translates as ‘The Tasty Loaf’ Café, is much more than that! As you walk through the door into its simple, uncluttered interior, the aroma of freshly ground coffee assails you. Builín Blasta has been awarded ‘Café of the Year’ by Georgina Campbell’s Ireland, winning strong praise for the quality of its lunchtime fare, its baked goods, coffees and teas and its service. Café owner and chef J-me Peaker, originally from New Zealand, opened the café in 2008 and has won over a loyal customer base. J-me’s objective is to keep the menu simple and seasonal but also contemporary. He employs a French pastry chef to produce a mouth-watering range of sweet delicacies. As well as a wide variety of hearty breads, they bake croissants and scones daily and make their own relishes, chutneys and jams. Open from 10am to 5pm daily, the café provides a strong anchor for Spiddal Craft Village and its growing reputation is attracting people to the centre. Builín Blasta Café, T: +353 (0)91 558559 Autumn 2012 Isle 61

Setting the Standard for


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Alix Mulholland, Founder and Managing Director of luxury giftware company Bog Standard, welcomes us into her stylish home tucked away on a country lane just outside Belfast Photography by Paul Sherwood Written by Ruth Wildgust Produced by Lisa McGee


From the moment we meet Alix Mulholland, it’s clear that she’s a creative bundle of energy, fizzing with original ideas and the initiative to follow them through. We catch up with her at her effortlessly stylish home full of cool retro touches based in the lush countryside of County Down. Her fondness for pretty pastels is evident from our arrival at the pale sage hall door and there are delicious pops of pastel colours in the various pieces of furniture she’s recycled over the years, including the kitchen dressers in mint green, powder puff pink and rich clotted cream. Bathed in the rosy glow of her large country kitchen, she’s just baked a batch of cherry scones with four year old Grace and Charlie aged two. “I work to live as opposed to living Autumn 2012 Isle 63

The children, Charlie and Grace, help Alix prepare another batch of cherry scones.

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Alix’s love of “flea-market” treasures – here tins and vintage china – find a home on the corner shelves. She also loves vintage travel posters.

to work,” says Alix, who founded Bog Standard ten years ago and has grown the business organically whilst prioritising motherhood and precious time with her children. “My business is very much a lifestyle business. I wanted it to be flexible and to be able to grow it as I wanted to.” Framed travel posters from the fifties are among the pieces of art propped up atop dressers or tables. “I’ve always enjoyed rooting around second-hand shops as I like retro, unusual things,” she says. Among her frequent upcycling activities, she bought the sturdy butcher’s block in front of the AGA cooker, had it completely re-sanded and painted the legs. In the informal living room, a framed selection from her husband’s stamp collection makes a fascinating focal point behind a pink velvet armchair. The curtains in fabric from Designers Guild’s

archive collection create a bold colour block in a rich tapestry of orange and green, pink and blue. She has a talent for mixing an eclectic range of pieces such as the sofas in the formal living room in pale green and grey alongside a pink chaise longue and cinnamon ottoman. An art deco cream and yellow pendant light was sourced from a fellow exhibitor in London while the antlers over the fireplace were found in an antique store in Clifden. “It’s a bit of a mish mash but it works. I like a relaxed and quirky feel,” says Alix. We join her later at company headquarters 15 minutes east of Belfast in a converted mushroom factory surrounded by verdant countryside with views over a lake and rolling hills. Nature and its bounty are very much a part of Bog Standard’s ethos. “I’ve tried to capture the essence of Autumn 2012 Isle 65

An inviting armchair has been upholstered in lush coral coloured velvet. Above it hangs a framed stamp collection and on the arm is a bright croqueted blanket.

Ireland in my products,” says Alix. “I look to nature and what’s around me.” Her love of pastel colours and “simple luxury” design is reflected in the pretty packaging of Bog Standard’s stylish range of scented candles, soaps, hand washes, hand creams and scented sachets. “We started off with soaps and expanded the range in response to customer feedback. We added candles, drawer fresheners and car fresheners as customers were seeking products with lower price points,” she explains. Working with a couple of good fragrance houses, Alix relies on the trusted opinion 66 Isle Autumn 2012

of a few family members and friends. One of Bog Standard’s best sellers is the Irish Linen range which has lavender at its heart creating a very fresh and classical scent. Irish Rose captures a subtle and true rose fragrance whilst Hedgerow combines the scent of ripe blackberries, rosehips and leafy depths of country hedgerows. The latest fragrance is Irish Clover which has taken a long time to develop. “We’ve managed to create a fragrance that captures the scent of the clover’s lovely, delicate white flower and grassy meadow background,” says Alix. Founded in 2002, Bog Standard has enjoyed 10 per cent growth in turnover every year since inception. “We started as a kitchen table enterprise and have grown organically and steadily every year which is attributable to the quality of the product

In the corner of the kitchen an old dresser has been transformed with a coat of “clotted cream” paint. On top is one of the many framed travel posters seen throughout the house along with a playful graphic lemon print.

and the level of customer service,” she says. The company employs four people and contributes indirectly to jobs across a wide range of small firms as it sources all its supplies in Ireland. “I’m extremely fussy about using local suppliers for everything from cardboard boxes to printing and stationery, labels and all packaging, including tapes and bubblewrap,” explains Alix. “Out of principle, we support only local suppliers. Candles for instance are made in Carlow. I would like people to buy local and to buy from me so I feel I’ve got to lead by example,” she says. “We’ve just started using a local company for the ink cartridges for printing.” The idea for the business was germinated in her final year of a business management degree at the University of Glasgow. “My

research took me across Ireland and I saw enough leprechaun keyrings to last a lifetime. At that time, there was a shortage of style-conscious gifts and products that were truly local. “I wanted to create a range of giftware that would combine my passion for Ireland with my love of style and good design,” she explains. “I wanted my products to appeal to both the local and tourist market.” Alix has received help along the way from Invest Northern Ireland which supported her in attending her first trade show in Dublin in 2002. Since then, the business environment has changed massively. “When I started out, there was very little competition. Now competition is rife. The gift offering in Ireland has become so sophisticated and stylish.” Autumn 2012 Isle 67

Boxed candles – Irish Rose and Irish Moss – are stacked on shelves in the warehouse.

In the early days, the most difficult challenge was finding suppliers and getting her foot in the door with stockists. Now stockists are approaching Bog Standard. Alix predicts that the “made in Ireland” brand is going to be increasingly strong. “Ten years ago, anything in the craft sector was considered old fashioned and the trend was for very minimalist products. We’ve come full circle and there’s a resurgence in demand for crafted, vintage and home grown products. Especially with the economic crisis, people want to buy Irish and support local businesses,” she says. When it comes to combining motherhood with managing a successful company, Alix has sound advice for budding entrepreneurs. “You’ve got to decide early on how you’re going to carve up your week. You then need to stick to that and not feel guilty. I have a good support system and a great child minder,” she says. From the outset, Bog Standard operated via an e-commerce site and the company launched a new website two years ago.

Win This Hamper

“We used Eyekiller, an award-winning web development agency based in Northern Ireland, and worked with them with the help of Invest Northern Ireland. “Your website can generate a lot of online sales both locally and overseas. A good website is a great shopfront for your business,” says Alix. “We use Facebook a lot as you can get a good feel from your fan base as to what they’re enjoying. Facebook is a powerful marketing tool and it’s free – it’s an incredible way to communicate with your customers.” Around 15 to 20 per cent of sales come from online orders and Bog Standard’s products are now available in over 200 stockists across Ireland, Britain and the United States so it’s very easy for anyone to bring a fresh piece of Ireland into their home. To order and see the entire range go to –

To enter to win this fabulous hamper from Bog Standard – all you have to do is sign up for our FREE newsletter on our website – Hamper includes: 2 large candles, 1 hand cream, 1 hand wash, 2 soaps, 1 small candle, 4 drawer sachets and 2 fresheners.

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The front door of Bog Standard Head Quarters located in a renovated mushroom factory a short fifteen minute drive from the house.

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Darina Allen has been running the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork for over 25 years - when she noticed there was an alarming loss of skills in her students – it spurred her on to write Forgotten Skills of Cooking

Darina Allen teaches us forgotten


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Written by Darina Allen Photographs by Peter Cassidy (Excerpted from Forgotten Skills of Cooking; ©2009 Kylie Cathie Limited)


The art of thrifty housekeeping has gradually petered out and become strangely unfashionable. Our mothers and grandmothers knew how to eke out a small budget to feed a family, and how to make a delicious meal from meagre leftovers. The loss of these and other such skills over subsequent generations is partly a consequence of the availability of convenience foods. Every time we go to the supermarket, an increasing number of items are ovenready or ready-to-eat; cheese is grated mushrooms sliced, fruit segmented – I swear if they sold toast we’d buy it. The actual incident that prompted me to start the Forgotten Skills courses happened in the Cookery School over eight years ago when I came across a student who was just about to dump her over-whipped cream into the hens bucket. She was totally unaware that she has inadvertently made butter. I rescued it just in time and in a matter of minutes made it into butter pats, much to the delight of the class, most of whom didn’t realize that butter is made from cream.

This reinforced my belief that even many country dwellers have lost the connections with how their food is produced. Through the Forgotten Skills courses we have learned about everything from foraging to eating good food in season, thrifty cooking and reconnecting with the older generation and part of my mission in this book was to urge parents and grandparents not to allow any more of our young people to leave home without the life skills they need, not only to survive, but also to enhance the quality of their lives. With oil supplies diminishing and energy prices rising, we are likely to need these skills even more in the future. The other reason for writing this book was to provide a resource for the growing number of farmers and food producers with excellent raw materials who are interested in adding value to their produce. There is also a new generation whose interest in artisan food production has taken them to careers in small-scale cheese making, meat curing or beer brewing. If we want to keep them alive, we need to support them too. Autumn 2012 Isle 71

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Unsalted Butter Makes about 1KG (2 ¼ LB) Butter and 1 Litre (1 ¾ PINTS) Buttermilk

To Make Soak the wooden butter bats or hands in iced water for about 30 minutes so they do not stick to the butter. Pour the double cream into a cold, sterilised mixing bowl. If it’s homogenised, it will still whip, but not as well. If you’re using raw cream and want a more traditional taste, leave it to ripen in a cool place, where the temperature is about 8°C (46 F) , for up to 48 hours. Whisk the cream at a medium speed in a food mixer until it is thick. First it will be softly whipped, then stiffly whipped. Continue until the whipped cream collapses and separates into butterfat globules. The buttermilk will separate from the butter and slosh around the bowl.

Ingredients 2.4 litres (4 pints) unpasteurised or pasteurised double cream at room temperature 2 teaspoons dairy salt (optional) pair of butter bats or hands

Turn the mixture into a cold, spotlessly clean sieve and drain well. The butter remains in the sieve while the buttermilk drains into the bowl. The buttermilk can be used to make soda bread or as a thirst-quenching drink (it will not taste sour). Put the butter back into a clean bowl and beat with the whisk for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute to expel more buttermilk. Remove and sieve as before. Fill the bowl containing the butter with very cold water. Use the butter bats or your clean hands to knead the butter to force out as much buttermilk as possible. This is important, as any buttermilk left in the butter will sour and the butter will go off quickly. If you handle the butter too much with warm hands, it will liquefy. Drain the water, cover and wash twice more, until the water is totally clear. Weigh the butter into 110g (4oz), 225g (8oz) or 450g (1lb) slabs. Pat into shape with the wet butter hands or bats. Make sure the butter hands or bats have been soaked in ice-cold water for at least 30 minutes before using to stop the butter sticking to the ridges. Wrap in greaseproof or waxed paper and keep chilled in a fridge. The butter also freezes well.

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Braised Lamb Shanks With Garlic, Rosemary And Cannellini Beans This is where the magic of slow cooking transforms something that, cooked on a high heat, would be very tough, into something soft and tender. Serves 4

Ingredients 4 lamb shanks, about 1 kg (2 ¼ lb) 8 small sprigs of rosemary 8 garlic slivers 4 anchovy fillets, halved

To Make Preheat the oven to 150° C/300° F/gas mark 2. Remove most of the fat from each shank and then scrape the meat away from the bone to loosen it. Make two deep incisions in each joint and insert a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of garlic wrapped in half an anchovy fillet into each incision. Season the meat with salt and black pepper.

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the duck fat or olive oil in a heavy sauté pan or casserole and sauté the lamb until it is well browned on all sides. Remove the lamb shanks from the pan.

For Braising

Next add the bacon and cook until crisp, then add the carrots, celery, leek, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until slightly browned. Add the red wine to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring for a minute or two. Add the stock, herbs and orange peel to the pan, then place the lamb shanks on top.

30g (1oz) duck fat or olive oil 225g (8oz) streaky bacon 2 carrots, roughly chopped 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped 1 leek, roughly chopped 1 onion, roughly chopped 1 garlic head, halved horizontally 225 ml (8fl oz) bottle good red wine 300 ml (1/2 pint) Lamb Stock or Chicken Stock sprig of thyme 2 sprigs of rosemary 2 bay leaves 2 strips of dried orange peel

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Cover and cook in the oven for 2 ¼ hours. Remove from the oven and add the tomato fondue, cannellini beans, herbs and enough stock to half-cover the beans. Cover and simmer for a further ¾-1 hour. When the lamb has finished cooking it should be falling off the bone. Remove the thyme, bay leaves and orange peel. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve the lamb shanks in a hot, deep dish with the beans and vegetables poured over and around. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.


1 x Tomato Fondue 1 x 400g (14oz) tin cannellini beans, drained or 200g (7oz) dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and then boiled rapidly for 30 minutes

600ml (1pint) homemade chicken stock or lamb stock 2 sprigs of thyme leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped sprigs of rosemary, for garnish Autumn 2012 Isle 75

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Figgy Toffee Pudding Like everyone else, we love sticky toffee pudding, which we always made with dates. One day, we had no dates and used plump dried Turkish figs instead. Now it’s the version we prefer! SERVES 8 - 10

To Make


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F gas mark 4. Brush the cake tin with oil and base-line with oiled greaseproof paper. Soak the figs in hot tea for 15 minutes.

225g (8oz) chopped dried figs 300ml (½ pint) tea

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then fold in the sieved flour. Add the bicarbonate of soda, vanilla extract and coffee to the figs and tea and stir into the mixture. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1-1 ½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

To make the sauce, put the butter, sugars and syrup into a heavybased saucepan and melt gently over a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Return to the heat and stir for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is quite smooth. Pour some hot sauce on to a plate. Put the figgy toffee pudding on top, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and serve with the pudding, as well as softly whipped cream. Variation – Little figgy puds can be made in muffin tins.

175g (6oz) caster sugar 3 organic eggs 225g (8oz) self-raising flour 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon espresso coffee

For The Hot Toffee Sauce 110g (4oz) butter 175g (6oz) Barbados sugar 110g (4oz) granulated sugar 275g (10oz) golden syrup 225ml (8fl oz) cream ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract 20cm (8in) springform tin or a cake tin with removable base

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Ballymaloe Cookery School


or those of you who love to cook and want to have fun cooking, Ballymaloe Cookery School is for you. Located in a most idyllic spot right in the middle of its own farm in County Cork – it’s a short drive from Cork City. Ballymaloe Cookery School began over 25 years ago in 1983. Students from all around the world attend courses here. State of the art kitchens, demonstration areas and lecture rooms are located inside beautifully renovated former farm buildings. The gardens on the grounds give students access to a phenomenal choice of fresh ingredients. When it comes to choosing the right choice for you – there are plenty of options (we dare you to pick just one!). Their most comprehensive course is a twelve week certificate course which runs at three different times during the year. Demonstrations are taught every afternoon either by Darina Allen, Rachel Allen (her daughter

in-law) or Rory O’Connell and the amount of information and hands on experience you will learn is enviable. For those of you who want to enjoy a day or a half day course – there are over sixty shorter courses to sign up for. A few that caught our eye in the upcoming months were – One Pot Wonders (20th October 2012); Cook a Thanksgiving with all the Trimmings (14 November 2012) and Homemade Butter, Yoghurt and Several Cheeses (16 January 2013). We encourage you to plan to visit Ballymaloe Cookery School in person - and to get a flavour of what you find head to their website www. Here you’ll find their full list of courses, cost and availability. You can also shop online in the cookery school shop and find out about the myriad of other things going on Ballymaloe Cookery School is located in Shanagary, County Cork. Phone: +353 (0)21 4646785 Email: Autumn 2012 Isle 79

Isle Magazine Autumn 2012  

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