Dunblane – The Riverside



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Eons ago I remembered passing a wee pub in the middle of nowhere whilst OH and I were out for a run in the car near Dunkeld – in my memory it looked like the pub from American Werewolf in London. Since then it’s been in some deep recess in my head for somewhere to visit. Having found the pub (Sheriffmuir Inn)  I started looking up its reviews on Tripadvisor and they were so divided it put me off. It was either great – “I felt like royalty” or “I can’t believe I drove all the way there – wish I had went to the Riverside”. It was that review that made me look up The Riverside in Dunblane.  Then their website got me hooked. I phoned late on a Friday night (about 10ish) and got a lovely bloke on the phone who managed to have a conversation with me even though the atmosphere behind him was making it very difficult. It was that background noise that made me want to go to the Riverside even more.

When we arrived in Dunblane we parked at the Cathedral and walked along the Allan River into the centre of town. The river was high and fast flowing – almost quite mesmerising at points. We had a dander up the high street and went into a few shops. Dunkeld has loads of interesting wee shops from high end present shops to antique shops,  brilliant rake around charity shops, classy boutiques and THE best butcher for sausage rolls ever! Honestly, we were just walking past and saw them in the window and just had to go in to buy some. And as I am typing this hours later I can confirm that they were just as good as they look and I would easily drive back to Dunblane just to buy another sausage roll from Bennets!!!!!

After a very enjoyable wander up and down the High Street, we went into the Riverside with our appetites at a peak. On entry there is a sign to stand at to be seated. I always love these as it means you are being taken care of right from the start – none of this looking around to see if someone saw you coming in nonsense.  We were ushered through to the back and looking at it now I think this may be the family room but fair play to the families that were there as their kids were really well behaved and didn’t annoy me at all and I have to say kids in restaurants usually annoy me A LOT.

For starters I had the Cream of Cauliflower soup, which was lovely but I wish I didn’t chomp the watercress garnish as it really didn’t add to the flavour and If I’m being really picky the butter could of been a little less hard as it ripped my sour dough bread apart…obviously I struggled through regardless.

OH had potted smoked mackerel, crème fraiche, chives, butter, gin pickled cucumber and soldiers. It came in a little pickling jar and he raved about it – you know how he usually says it was tasty well today it was “chunky, fresh, creamy, it wasn’t a smooth pate but had flakes in it and it was just enough as well”.  High praise indeed!2014-04-26 13.12.37a

I do try to cook a wee bit at home and often on Sundays I will follow a recipe and try my best. OH is lovely and will often say when we’re out for a meal that I could have cooked it. Therefore,  I’ve now decided to start going for dishes I wouldn’t normally chose from a menu or cook at home. So today I plumped for  Gin & Star Anise marinated Venison Loin, Caramelized Onion Mash and Juniper Jus.2014-04-26 13.34.39

I hate to be a cliché but right from the start I bit off more than I could chew. I reckon if I had a steak knife I could have handled this better but having managed to saw off a sizeable chunk of the venison – I just went for it. 5 minutes later and I’m still chewing. OH asked if I wish I had ordered the fish pie. Yes, a little.

Saying that, once I got the hang of the sawing I started enjoying the venison and although I couldn’t taste the gin (probably because gin is a taste I really enjoy) I could savour the star anise.

OH had the steak burger with brioche bun, lettuce, vine tomato, dill pickle, mustard mayo, twice fired fries and relish. He’s said it was decent, nice and juicy. It wasn’t one big burger but 3 wee ones (probably from the sliders that were also on the menu) but he wants a special mention for the roll which was good as it had a “light crisp on top and it wasn’t doughy and it didn’t fall apart”.2014-04-26 14.10.44

The attention to detail in The Riverside deserves a mention. The brown paper menu’s, the labels on the table, the syrup tin sugar bowls, the mulberry colour scheme, the wooden tables and chairs, the quotes on the walls and the bill arriving in a children’s book all come together to give a calm, interesting dining experience.

I’m not a pudding person (you probably know that by now) so I just asked for another large glass of Merlot and OH had a coffee instead of a coke. The bill came to £50 (that’s 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 large glasses of wine, a coke and a coffee).

and (just in case your mum asks) the toilets were clean and worth a visit!

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After our meal we headed back up the High Street and popped into the Museum. There was lots to see but my favourite bit was the ginger tablet at £1.20 – don’t ask, just go and buy it – it’s amazing. We also ventured into the Cathedral for a look around – make sure to ask someone in a tartan waistcoat the story about the girls being poisoned 😉

After leaving Dunblane we headed out of the small Cathedral town and decided to pop into the Sheriffmuir Inn, which is a short drive through some lovely scenery. I was curious to see how it would have compared to our lunch in the Riverside Inn. We ventured in and ordered drinks. The barmaid was lovely, friendly and couldn’t have been more helpful and the decor was gorgeous – polished wood, iron work and dark blue tartan. I loved the bar stools. BUT IT WAS DEAD. We were there around 4.30ish and when we were paying for our drinks the barmaid had to ‘open up’ the til, which I’m pretty sure meant they hadn’t had anyone in before us. The menu on the wall looked appetising and was roughly £4 dearer per dish than the Riverside. I kind of still want to eat at the Sheriffmuir Inn but I’m really glad we went to the Riverside today and for those people that have already been to Dunblane (you know who I’m looking at!) and didn’t eat at the Riverside get back there and try it out . You won’t be disappointed.

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Teuchter’s Landing and Roseleaf Bar Cafe

One of my favourite places to visit is Leith in Edinburgh, especially when there’s sunshine on it. Our nephew and niece were visiting a couple of weeks ago so we decided to take a trip to Leith to show them some of the sights. In particular Teuchters’s Landing and Roseleaf Bar Cafe.

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Guinness

It was late Saturday afternoon and OH and our nephew were going climbing in Alien Rock (an indoor wall climbing centre built inside a former church) I’m not into any form of exercise so I talked my niece into coming along for the journey but to check out how good the Guinness was in Teuchter’s Landing rather than getting sweaty and sore.

It was a lovely evening and there was a relaxed atmosphere in the bar. A mixture of couples and small groups were enjoying the views out on to the water in the back conservatory. There was also a family playing cards in the corner as their daughter, safely and well within sight, amused herself outside. We ordered a couple of pints and plonked ourselves on comfy brown leather chairs and chatted. The Guinness was good – maybe not as good as I enjoyed in Dublin but still good.

The time sped by so it wasn’t too long before we were joined by the two climbers and due to a small need to eat we ordered from the bar’s mug menu. The mug menu is a great idea as you can have chips, haggis stovies, mac ‘n’ cheese, cullen skink, chicken wings, stew, soup, curry or risotto all served in either a small or a large mug depending on your appetite.

I ordered the stovies which were tasty but they had put carrots in it!!!! It’s not that I don’t like carrots, I just don’t think they have a place in stovies – it’s just not right (yes I know other’s will argue otherwise).

OH had the Cullen skink, nephew the chicken wings and niece the cheese n mac. We also had a couple of mugs of chips. All the mugs came with oatcakes too and nothing went to waste.

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Mugs of food

Within easy walking distance (basically walk out the front of Teuchter’s and keep walking – across the road and up past the bins) you will find the Roseleaf Bar Cafe – a bar that manages to mess with your senses. Once through the door you can see women pouring from fancy teapots into china cups surrounded by plates of cakes and scones but the aroma isn’t of tea or coffee, what your nostrils pick up is definitely a pub smell, not a cafe. With a drinks menu thrust into your hand you quickly realise that it is actually cocktails that are in the china teapots or more precisely Pot-tails. Although you can get a great cup of coffee or tea in the Roseleaf Bar Cafe their pot-tails are something you need to try. With a huge juicer behind the bar every cocktail is made with fresh fruit pulped in front of your eyes and served in a teapot with an accompanying teacup and saucer (btw individual cocktails are also available and their Bloody Mary’s are great on a Sunday morning). We didn’t dine this time but they do great food and you can also book to have a Mad Hatter’s Tea-party using some of the many hats that decorate the walls.

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Pot-tails

Another quirky aspect is the chalk and blackboards in the toilets so make sure you leave a message for your mate…

 

 

…oh and the chips in Roseleaf are the most amazing chips ever!

Drogheda to Callander

For the second time during our Ireland road trip I had booked us in for the hotel breakfast. This pretty much proved my reasons for not usually doing it. I stared at the breakfast menu and wished I was back in bed with some cold water, some paracetamol and a cool flannel on my forehead. However, I’m Scottish and it had been paid for so a full Irish was ordered.

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I did manage most of it and probably the majority of a jug of apple juice too.

With our visit to the D Hotel and Drogheda over it was time to head to the airport. Again my amazing navigation skills were put to the test when we realised that it wasn’t that easy to leave the town as they had avoided putting up a big sign pointing to the M1 at a junction that was otherwise completely insignificant looking…or maybe the mystical sisters from Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub) were using their powers to get us to return for another night in their brilliant wee pub.

Finally, we got to the airport and dropped off the hire car.

get through security without being frisked – check
drench myself in duty free Roberto Cavelli – check
all remaining euros spent on Butlers chocolate – check
fly back to Scotland leaving Ireland behind – sad check

You’d think at this point we’d be heading home to empty the cases, do a wash and put our feet up but oh no, that’s for people that don’t know how to holiday. For us it was straight to Callander in the Trossachs for a wedding!

The wedding was taking place in the Roman Camp, a big, old, posh hotel on the way into Callander. It just so happened that my grandfather had been a gardener there so my mum and her sisters had grown up in Callander, which is a complete coincidence because it was OH’s niece that was being wed. We had tried to book a room in the Roman Camp but all the rooms were booked up so we were staying the night in The Old Rectory Inn on Leny Road. On arrival we were shown to our room and what a great room it was. It had a fantastic view of the River Teith, opening windows, a walk in shower, multiple plug points, an iron and iron board, and 2 little packets of biscuits!!!!

Showered, dressed up, a couple of glasses of wine from the very handy Tesco Express and we were ready for the wedding. Downstairs in the bar we were informed that there was live music on that night. Typical – any other night and we’d have stayed put but tonight a taxi had to be called.

The Roman Camp was a fantastic setting for a wedding. Outside sat two Land Rovers with white ribbons over their bonnets – perfect wedding carriages.  The newlyweds looked beautiful and very happy together.Land rovers

The good and the bad side of the Roman Camp is that there are loads of different public rooms with large comfy couches in front of open fires and guests are free to roam and camp wherever they want. I’m not much of a dancer and find I’m much better at mingling and chatting so I deserted OH and, wine in hand, went to catch up on all the family gossip.

The prices in the Roman Camp ain’t the cheapest and I was shocked to see one of the barmaids pour the worst gin and tonic ever! No ice, no lemon and the dregs from 2 bottles of tonic – all it lacked was some lipstick stains on the glass.  Later on in the evening I witnessed the same barmaid empty one bottle of wine into a glass and then top it up with a completely different bottle – and when I say different bottle I mean not even the same grape. It’s amazing how just one employee can bring down the standards so much, which is a shame because it was a really good wedding.

When ordered, and probably boasting a red wine Joker smile, I returned to the main wedding room and had a wee jig.  Soon it was time to bid farewell to the happy couple and call a cab. It was only a 2 minute drive but we ended up sitting in the taxi for a good 10 minutes talking about my grandfather and his time in Callander – it turned out the driver was a bit of a historian. We were instructed to have a walk around the gardens the following day and to contact the Callander Heritage Society to see if we could trace my granddaddy.

Back into The Old Rectory Inn and we were greeted warmly by the owner. It didn’t take much to talk us into staying up for a nightcap so we ordered a couple of Baileys and chatted with the owner and his barman into the wee small hours.

It turned out that although I didn’t think I had booked breakfast it was included in the price so there we were, the following morning, holding menus once more. At the next table there were 3 young men – one wearing sunglasses, one pushing food about his plate and one downing orange juice like it was going out of fashion. I was pleased to see they looked rougher than we did. They were planning on going up Stuc a’Chroin – a nearby Munro (Munro = a mountain higher than 3000 ft). The one with sunglasses was hoping the weather would close in and they would have to stay on sea level.

After they left the dining room the waitress informed us that they had received a call the night before from the local pub asking if they had 3 male climbers staying with them because they were in the pub and very, very drunk. It was fun to hear what goes on behind the scenes in little villages but it did make me wonder how many people would be talking about me, OH and my gardening granddad that day. After the warning call they had battened down the hatches but apparently they hadn’t been any trouble and just went to bed – we were probably more bother sipping our Baileys and telling them about  adventures in Ireland.

Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub), Drogheda

As we were flying home to Scotland the following day I had booked the last night of our Ireland road trip in Drogheda as it was just a 30 minute drive to the airport from there – anything to  avoid a hectic cross country drive, stressing about traffic and missed flights at silly o’clock in the morning. I happened to mention to someone on Twitter I was staying in Drogheda the night and in turn they happened to mention they knew someone that stayed there. I don’t know if you know how Twitter works but long story short I ended up following and being followed by the Drogheda resident and being invited to meet up with them when we arrived in town.

The drive across Ireland was pretty uneventful and my job (when I wasn’t navigating) was getting the exact coins ready for the road tolls. When we arrived in Drogheda we found the D Hotel by chance rather than my amazing navigation skills, which meant we had to do a quick turnaround. Parking wasn’t a problem though and we were soon checking in.

Bearing in mind we had just stayed in the 5star G Hotel and had been spoilt, I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed by the D. The room was nice and all but style overtook comfort and I couldn’t relax the same as I had in previous hotels that week. I tried to prop myself up on the bed but then realised there were no nearby plug points so I had to perch on the end of it so I could charge my phone and access Twitter to see if my new found Drogheda Twitter Friend (DTF) still wanted to meet up. It turns out it was a yes and she suggested a pub that she swore we could get the best pint of Guinness in town. She described where it was and said she would meet us there at 9pm because it didn’t open til then. She also warned us that it was a very old pub and not to expect much.

Since it was still early we ventured out to see if could find some refreshment and found ourselves in Mc Phails on Laurence Street. It wasn’t a bad pint but we just stayed for one. I wasn’t keen on the high stools and the privacy screens which stopped us being able to join in with the locals.  I did get the impression that the bar would be better at the weekend when they had live music on the go though. A short wander and we fell into Sarsfields for our next pint. Low seats and a view of the horse racing o2014-03-27 18.03.06-1n telly was much more enjoyable. Just before every race the barman would (loud enough for me to hear) phone the bookies and place a bet on behalf of one of the punters. We then all watched the next race and supped our pints.

We ate in the Riverside Restaurant but I’m not going to tell you about the food because I really want to tell you about the rest of the night but suffice to say it filled a gap and the chicken wings on the menu made me giggle.

As 9pm approached OH hustled me  towards Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub) the pub that DTF had recommended. The nearer we drew the more apprehensive we got. The street looked derelict – the pub dark and ominous. There was a thin sliver of light down the side of one of the windows so OH tried the door and much to our surprise it opened.  Like a lot of Irish bars there was another layer of doors. OH chose the one to the left which led him into a snug and emptiness. “Hello – are you open?” he called into the darkness.

“Come away in, I’m just lighting the fire” We went in and were gre2014-03-28 01.07.36eted by a woman dressed in dark clothes with long white hair. Thinking back I can’t recall seeing her feet and OH swears she hovered over to us. The room was small, cold and smelled slightly of damp. There were posters covering the walls and ceiling, all yellowing and peeling with age. There were no signs of anything modern about the place – no TV or jukebox. To be honest, I was surprised there were electric lights. The decor was strictly pre 1900s and it was obvious it hadn’t been touched since.  After giving our order of 2 pints of Guinness the woman in black lit the fire as we took seats at the bar.

“Oh, do we have company?” A distant voice called. We soon discovered the voice belonged to a woman with fiery red hair which was pinned up in an attempt to keep its wildness under control. She was also dressed in dark clothes. As soon as she was in the room she asked us what we wanted to drink.

“I’m seeing to them! They’ve already ordered.” The red haired woman was quickly dismissed as the white haired woman took over. Making conversation, I volunteered that we had been told via Twitter that we would find the best pint in Drogheda in this pub. This brought forth gasps of disbelief from both women and an admittance that they knew little of ‘the Twitter’ or anything to do with the internet. This didn’t surprise me.  I was already pretty sure Roald Dahl must have visited Tí Chairbre before and found some inspiration.

We then discovered they were sisters and the 5th generation of their family to run the pub. They had taken over the bar from their Mammy who, they pointed out, was still watching over them from her place above the fireplace – we turned and could see a colourful smiling photo of her holding a pint of Guinness. We were assured that we had come on the right night because they had music on that night. They explained that the pub can be a bit touch and go as they never know who is going to turn up but tonight they had 2 guys with guitars coming. Between bickers and Guinness pouring we were given a potted history of the pub which opened its doors in 1853. Apparently, what used to happen is that Guinness would deliver their stout to the pub who would then bottle it themselves. It was up to the publicans to label their own bottles and those labels would be designed and agreed in collaboration with Guinness so that each bottle held the name and address of the pub it was being served in. As our pints of Guinness settled we heard how Mammy had insisted that her labels would be printed in the original Irish Gaelic with traditional lettering. These labels had then been used right up until bottling your own Guinness became a thing of the past. As we took our first mouthful of the smooth black gold we were told that Mammy had kept her unused labels and would only give them to favourite customers or visitors. Today the traditional label can still be found on a t-shirt for sale behind the bar at a bargain price of €15. It didn’t take long for OH to run to the nearest ATM to buy himself a piece of history. (Don’t be silly, of course there was no card machine in the place. Come on, there wasn’t even a till just a small money box).

However, before OH did disappear to find some euros DTF arrived. It’s always odd meeting people you’ve only chatted to online and never met before but DTF bounced into the bar wearing tartan in my honour and was immediately my new best friend. Houses and fire come to mind. What a giggle we had. As DTF had been in the pub before she was able to chat away with the two sisters and they discussed all the locals and who was up to what and who was doing who.  More Guinness was ordered. The 2 guys with guitars turned up as well as one of DTF’s old teachers. Old teachers just get everywhere, don’t they? More Guinness ordered. Chatting with the two sisters, finding out more about the history of the pub and DTF meant the time flew by.

It was highlighted to me that there was only one draught pump in the place and that was the Guinness one. Everything else was in bottles and the only whiskey (notice the ‘e’) they served was Jameson’s and when Mammy was in charge she would only serve you whiskey if you could handle your Guinness and she rarely served whiskey to under 25 year olds. They also didn’t sell Alcopops or shots and DTF wasn’t allowed to smoke her E-cig in the bar. I was liking the pub more and more. They say the shorter the pipes that lead from the keg to the pump the better so I was told to look over the bar to see how long the pipes were. I could see the keg and the pump which meant the pipe must have been about 2 metres long, if that. I can confirm that it was a mighty fine pint. More Guinness was ordered. OH wanted his photo taken with Mammy and his T-shirt so he stood in front of the fireplace smiling. He informed the sisters that in future whenever he wears the t-shirt he will think of their Mammy. He was told that he was already with her in spirit as he was standing in the exact spot Mammy’s coffin had been during her wake.2014-03-27 21.36.05 DTF had arranged for her OH to pick her up before 11 (probably in case we were weird axe wielding internet murderers) but she managed to get one of the sisters to call her poetically named OH not to come until midnight. More Guinness was ordered. The music kept playing and the craic was great. DTF and I disappeared to the loos and were reminded that it was Fir for men and Mná for woman. DTF, being Irish, said of course she already knew that and then promptly went straight into the men’s! Good job I was already in the loo as I almost peed myself. (I won’t bore you with the umpteen selfies we took in those loos!)

DTF’s OH appeared and even more Guinness was ordered although he wasn’t partaking. Poor man had the patience of a saint as he put up with us and smiled throughout. Then the haunting, beautiful music finished and no more Guinness was allowed to be ordered 😦  But we were allowed Jameson’s. 🙂  Jameson’s were ordered.

Past closing time and DTF was insistent that her OH gave us a run back to our hotel, which was about a 5 minute walk away and probably took longer to drive. Honestly, by the time the sisters managed to get shot of us out their pub and we’d had our run home and we had sat in the car and blethered it was almost 2am! It was the latest we had been out all week and, by far, the best night we’d had all week.

If you like Guinness make sure you visit Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub), 11 North Strand, Drogheda. I’ve already told you not to be silly  – of course they don’t have a webpage (but you can search for them on FB as their nephew keeps a page there for them) .

Saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if I returned and the pub just wasn’t there. All night it felt surreal. Brig O Doon and Midnight in Paris were mentioned a few times and even the sisters (who refused to be photographed) said they weren’t real and were just figments of our imagination…

Father Ted’s and the G Hotel

Next stop Father Ted’s house!

Father Ted's House

I had found some directions on the net but they weren’t that easy to follow – OH and I took a couple of wrong turns so hopefully if you follow these directions you will have more success than I did with the ones I followed. Just remember these are back roads and you will be convinced you are on the wrong road but keep the faith.

Father Ted’s House from Limerick

Father Ted’s House is about 1 hour’s drive from Limerick.

  • From Limerick follow signs to Galway and the N18. Stay on the N18.
  • Continue onto the M18.
  • At Junction 14 take the R458 exit to Inis/​Ennis/​Gort Lomán/​Barefield
  • At Barefield Roundabout, take the 2nd exit
  • The junction is very slightly staggered but you want to head straight on (keeping the pub on your left) which is heading towards Toormore. Drive for approx 6.5 km
  • During that 6.5km you will come to an unsignposted junction – bear to the right.
  • At Ruan, turn right (past the telephone box) and drive for 500m. Turn right, then left again – it’s another slightly staggered junction but you’re basically going straight on.
  • Continue on this road until you come to a definite crossroads. You’re going straight on. There is a signpost pointing you towards a fishery. This is the road you want.
  • By this point you will be convinced you’re on the wrong road because it’s single track and looks like it leads to nowhere. You’re fine – continue on this road until you come to a definite T-junction. You will immediately recognise that this is a more main road (there’s lines but the only signpost is a give way) Turn right onto the R460, then take the first left (past the houses). Follow the road round (there’s a bit that looks like a Y junction – stick to the road and bear left).
  • Continue straight on until you come to another definite junction. Again no signpost but there is a give way one.Tom Turn right. Stay on this road. You will pass a parking lay-by on your right with an information board about the landscape. Now you will definitely know you’re on the right road.
  • Father Ted’s House is on this road on your left so just drive.  Go on, go on, go on.

When we arrived this nutter was sitting on the wall showing us where the house was – you might not be so lucky.

After many Kodak moments we headed up to Galway.

As it was our anniversary I had booked us into The G Hotel, a lovely 5 star hotel. Just as you drive into Galway it appears on your right as your drive down the dual carriageway, an impressive modern building oddly sited in the middle of a retail park. I have to admit I had expected it to be on its own, perhaps with its own grounds. It just goes to show the benefit of hiring good photographers to do your PR. Saying that, once you are in the building you quickly forget where you are as you are surrounded by plushness, sparkles and baubles. An eye catching marine fish tank replaces one of the walls in reception and boasts, amongst many other things, 2 pairs of seahorses. I was enchanted watching the couples interlock their tails and gad about together.2014-03-26 15.59.58

I couldn’t contain my smile when the receptionist very kindly informed us that we had been upgraded to a deluxe room. I had requested on my booking form that I would like a quiet room for an anniversary celebration. Whether this had any bearing on the upgrade I don’t know but when we got to our deluxe room there were 4 (very rich) dark chocolates and 2 white cupcakes. There was also a lovely little card wishing as a happy celebration. It’s thoughtful, little touches like this that really makes a difference to a hotel. The room was genuinely comfortable and had everything you could need. Well, everything except an iron and as I hadn’t mentioned to OH that we were staying in the G he hadn’t really brought anything dressy and the one thing he did have that was suitable was a bit creased.  However, a steamy walk-in shower soon put that to right and after a couple of glasses of wine we headed down to dinner.

We sat at the window with a view of Lough Atalia and ordered a bottle of Rioja. The menu was varied enough to suit everyone but didn’t have too much to overwhelm you either. OH went for the G Caesar Salad – poached chicken, air dried ham crips, shaved parmesan, croutons and creamy dressing. I had the roast carrot and rosemary velouté with roasted garlic cream.  The soup was amazing and had depth and layers of taste. I’m not a fan of rosemary but it was a delicate flavour and it did add to it in a positive way. OH’s salad looked filling but it didn’t last long in front of him.

2014-03-26 18.43.15For my next course I had butter basted fillet of Claire Island salmon, tempura oyster, baby spinach, fondant potato2014-03-26 18.42.45, Prosecco velouté. It was a little salty but I enjoyed the different textures and tastes. The tempura oyster was my favourite part of the dish and I could easily have had another. Unsurprisingly, OH plumped for the Char grilled rib-eye steak of Irish beef (done rare), white onion creamed potatoes, buttered broccoli and red wine jus. He let me have a bit of his steak and I could taste the char grilling. It didn’t take much chewing and left me with a beautiful taste in my mouth. Throughout the meal we were well looked after and nothing was too much trouble.

Feeling content and sated neither of us could manage dessert but there was Cookies and cream cheesecake, Zesty lemon posset and a selection of ice creams on offer.

After dinner we headed into town, which was a welcome 25 minute walk after the meal.  Liverpool was playing Sunderland that night so we managed to watch the first half in Garvey’s Inn and the 2nd in Garavan’s, both friendly, old style pubs. Btw It ended 2-1 to Liverpool.

The next morning we actually managed to make it to breakfast. I rarely book a hotel breakfast nowadays, much preferring a long lie to having to get up and dress for a particular time. It’s much more fun finding somewhere local for breakfast at a more reasonable hour. Anyhow, this morning we made the effort and it was an effort because the bed was one of the comfiest I have ever slept in!

Downstairs we were greeted warmly and did the usual thing of walking past the cold breakfast offerings to be seated just so we could then stand up again to go and help ourselves to juice and cereal etc. I helped myself to fruit and yogurt and then opted for an omelette – nothing exciting to report there, whilst OH had the full Irish and scrapped his plate clean. GalwayOur stomachs content once more we headed back into the city centre to finish off our visit to Galway with a trip around the museum and a wander along the riverside.

The English Market, Cork.

There was only one place I wanted to go for breakfast in Cork and that was the English Market, a roofed food market situated in the heart of the city (just look for one of the many signs that post the way). We had already walked through it the day before but I wanted to go back to sample some of the wares on show.

Although the market has beenVeg around since 1788 it only became known as the English Market to distinguish it from St Peter’s Market or the “Irish Market”(which no longer exists) when the local government reformed in 1840.  It’s owned by Cork City Council and is one of the oldest municipal market of it’s kind in the world and it’s amazing!

When you walk in the first thing that hits you are the fresh smells. You know you’re in a
food market! I reckon nowadays if you were blindfolded and left in the likes of Asda or Sainsbury you would struggle to find the fruit and veg aisle because the produce no longer holds the same fresh aromas that they used it. This most definitely isn’t the case in the English Market as your senses are assailed around every corner. My eyes widened at the choice of ingredients available. In the butchery area there were things on display I would have no idea how to cook but it didn’t stop me wanting to get my purse out. Every part of the pig, bar the squeak, was available to buy, tiny lamb’s tongues (yes I know, aww and ewww), every kind of offal possible and all the normal butcher’s cuts but covered inFish diffe
rent herbs or spices or already marinated in some sticky brown substance. The fruit and veg stalls were highly coloured, smelled amazing and again offered produce I had never seen before. The fish stalls boasted fish bigger than me and a fishmonger
that
had been to the palace to meet the queen and don’t get me started on the bakery section! I was like a Bisto Kid as I walked past admiring all the breads, rolls and pastries. Just mmmmm. There were deli’s, confectioneries and poultry sections as well as stalls dedicated to eggs, tripe, sausages, and olives. If I lived nearby I’d be in the market everyday trying to decide what I could have for dinner that night and supermarket shopping would quickly become a thing of the past.

Upstairs, with a view of the market below, is Farmgate Restaurant. Their menu is dictated by the food stalls and they say the market is their larder. Where else could we have breakfast? I ordered a glass of freshly squeezEggsed orange and a bacon blaa (a square shaped bap/bread roll associated with Waterford). OH had a pot of tea and the Blaa Special – egg, bacon and sausage.

I switched to buying smoked bacon a while ago as I felt I could no longer taste back bacon. This certainly wasn’t the case with the bacon from the market. It was thick, flavoursome and most of all it tasted of pig. It came with a little dish of tomato relish and some pickled cucumber. Everything just worked. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough orange juice – especially when OH’s teapot seemed never-ending. As I was eating my blaa I watched the waiter, an Irish James McAvoy lookalChickenike, make teabags. He’d bring down a jar of dried green leaves, spoon some of them into a small mesh paper bag and repeat until the jar was almost empty. He’d then replace the jar and bring down another.  I was mesmerised.

Breakfast was expensive but I think, considering the view, the bacon and the whole market feel, it was worth it.

Just to make sure I wasn’t being biased I asked OH what he thought of his breakfast blaa. He replied that he enjoyed it but the sausages kept coming back on him.  I then told him my opinion on the Farmgate restaurant and he countered that the view in The Sextant the day before had been better.

“What all the old men sitting at the bar?”

“No, the waitress, she was gorgeous.”

I’m starting to sense a pattern here…

Kissing the Blarney Stone

2014-03-24 21.30.25As I said, I had done some research (mainly on Tripadvisor) before we got to Cork and I had a few places on my ‘To visit’ list. One of these places was a pub called The Sextant and it looked like it did a damn fine breakfast. It was only a short walk from our hotel and opened at 10am so we had a lovely long lie, a refreshing shower, donned our togs and headed out. The pub had just opened and the waitresses/barmaids were still setting up. However, they were very welcoming and made sure we were attended to. The menu was simple but covered every breakfast angle as you could have 2 eggs on toast cooked whatever way you wanted, you could also add bacon, sausage, black or white pudding to that. Or if you were feeling healthy there was porridge and honey, granola with compote & yoghurt or just some coffee or tea & toast.

I chose scrambled egg on toast with coffee and OH had his poached. The coffee was brilliant and the only downside was that I had finished mine before my breakfast arrived. Mind you it gave me the excuse to order another ;p  As we devoured our eggs and toast we watched on as the bar filled up.  One by one, men of differing ages and attire, came in and took a high stool next to one another at the corner of the bar. They were all greeted by name and asked how things were. I think there were maybe about 6 in their Breakfast Club – well there was on that particular Tuesday morning. As they entered they would look over towards us, nod in acknowledgment and take their seats. Then, after a set amount of time, they would order their eggs. I recognised this must change every day as the waitress didn’t have them ready for them but knew exactly what everyone took in their tea or coffee. What was really sweet was that one of them asked for 2 boiled eggs but by the time their order arrived there was another addition to the bar who also wanted boiled eggs. Instead of allowing his fellow breakfast club member to wait for his order he readily gave over one of his and even allowed him to share his soldiers!

Breakfast over, I went to pay the bill at the other end of the bar. The waitress obviously recognised that I wasn’t local and was chatty about our visit to Cork. I told her about our trip and how I had happened upon The Sextant through TripAdvisor. Next door in the bar I could hear an echoey murmur.  TripAdvisor. What. They found it on tripadvisor. Really, Yeah. Wow.

Blarney Castle isn’t far from Cork and kissing the Blarney Stone has been on my Things To Do list for a long time so off we drove to 2014-03-25 11.41.43gain the gift of eloquence. Blarney isn’t a hard place to find and there was plenty parking when we arrived. It was a showery day so we were hoping the rain would stay off to allow as a lengthy visit to the castle. It’s 12.00  per adult to get in to the entire grounds. And trust me when I say it’s important to see the whole grounds and not just the castle and stone. There are lots of interesting walks which allow you to see fairy glades, a witches’ stone, a druids cave, waterfalls, wishing steps, dungeons and a poison garden to name just a few of the mythical sounding sights.

As it was still relatively early and the grounds were quiet we decided to visit the castle first just in case it suddenly got busy.  Now I already knew that kissing the actual stone was a bit scary but no-one warned me of the spiral stairs you have to go up to get to the stone! Climbing this ancient staircase is not for the faint hearted. I’m not good with spiral staircases at the best of times but this one (to me) was treacherous! As the stairs got narrower and narrower, I got scareder and scareder (yes I know that’s not grammatically correct but more scared doesn’t scan as well and I was even more scared than that ;p) At one point I was clinging on to the wall and pulling myself up by my fingernails – it was either 2014-03-25 11.30.15that or going on all fours. Honestly, if you’re not good with spiral staircases or you’re partial to excess pie eating this is not a visit you need to make! At the top my legs were like jelly but my reward was some amazing views.

We made our way round towards the stone and with no-one in front of me it was immediately my turn to kiss the stone. Just in case you don’t know anything about Blarney Castle there is a stone located in part of the wall below the battlements and if you kiss it, myth and legend dictates you will receive the gift of eloquence and never be lost for words again. It used to be that you had to be lowered by your ankles over the battlements to kiss the stone but they’re a bit more cautious nowadays so you lie backwards on the walkway, lean back as far as you can go holding on to 2 iron railings and kiss the stone. Thankfully there is a man there to help – I say help, what I really mean is he’s there to hold on to you so you can’t fall through the gaps and career towards a hideous death. Ok, maybe that isn’t quite the case but it doesn’t stop you thinking it!

I clung on, I leant back, I was told to go lower, I went lower and I KISSED THE STONE!

2014-03-25 11
Obviously, my main thought on the way up was how the hell am I going to get back down again?  With hindsight, I wasn’t thinking straight (and who can blame me!?) because I failed to notice that no-one was coming down. Thankfully and much to my relief, I discovered there was another way down and it was far easier. The following morning my legs were achy. I reckon the whole time I was in the castle my legs were tense!

 

Dublin and on to Cork

2014-03-23 14.58.26-1

So having just been at Boxty’s and enjoying a lovely brunch with lush Irish Coffees we headed towards Merrion Square to see all the paintings that artists hang on the railings every Sunday from 10am til 6.30pm. It’s a great way to pass some time on a Sunday – especially when you need to walk off a full Irish breakfast! However, before we managed to get to the square, OH needed the loo so we had to find a pub quite quickly. Funny how he never needs the loo when there aren’t any pubs in sight. Oh wait a minute. He does. I take that back – I just remembered how many country lanes I’ve had to find at short notice when I’m driving! Anyway, on the same side of the road as we were walking I could see a pub called Foley’s. Another traditional Irish bar I thought. Perfect I thought. Disappointed I was.

We were greeted at the door by a Chinese waitress. I said we were just in for drinks and she pointed towards high stools at the window. The place was deserted other than a family in the corner having lunch. OH went to the loo and I ordered drinks from a different Chinese woman (perhaps her sister). Thankfully it was just a loo stop as I didn’t want to stay any longer in the unwelcoming pub.  I have to say, it was the worst one we were in during our entire trip (and we were in some weird and wonderful ones!) so we hurried our drinks, made our excuses and left. 2014-03-23 15.02.13-1

From there we wandered around the square enjoying the artist’s work and commenting all the different multi-coloured doorways that surround the square. After admiring the art we retraced our steps and found O’Donoghues which, considering it was right across the road from Foley’s, was jumping!  Apparently The Dubliners used to play here (their pics were everywhere).  We struggled to get a seat as they had live music on but managed eventually. From what I could see it was a number of different people that had just turned up with their instrument or voice for a bit of a jam session. They all politely took turns. Sometimes someone would join in and accompany the singer; at other times it was just one beautiful voice that could be heard. The atmosphere was everything you wanted in an Irish bar.

2014-03-23 15.03.26After a while we decided to head back to the hotel to put our feet up for a wee while. Now I’m not sure if OH really
does always need a loo stop or if it’s just an excuse for another pint but regardless, we soon found ourselves in Flannery’s of Camden Street…

…eventually back at the hotel I was allowed to put my feet up but then it was time to freshen up as OH wanted to go back out again. We made it as far as the The Bleeding Horse (yes the pub next door if you remember yesterday’s adventures). The bar was full of good looking Spanish people watching the Real Madrid v Barcelona match so again the bar had a great atmosphere. We also met a wee Irish man who chatted away grand style and gave us tips where to stop off for something to eat on our way to Cork. It wasn’t until we looked at the map the following morning that we realised where he was recommending was heading west on the2014-03-23 14.58.50-1 way to Galway!  Not sure if he was being stereo-typically Irish or thinking we were daft Scots that would just follow his directions 🙂

Obviously we didn’t follow his route but picked up the hire car and headed south towards the 2nd biggest city in the state instead. We arrived in Cork and without too many wrong turns found the Clarion Hotel and parked beneath it.   As we made our way to our room we were astounded by the large golden balls 2014-03-24 15.29.27hanging from the ceiling over the foyer which looked amazing. However, when we got to our room we soon realised that our view was of the balls rather than a view of the river. It’s funny how quickly you miss seeing what the weather is like when you don’t have an outside view. The room was air conditioned but I also  know now that I’d rather be able to open a window than twist a knob or press a button.  Apart from that the room was great – it even had free biscuits!!

It wasn’t long before we were out and exploring the city centre, which is located between two channels of the River Lee, which kind of means it’s on an island. The 2 busy streets were St Patricks Street, which is the main shopping thoroughfare and Oliver Plunkett Street, which is full of places to eat as well as shops.

Before arriving in Cork I had looked up different pubs and restaurants in the area and one that had caught my eye was Arthur Maynes because it looked so intriguing. The building is a 120 year old pharmacy turned into a wine bar.  I hadn’t noted down the address but we managed to find it before we enjoyed too many other Cork bars ;p 2014-03-24 17.06.33

When we walked in through the front door we couldn’t believe it. It was like walking into a chemist’s shop rather than a restaurant or bar. Saying that, we were greeted warmly and asked if we wanted a table. We were offered the chance to chose our seats so opted for a candle lit room with only a few other tables. The menu was rich and varied and offered a list of dishes a2014-03-24 17.18.03s well as risotto and mussels of the day. OH decided to go for the king prawn risotto (he checked to make sure they were already shelled before ordering) and I went fo2014-03-24 17.18.17r fresh market mussels in a black pudding broth served with soda bread.

The surroundings, the atmosphere, the candle light, the service and the wine were all perfect. There were 2 woman sitting at a nearby table speaking French which also added to the unique ambiance. OH says the risotto he had was the best risotto he had ever had and now wants to eat more risotto. My mussels were good – 3 or 4 I couldn’t open so left and there was no doubting that it was in a black pudding broth. However, it was too rich for me and although I really enjoyed it, the broth didn’t like me so much.

2014-03-24 18.08.39 2014-03-24 18.08.59This is probably the wrong time to mention it but the toilets were amazing! I just had to take pics to show you the display cabinet and sink. It was like going back in time. Or going for a wazz in a museum exhibit by mistake ;p Gawd I hope they were usable toilets!

Even the outside bit was great. Smokers get treated so well in Ireland! Between Mayne’s  and the pub next door was a heated seating area where all the addicted people sat. Honestly, it makes you want to join them. There was even an old fashioned photo booth. No gimmicky pics taken with One Direction or crap like that. Just black and white pics like the good old days.2014-03-24 17.08.572014-03-24 17.08.45

OH and I had to get our photos  taken and when we showed mini-me she said, “Awww you look like 2 teenagers in love”.