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Kove Restaurant has views over Lough Erne

Kove Restaurant has views over Lough Erne
(Kove’s pic; the rest are mine)

Killyhevlin’s newest restaurant Kove had the unenviable task of having me, a US-expat, as a guest for (a normal) dinner on Thanksgiving.

Was Kove restaurant up to the challenge?

You may know that Thanksgiving is a very important day in the US calendar when Americans eat a rather specific and much loved set of foods. These are hotly anticipated, and in many ways this meal is even more important than the Christmas dinner. Americans’ mouths water with just the thought of the home cooked fare from recipes reverently handed down from great-grannies and grannies filling up the dinner table. How on Earth would Kove restaurant compete with my nostalgia-laced memories of delicious dinners past? I’d been invited up North by Fermanagh Lakelands tourism during a time when my memories of home could scupper things…would they?

My review of Kove Restaurant

Kove is one of two restaurants at the Killyhevlin Hotel, (the other is the Boathouse Grill) and is making a name for itself in the Enniskillen food scene. Kove has an interesting selection of dishes on their a la carte menu, but probably because of my memories of Thanksgiving I went for something I normally wouldn’t choose; set menu’s chicken. Again, I was probably setting Kove a very hard task– the reason I don’t normally go for chicken isn’t due to anything esoteric, I just don’t really like chicken! I know, I know, choosing it seems to make no sense– but it was stuffed chicken, the closest thing to Thanksgiving Turkey! 😀

Kove restaurant goats cheese & sundried tomato stuffed chicken wrapped in Fermanagh black bacon

Kove restaurant goats cheese & sundried tomato stuffed chicken wrapped in Fermanagh black bacon

Seriously though, I chose the Kove’s chicken because the description sounded delicious:  Sun-dried tomato and goat cheese stuffed supreme of chicken wrapped in Fermanagh black bacon. 

Kove Starters

But wait, I am ahead of myself; I must mention the starters. I had the salmon and prawn salad with greens and Marie Rose sauce. Prawn salad with Marie Rose is making a comeback after being an abhorred cliche that most ‘good’ restaurants wouldn’t dare serve. But Marie Rose sauce is making a comeback because when made well with quality ingredients it is fabulous with prawns– and the salmon. Yes indeed, it was very tasty. I couldn’t help myself; I ate every little bit, which for me is a mistake as I get full quickly. I had behaved myself not eating too much of Kove’s tasty bread beforehand, but I fell at the hurdle of the starter!

Salmon and prawn salad at Kove restaurant in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen

Salmon and prawn salad at Kove restaurant in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen

I was interested in several starter items on the Kove restaurant menu; for example the roast scallop with cauliflower puree, black pudding, and cumin oil on the a la carte menu caught my attention. Kove is a member of Good Food Northern Ireland, and likes to source what they can locally; I see that their scallops are sourced from Donegal. As a fish lover it was good to see a nice selection of seafood as well as the more traditional items like chicken, lamb, and steak. We have so much edible bounty from our island and waters; no wonder 2016 is going to be the Year of Food in Northern Ireland.

Local Specialty Mains

Fermanagh black bacon is a local specialty from pigs who live free range on Inishcorkish Island in Lough Erne. This bacon is scrumptious. Indeed, my mains of Kove’s stuffed chicken dish wrapped in O’Dougherty’s Fermanagh Black Bacon made this non chicken lover very happy. The chicken was flavorsome and moist, the slightly sweet, salty and zingy accompaniments bringing out the best in the meat. The bacon is like bacon you remember from years gone by; perhaps even better. Bursting with flavor, black bacon is hung for several months, and is neither over salted nor pumped full of water or fillers. It goes very nicely with the ingredients of the stuffed chicken. The locally sourced side vegetables were perfectly cooked, Kove’s portion sizes were generous, and I was sorry that my partner was not with me to help finish this delicious dish!

Digging in to Kove restaurant's stuffed chicken and black bacon

Digging in to Kove restaurant’s stuffed chicken and black bacon

I gazed at my leftover portion of black bacon wrapped stuffed chicken and mourned. I knew that if I ate another bite of it there would be no attempting the desert. Surely that would be a sin– no dessert!?

Beautifully Presented Dessert

In order to report as fully as possible to you, I had a dessert. (Ahem.) I did choose what I figured was the lightest dessert on offer, the citrussy mousse. Look how beautiful it is! The lovely citrus zing was there, not too overpowering but not off simpering in the distance as can be the case in some other restaurants. It wasn’t heavy, but sadly I was too full for more than two or three bites. To be fair, the staff at Kove were attentive and helpful, and certainly would have set me up with a doggy bag for my leftovers, but with my travel plans I wouldn’t have been able to keep it cold and fresh. *Sniffle*

Desert at Kove restaurant, Enniskillen

Desert at Kove restaurant, Enniskillen

Dining Room Setting

Kove’s dining room looks out over Lough Erne, with Cuilcagh Mountain in the distance; the setting is lovely. I didn’t take photos of the dining room at dinner out of courtesy to the other diners, but I’ve one from the morning, below. I quite liked the blue lights; a splash of modern zing. It is obviously much brighter at breakfast, but Kove was well lit at dinner; you could see your food no bother. I imagine Kove is a popular restaurant with Enniskillen locals looking for a nice meal out, as well as being a good choice for dining hotel guests like myself.

As for wine or a cocktail, I didn’t indulge. The reason I didn’t has to do with my stay at Killyhevin Hotel– which I will reveal when I review it for you soon! I’d happily eat at the Kove restaurant again; the meal well pleased me even though I was in a nostalgic state of mind, and I think you will enjoy dining here, too. Keep your eye out for those wonderful local ingredients like Fermanagh Black Bacon, and save room for dessert 🙂 

See more, and download a sample menu and a wine list here at Kove Restaurant.

Killyhevlin Hotel also has some good special offers that include a dinner at Kove



Transparency: I was invited up by Fermanagh Lakelands Tourism, and was a guest at Killyhevlin and Kove, having a dinner and night’s stay with breakfast.  As always, opinions are my own.



In Ireland for Thanksgiving?

Here are tips for finding your favourite Thanksgiving foods in Ireland, where to eat a Thanksgiving dinner out, and more.

Updated with more places to eat Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland  for 2015, some recipe ideas, and a Thanksgiving reenactment. If YOU’VE tips, a fab recipe, Thanksgiving event or fun Thanksgiving in Ireland themed photo you’d like to share, contact me. @vibrantireland on Twitter or email Cheers!

Essential for Thanksgiving in Ireland? Libby's classic canned pumpkin.

Essential for Thanksgiving in Ireland? Libby’s classic canned pumpkin.

Thanksgiving food most missed in Ireland? Pumpkin Pie!

But wait, help is at hand! You can now buy that pumpkin pie classic, pumpkin in a can, in Ireland! How many of us grew up with this rather rubbery mass of surprising deliciousness? Often the brand of choice was Libby’s; You may enjoy the blast from the past Libby’s commercial below!

Note: I should say that while I didn’t conduct a rigorous scientific survey, in chatting to other North Americans over the years, Pumpkin Pie seems to top the list of what we miss most when we spend Thanksgiving in Ireland 🙂



[youtube_sc url=”” title=”vintage%20Libby%27s%20Libby%27s%20Libby%27s%20ad%20″]

Fallon & Byrne in Dublin carry Libby’s canned pumpkin in their shop; I know that  supplies sell out fairly sharpish in many places, and F & B is no exception. Perhaps just give Fallon & Byrne a buzz to check stock levels before you make a special trip. Of course just eating there in their tasty restaurant is a grand consolation if you find the pumpkin pie cans are all gone! Tel. 01 4721010 (choose 1 for the office) Open Mon to Fri 8am- 9pm,  Sat 9am- 9pm, Sun 11am- 7pm Location: 11-17 Exchequer St, Dublin 2

I’ve seen canned pumpkin occasionally in Aldi or Lidl– it must have been during one of their special ‘American’ promotions (Hotdogs in liquid stuffed a jar, anyone? Umm, how is that even a thing? Did I miss this during my 30 years in the States?) If I were you, I’d keep my eyes peeled over the coming weeks in case these guys put canned pumpkin on their shelves again.

You can order Libby’s canned pumpkin online at where it costs €3.45 a can. They also have some shop stocklists; here’s the list from their website:

Call before you go to make sure they have what you are looking for!

The Food Centre (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

Unit 1

Cleveragh Business Park (beside Doorly Park)


Ph: 071-91-74077



The Food Centre (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

Unit 12

Hills Industrial Estate


Ph: 01-601-0952



FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

1-4 Lower Camden Street

Dublin 2

Ph: 01-475-8033/8036



FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery, Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)

Unit 4, Block 1

Grand Canal Square (near the Bord Gais Energy Theatre)

Dublin 2

Ph: 01-671-8004



FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery,Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)


Unit 2

Mayor Street

Dublin 2


Ph: 01-672-0977


FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery,Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)


Dublin 7




Gleesons of Booterstown (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

44 Booterstown Avenue (accross from the Booterstown Church)

Blackrock, Co. Dublin

Ph: 01-288-0236



Londis (Drinks, Sweets)

Foxrock Avenue

Foxrock, Dublin 18

Ph: 01-289-4777


McAteers, The Food House (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

15 Clanbrassil Street

Dundalk, Co. Louth

Ph: 042-932-6420



Super Valu (Rushe’s) (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

37 Castle Street

Dalkey, Co. Dublin

Ph: 01-285-9477


Sweeties (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

56 Henry Street


Co. Clare

Ph: 085-732-8759

Fun! And how to make your own pumpkin pie- can or no can

A fun read with a great recipe for pumpkin pie is US expat Imen McDonald’s account of her first Thanksgiving in Ireland. Well! I find some of those reactions to the pumpkin pie almost sacrilegious 😉

Mouthwatering Recipes from ex-pats in Ireland

Thanksgiving can be a bit of a puzzle in regards to vegetarian eating; what main dish can you serve that is special, filling, and delicious? I think this gorgeous dish from Canadian ex-pat Janine may even tempt the meat eaters away from the turkey. (Note: Canadian’s have their Thanksgiving the second Monday in October.) Butternut Squash, Sage, and Buffalo Mozzarella, let’s be having you! The recipe is here on Cooking With Craic; do check it out & her other recipes too!

MY TIP: you can now get Irish made buffalo mozzarella. As well as online and at cheesemongers’, I’ve also purchased it at Aldi, for €1.99. Yum! 

Irish Buffalo Mozzerella - I got this at Aldi for 1.99

Irish Buffalo Mozzarella – I got this at Aldi for 1.99

Janine says:

Here’s a vegetarian lasagna recipe made with béchamel, butternut squash, sage and buffalo mozzarella. It’s not entirely diet-friendly, but we’re thinking of it as one of our final, creamy indulgences before our diet begins on Monday. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

I’m sure we will!

If you’d like to add a classic Irish flair to your Thanksgiving spread, why not try some easy Irish soda bread? Dee has added a few nutty bits to this, and pumpkin seed (sensing a theme?) but you can omit them if you’d like. Dee says:

Irish Soda Bread Recipe -GreensideUp

Irish Soda Bread Recipe -GreensideUp

I don’t recall eating soda bread in the UK, but soon discovered how tasty it is with a chunk of cheese or a bowl of soup when we moved to Ireland; as a result of Colette’s recipe I also learnt that it’s incredibly easy to make. There’s no kneading or waiting for the bread to rise, just throw all the ingredients in a bowl, transfer to a loaf tin, pop in the oven and it’s done. The traditional Irish bread soda recipe contains just four ingredients – flour, salt, buttermilk and bread soda but a few more bits and pieces have been added to this Irish Soda Bread recipe.

Dee grows masses of vegetables in her Irish garden as well as teaching others about vegetable gardening, and she’s great recipes for pumpkin rice and for pumpkin soup.

I also enjoyed this Instagram photo shared on Twitter by @Alanazdinak 😀 Now that’s a quick and easy Thanksgiving dinner!

No need to go home for Thanksgiving. All sorted now! #Merica #dublin2015

A photo posted by AlanaZ (@alanazdinak) on

For something more substantial, why not try Thanksgiving Dinner in Waterford’s wonderful La Boheme? They tell me that:

Our chefs have created a sumptuous feast of traditional Thanksgiving fare. Eric and Christine lived in the States when they met, and when they moved to Europe, they missed this traditional feast and therefore decided to offer the menu in La Boheme every Thanksgiving. Its a hugely popular day and menu in La Boheme, with many patrons traveling from far and wide to participate in the day, so reservations are appreciated. 

Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland at La Boheme

Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland at La Boheme

A tasty and easy way to celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland! La Boheme’s Thanksgiving dinner is €29.95 pp, and runs Thanksgiving evening only. You can check out their Turkey Day menu here.


Where else can you eat Thanksgiving dinner out in Ireland?

Well, I’ve gotten some tips via social media. — Over on the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page, Linda Fulton Burke says:  Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney has a nice Thanksgiving dinner. Their website is here:   Twitter supplied an idea for the Eastern side of the country, in Drogheda, county Louth:   

@Eseaboard is Eastern Seafood Bar & Grill, and they have served Thanksgiving dinner for the past 7 years. Give them a shout on their Facebook Page to find out the details for this Thanksgiving. You can get their Brown Hound Bakery pumpkin pie in Dublin, too:  

PIE LOVERS UNITE! #pumpkinpie Brown Hound Bakery Ireland for #Thanksgiving 26.11.15 also available for collection in DUBLIN from The Garden Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, D2 (1pm – 3pm) pre-orders only!

Posted by Brown Hound Bakery Ireland on Thursday, 12 November 2015

Thanksgiving at the Ulster American Folk Park

It could be very interesting for North American visitors to see what they think of the Thanksgiving reenactment at the Ulster American Folk park in Northern Ireland. I’d be quite curious to see this myself, especially as it is based around a family in western Pennsylvania; where the majority of my own family immigrated to from Ireland. You’ll also get to sample some of the Thanksgiving food, including pumpkin pie. I wonder will it be as good as my granny’s? 😀

At the Ulster American Folk Park you can join the Partridge family for Thanksgiving as they prepare the turkey and anxiously await the return of their only son Joseph, an infantryman in the Union Army.

Costumed guides re-enacting a 1800s Thanksgiving at the Ulster American Folk ParkThe American Thanksgiving is an occasion for Americans to remember those from the Old World who first settled on its shores, consider the uncertain future of the pilgrims who faced many a hardship and to pay tribute to the Native Americans who greeted the first European newcomers.

At the Ulster American Folk Park you will be able to immerse yourself in living history to experience this grand tradition first hand. You will have the opportunity to sample the flavour of a Western Pennsylvania rural Thanksgiving in November of 1863, which was the year of the first national day of Thanksgiving.

Costumed guides from the museum will re-enact a Thanksgiving Day from the 1800s. You will have the opportunity to sample some seasonal dishes such as Succotash, Pumpkin Pie and Butternut Squash.

Happy Thanksgiving 2015 – in Ireland or elsewhere!

What do Mick Jagger, Daniel O’Connell, Medieval monks & learning to play the bodhran have in common? Why, it’s the old Smithwick’s beer brewery in Kilkenny; now open to us ordinary folk as The Smithwick’s Experience.

A pint being poured after the Smithwick's Experience tour in Kilkenny, Ireland

A pint after the Smithwick’s Experience tour in Kilkenny, Ireland

That’s Kilkenny beer, right?

Well, yes and no. Let’s clear up some other confusions. Smithwick’s beer originated in Kilkenny City in the 1710 established Smithwick’s brewery, which sent the rich scent of brewing aloft over Kilkenny at the site where the medieval monks of St Francis’ Abbey first brewed. Smithwick’s was Ireland’s oldest operating brewery -303 yrs continuously as Smithwick’s- until 2014 when production was moved over Dublin way to the St James’ Gate Guinness/Diageo factory. Though the actual production of beer has moved, the site now houses The Smithwick’s Experience which opened in summer 2014 to bring to multi-media life the Smithwick’s Brewery’s captivating history.

The Smithwick’s Experience experience

Named as one of Lonely Planet’s top must-see attractions for 2015, I found The Smithwick’s Experience to be done very well & worth the €12 adult ticket and the 70 minutes it takes to do the tour. TIP: minus 10% if you book online. On the Smithwick’s Experience tour you’ll discover tidbits like why on earth these bathtubs are here, what enabled Catholic John Smithwick to found his brewery at the time of the punitive anti-Catholic penal laws, why the ‘Irish Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell became a good friend to the Smithwick family, and how Smithwick’s joined up with a rival Kilkenny brewer to help during the Irish Famine. And of course you’ll learn more about brewing! Don’t miss smelling the different varieties of fragrant hops; very intriguing scents! One should be a perfume- I loved it. You can also try out a brewery job, like giving a barrel of beer a stir. No sneaking a sip, please 🙂 TIP: the video at the very start of the tour is rather over the top. Don’t worry, folks, the rest of the tour isn’t so flowery.  

Peruse over a pint!

After the tour, you may want to linger a bit over over your pint of Smithwick’s Red Ale to peruse the wall photos of celebrities who’ve enjoyed the hospitality of the Smithwick’s. Perhaps try the Smithwick’s tasting trio of beer for an extra €6; interestingly the general consensus at our table was that the Smithwick’s Pale Ale led the pack as our favourite. We toured as part of a group of beer/food/travel loving journalists, & were specially treated to an engaging meeting with Paul Smithwick, who, although the company was sold to Diageo many years ago, still is keenly involved with Smithwick’s and sits on the board along with his brother. Paul told us of  visits from Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful and many others; we snooped around old Smithwick family guestbooks, full of the signatures international celebrities– and original letters from Daniel O’Connell! Told you Smithwick’s history is captivating!

Smithwicks Exerience famous signatures Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger & Marianne Faithful signed the Smithwicks’ guestbooks in the swinging sixties!

So what’s the story with Kilkenny beer?

I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

Kilkenny Cream Ale is similar to Smithwick’s Draught; however, it has a cream head similar to Guinness, and it has a stronger and more bitter taste than Smithwick’s. The Kilkenny name was originally used during the ’80s and ’90s to market a stronger version of Smithwick’s for the European and Canadian market due to difficulty in pronunciation of the word “Smithwick’s”, but it now refers to a similar yet distinctly different beer. (via Wikipedia)

Knowing that TIP, & the following, will help you be like a local:

  • Don’t ever say the w in Smithwick’s. Try saying it more like Smidicks, or Smithicks with the th rather soft & short. Say it more like 1 syllable, not 2.
  • If you enjoyed your pint/glass of Smithwick’s on the tour & are thirsty for more, just down to the right a bit & across the street from the Smithwick’s Experience building you’ll find a charming row of pubs. Cleere’s is the one that the Smithwick’s brewery employees often frequented themselves, and I reckon that’s a great endorsement. In fact, ex- employees still meet up there on Thursdays. Maybe you’ll overhear some old brewery tales 🙂 
    Paradise Row! Colourful pubs in Kilkenny Ireland

    Paradise Row! Colourful pubs in Kilkenny Ireland

Fuel for many a trad music session!

It’s nice being like a local, but some touristy things are great craic too! I can be skeptical of certain of these activities, but I’m willing to give ’em ago & see if that wariness is justified. In the case of learning to play the bodhran (Irish traditional drum) at Kytlers Inn pub with Damien of Irish Beats, my skepticism was rhythmically washed away by laughter, Smithwick’s Pale Ale, and the booming sound of this ancient instrument. As Kytlers serves the different varieties of Smithwick’s we all settled in with our choice as the lesson began, but we didn’t get many sips in; Damien kept us busy with nary a dull moment. Starting off simply, he gradually led us into more complexity, keeping us hard-bitten journos 😉 laughing with his quips. See my wee video below for a taster of the session & our musical abilities.

Beer with a side of witchcraft

Pat Tynan, Kilkenny Walking Tours

The Knowledge! Pat Tynan has been giving Kilkenny Walking Tours for 32 years.

Kytlers Inn is a rambling medieval stone built inn turned pub with lots of nooks; sort of easy to get lost in– perhaps due to its witchy history! Dame Alyce Kytler first started the Inn in the 1200’s, but after all 4 of her husbands died one after the other, she was accused of serving up more than pints and hospitality; she wound up convicted of witchcraft. You can discover her tale, and how she escaped being burnt at the stake, along with more of the wide-ranging history of Kilkenny on one of Pat Tynan’s Historic Kilkenny Walking Tours. Pat has been leading his tours in Kilkenny for over 30 years, and I highly recommend going along on one to get yourself better acquainted with this amazing little city. Kilkenny is small- it’s Medieval Mile is pretty much the length of the city, but it is choc-a-bloc with hidden spots & stories which you just won’t discover without a bit of help. Seriously, you all, Kilkenny City is a wondrous tapestry of charm, history, fine craft, culture, and top notch local food which you may not encounter without a bit of extra local knowledge. Don’t just zip in for a day visit, just mainly taking in the Castle & Cathedral– you’ll be missing so much! 

A Canadian friend who has traveled much of Ireland, the UK, and Europe put it this way

“Kilkenny has a big character & a fascinating history, and so much to offer for such a small city. I’m struck by how un-pretentious the people here are even though they live in this gem. You can see they love their city, are eager to share it and tell you about it– without the pretentiousness I’ve found in similar spots in other countries. Kilkenny City is really accessible– not just because it is small and easy to walk everywhere, but because the people are genuinely welcoming and friendly. Going on the Historic and the Fab Food walking tours gives you the added bonus of meeting some of the people who are behind the small places which add to Kilkenny’s character; like Pat Tynan, who has been doing his tours for 30 years but yet still is enthusiastic about his city and its history. I’m impressed with Kilkenny.”

Kilkenny Fab Food and Craft Trail

Kilkenny Fab Food and Craft Trail

Stunning stones & tasty treats

The Fab Food Trail of Kilkenny also lets you meet some Kilkenny craftspeople as well as sample foodie gems. Wait til you see the unique gem jewellry of Rudolph Heltzel– stunning enough for a Rolling Stone, or you! I’ve done this tour twice with Eveleen, and also her Fab Food Trail of Dublin, and yup, they are fab. From traditional family butchers to modern artisan foodstuffs, you’ll see why Kilkenny is a food lovers hot spot. The Fab Food Trails Kilkenny tour tends to be on Saturdays, with the odd Friday- do click the link to see current dates. The tour lasts about two and a half hours (€50 at time of writing,) and you will be tasting several food delights. One of the tour stops is the downstairs cafe at The Kilkenny Design Centre– TIP:  the upstairs cafe changes character & becomes a  full service restaurant on Thursday through Saturday nights in season.

Night delight

Anocht's Smithwick's inspired menu, Kilkenny Ireland

Anocht’s Smithwick’s inspired menu, Kilkenny Ireland

The nighttime incarnation upstairs at the Kilkenny Design Centre is called Anocht. (Generally from 5.50 to 9.30pm Thurs-Sat.) Like a local TIP: ‘Anocht’ is the Irish word for ‘tonight’. I’d been meaning to go eat here for ages; they’ve gotten good reviews, won awards, and as an enthusiastic cash-strapped fan of Early Bird menus I found Anocht’s Early Bird tempting for a special night out. But I just never got there. Luck would have it that I finally went as part of this Smithwick’s Experience inspired tour. A special menu incorporating Smithwick’s as an ingredient in most of the dishes was the challenge to the chefs, and boy did they do well. (See photos in my video.)Thank gawd I still had my gallbladder at that point or I would have been devastated to not be able to eat it all :-0 If you’ve got YOUR gallbladder, go! Or, even if you haven’t, go! Apparently once a gallbladder-less person’s liver adjusts, you become able to eat normally/mostly normally again. So, I’ll be back, Anocht. YUM!

Super spot to soak up the sun

Whilst on the subject of food, I must mention the enormous & very tasty lunch portions at our accommodation, the River Court Hotel. Go with a big appetite! One of the fab things about having food, coffee, or a pint here is that you will find that the River Court has a large outdoor seating section along the river with a spectacular view of Kilkenny Castle just across the Nore. TIP: On a sunny day, this is one of the best outside places to sit and sip or sup in Kilkenny. If river, duck, & people watching as you have a drink or a bite is your thing, check it out. On the warmest days you may even be treated to the sight of daring young people diving into the river from John’s bridge. Bring your swimsuit & join in? 😉

River Court Hotel Kilkenny

River Court Hotel Kilkenny

Experience Kilkenny!

You don’t have to be Mick Jagger to get satisfaction from a Kilkenny visit (ahh, couldn’t resist..) As well as the things I’ve mentioned here there’s loads more you’ll enjoy in Kilkenny City. And the green & gorgeous Kilkenny countryside is full of treasures, too; from the Neolithic to the present. You can find out more here; I’ve even made a Google Map trail you can follow. If you’ve any questions about Kilkenny, I’ll do my best to answer; you can ask via Vibrant Ireland & Travel’s Facebook page, or @VibrantIreland on Twitter, or comment on this article. Cheers! Enjoy your pint of Smithwick’s & I hope you will love Kilkenny as much as I do 😀

Having the craic at Kytlers bodhran lesson

Having the craic at Kytlers bodhran lesson

Transparency: I was a guest of Smithwick’s on this sampling of Kilkenny. Being a guest doesn’t change my opinion of what I experience, but it does enable me to tell you about things I couldn’t otherwise afford– for example as a Kilkenny resident for over 10 years I’d never stayed in accommodation there. Being able to stay at the River Court Hotel now means I have firsthand experience & I can advise; I’m often asked about places to stay. Our room looked out over the river to the castle, and was quite nice. The bed was big & super comfy, and I slept well. As always, I advise when you stay anywhere to bring good earplugs (I swear by the soft silicon ones.) I forgot mine this trip! Oops. One of the prices you pay for staying so central in cities/large towns is that they are filled with people & noises. I had the window open & heard a few late night revelers messing about over by the bridge. Shutting the window helped of course, but TIP: be aware that the John’s Bridge & John’s Street area of Kilkenny has very active, often loud, late-night pub-clubs – if you are a light sleeper ask about a room farthest away from the street.

Sample the fun! Video of my Smithwick’s Experience inspired tour of Kilkenny:

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Have fun on YOUR Kilkenny visit!

Ennis, Ireland cheerful shopfronts

Even on a wet grey November day, Ennis is cheerful outside and in!

Ennis deserves its accolade as Ireland’s friendliest town.

I spent 3 days based in Ennis at the Rowan Tree hostel, & was curious to see if the hype was true.

I may have been a bit cynical about Ennis’ title- but any cynicism soon vanished. People called out greetings to each other on the street. I was cheerily greeted in shops. I had a lovely chat with the manager of the Clare Museum (which will feature in my Museum Isle column of spring’s Isle Magazine,) and the folks at Rowan Tree hostel & Cafe Bar were lovely as well.

Rowan Tree Hostel, Ennis, Ireland. Room and view

The view from the balcony of one of the family rooms, Rowan Tree Hostel, Ennis

Rowan Tree is one of those wonderful hostels where things are run with care & pride; there are amenities like free wi-fi, bike & surfboard storage, self-service laundry, elevator, fully equipped kitchen use, and free light breakfast. I found everything to be scrupulously clean.

The hostel is next to Rowan Tree Cafe Bar, and I ended up eating here 2 nights as I so enjoyed the first. The dining room shows off the wonderful features of the Georgian house- large sash windows, high ceilings and an airy feel– but cozy by the fireplace. I popped in for an elevenses coffee and found it hard to pull myself away from my table by the fire. Ok, well.. it might have been eating so many of their fresh pastries that was weighting me down!

My Tips for Rowan Tree Cafe:

  • They’ve a nice selection of wines; I loved the  Mount Vernon Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc- available by the glass.
  • The Early Bird/Set menus are good value for good food; 2 courses €16.95, 3 courses €19.95. On Sunday to Thursday the offer is on all night; 5-10 pm, whilst on Friday & Saturday it is is on from 5-7 pm.
  • The Seafood Tagliatelle was very good, but isn’t on the Early Bird/Set menu. Worth a splurge if you’d like!
  • There is also a child’s menu with mains under € 5.
Rowan tree cafe, ennis, ireland

Lovely morning light comes in through the riverside windows at Rowan tree Cafe, Ennis

Ennis is an excellent base for exploring both the city of Limerick and enjoying the wildness of the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, and beyond. (While I was there I went to Doolin Cave, home to the largest stalactite you’ll ever see. What a ‘wild’ cave! I recommend it.) You can get your fill of bustling city vibe or soak up the great spaces of sea, rock, and hills and then return to the welcoming cheer of Ennis town. That combination is exactly what I did on my trip. I will definitely return!

There’s more to explore of Ennis, and they’ve some brilliant festivals; Trad Music, Book Fest, Street Fest, Food. I will certainly stay again at Rowan Tree Hostel- it is a budget traveler’s gem.


My Rowan Tree Hostel Tips

  • Rowan Tree is only 20 minutes from Shannon Airport. If you’re renting a car, but are nervous about driving on the left, picking somewhere easier to drive to on your first day is an excellent way to ‘ease in.’ It certainly is less nerve racking than trying to negotiate Dublin or Limerick for 1st timers.
  • There isn’t any on-site parking, but there are (pay-for) car parks nearby.
  • To make your money go even further, do take advantage of the free breakfast of cereal/toast/juice/coffee/tea which is on everyday until 9.30 am. You can also cook your own food in the large, clean kitchen.
  • Rooms start from €30, hostel dorm beds from €15. There are also family rooms- all very good prices. Like many hostels (all to my dismay,) female-only hostel beds cost a few euros more.
  • The beds are quite firm. I stayed in the 6 person family room (1 double bed & two bunks,) and they were all firm. Also, I found Rowan Tree to be very quiet, but I always recommend earplugs when you stay somewhere- hotel, b&b or hostel. Better to have & not need that need & not have! I swear by the soft silicon ones that you kind of mould for your ear.
  • The people working at Rowan Tree are friendly & helpful. Do ask them for any suggestions on what to see, do, eat and so on. Enjoy your stay 🙂

These photos are all from my Instagram account. Each Thursday, the hashtag #IGtravelthursday shows photos from peoples’ travels all around the world- local travels and far flung. Use the hashtag & join in! If you are a blogger, you can also join in with a blog featuring one of your trips/visits and your Instagram photos from it. Read the ins & outs of that here on SkimbacoLifestyle.
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I was a guest of Rowan Tree Hostel, and had a gift certificate for 1 free meal in the Cafe. Be assured being a guest doesn’t affect the honesty of my writing. I liked the hostel & the cafe; in fact enjoyed them so much, I went back for another dinner myself, and added a 3rd day to my stay.


Yeats statue Words detail, Sligo Town

Yeats statue detail, Sligo Town

Sligo! Who knew?

Yep, that’s one of Sligo’s hashtags, and it’s true– Sligo and Sligo town are full of delights, but they’re lesser known to folk who stick to the main tourist trails.

This colourful town will win you over– Sligo’s a perfect visit for lovers of outdoor beauty, adventure, arts, eats, culture, and craic! Located along the NorthWest section of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Sligo resounds with the natural magic that inspired Yeats as well as an eclectic buzz in Sligo Town.

Over a series of posts I’ll give you a few tasters so you can see for yourself why you should visit Sligo. In this post I’ll give you 3 tidbits about where to stay, eat, &  what to do in Sligo Town

The Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo town, Ireland

The Glasshouse Hotel in Sligo town is pretty cool! Top left: view from my room & the swans, top right in the bar upstairs, under that is moi & the Glasshouse behind me. The groovy turquoise is in the lobby; the rest are of my room

1. Get Groovy in the Glasshouse Hotel!

Located right on the river in Sligo town, the Glasshouse has really fun decor, an award winning restaurant, and 2 bars. The rooms are in vibrant oranges or greens, and zingy colours are used throughout the modern building. I do see how an orange themed room could be a love-hate affair, but I’m firmly on the side of love!

I also enjoyed watching the numerous swans float along the river as I sat by my window. The wi-fi was strong, the slick telly had plenty of channels, and the bed was comfy. Happy days! No complaints at breakfast either, and I really enjoyed the fruit smoothie. The only slightly off thing was the little-bit-dim underground carpark– really handy, but creeped me out a wee bit. It’s probably just me being freaky, though!

I’d happily stay at the Glasshouse again, and in particular, their midweek Special Offer sounds good to me:

Midweek – 3 nights B&B and 1 Evening meal

Why not treat yourself to 3 Nights Bed & Breakfast and one Evening Meal in our Kitchen Restaurant on the night of your choice.
Min Stay: 3
From: €125 per person sharing

Having dinner at the Glasshouse would be nice, I believe, as Chef Alan Fitzmaurice seems on fire for good food. (I only had their So Sligo party tapas, but those made a dinner seem promising.) Sligo has plenty of tasty places to eat, so filling your tummy the other nights would be no problem!

Hargadon's traditional pub, Sligo Town, Ireland

Hargadon’s traditional pub is cozy, and even has a few snugs- you’d get your pint thru the wee opening as you conducted your ‘secret’ conversations. Try the Irish Stew, it’s ace!

2. Fill up with Fab Food!

In fact, Sligo has a whole festival based around food (which is why I was there,) and taking a look at what goes on will whet your appetite for Sligo and 2015’s So Sligo festival (which will incorporate Yeats Day-his 150th birthday!) Check out the Savory, and Sweet, tapas trails So Sligo ran! That’ll give you ideas for where you might want to eat.
Uh oh… looking at the listings again I realize I defo need to go eat more places in Sligo town… I’m totally dreaming of that Glasshouse Midweek Offer so I can check out the tasty places I missed. Writing this blog post is dangerous! 😀

Tip: Check out Osta cafe & wine bar, on the other side of the bridge from the Glasshouse. I sampled a few dishes and they were delish. (Osta stops serving at 7pm early week & 8pm later in the week, so just be mindful of that.) The whole area by Osta is rather lovely; sitting out having a glass of wine along the river would be quite romantic, and with the Glasshouse Hotel just across the way…

3. Suss Out Sligo Town!

Sligo Town collage, Yeats & more

Pub ‘Shoot The Crows’ was so called due to the gun shop across the street. To test a gun before buying, folk went outside & shot the crows hanging out on the pub roof!

Sligo town is an interesting place, and it’s not all due to Yeats. There’s the Dracula connection, modern film shoots, and lots more– the free guided tour will tell you all the best bits! When we did a truncated version the tour as we only had an hour free, but the tour is great like that– you can drop in & drop out as it suits you. The tour leaves Mon-Sat, 11am from in front of the Discover Ireland Tourist office, O’Connell St. The full tour’s 2 hours long, and believe me the time will fly by because you’ll be finding out so many interesting things.

The Model Arts Centre & Gallery is an grand place for all ages. As well as showing exciting contemporary art exhibitions, they also have Jack Yeats’ paintings, a myriad of events (not just ‘artsy;’ there’s a regular vintage flea market too!) and a cafe. The Model is a combination of an 1846 period building (built as a Model School,) and modern extensions. It is quite beautiful inside; light and airy. I certainly want to spend more time in here, and I bet many of you will too.

Right!– see you in Sligo, so! 😀

Check out my other posts on So Sligo Festival here and here.

AND, don’t miss another super Sligo festival- Tread Softly, on 27 July- 8 August 2014!

Dee of and Val of have also written about Sligo & So Sligo; have a read:

Ecotourism: 10 Fun Things You Can Do In Sligo – GreensideUp      Celebrating WB Yeats In Sligo – GreensideUp 

Só Sligo – so much fun (Part 2) – MagnumLady         Só Sligo – so much fun!!! – Part One – MagnumLady

Find out more about visiting Sligo &  driving the Wild Atlantic Way 

Transparency: I was kindly included on a 2 night So Sligo tour for bloggers, thanks to sponsorship by Connacht Gold butter. Of course, all my opinions are genuine as always, and certainly Connacht Gold didn’t influence me to eat more butter, because, c’mon, we all know how FAB Irish butter is, right? You can just have a look at my roundy frame & see I’ve been eating loads of Irish butter for YEARS. 😀 

Butter is good for you! Connacht Gold butter at breakfast Glasshouse Hotel Sligo town

Butter is good for you! Connacht Gold butter at breakfast, Glasshouse Hotel

Happily, butter is actually GOOD for you! OonaghEats has the scoop, and taste tasted some of the variations.

These phoinstagram-travel-linky-rulestos are almost all Instagram photos, and I’m sharing them as part of #IGTravelThursday. You can join in,too! See the rules to the left, and find out more on this post from Skimbaco.

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The leeks and spinach bubble away in the pan.

The leeks and spinach bubble away in the pan. Smells good!

Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek and Spinach Bake

Spinach is one of the power veg, but not everyone enjoys eating a plate of soggy spinach, myself (Terry) included. My Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek and Spinach Bake is all good and no gloop. It also adds another health-giving veg, leeks, into the mix, plus the healthy carbs of oats and the essential fatty acids of linseeds. It’s so tasty you’ll never even realize it’s actually good for you too– plus its easy to make & easy on the budget. It will please any vegetarians, but meat eaters won’t miss the meat either. It also goes well with pretty much any meat you’d like to serve on the side. Here is my recipe:

Casserole ingredients

4 leeks ; chopped into 1 inch rounds

¾ bag washed spinach

2 -3 cloves garlic

Veg stock

¼ cup milk

Dash olive oil

Teaspoon coconut oil


Topping Ingredients

1 Cup oat flakes

¼  cup milled linseed mix

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Let the oat topping for the leek and spinach bake run through your fingers.

Let the oat topping for the leek and spinach bake run through your fingers.

How to Make:

In large pan on a medium high heat, sauté the leek rounds in the olive oil & 1 teaspoon of coconut oil until the leeks are golden. Add salt & pepper & crushed garlic.

Toss in ½ of the bag of spinach; stir. The spinach will shrink; and after a few minutes add ¼ bag of spinach & stir.

Add ½ of the stock; let it render down and pick up the flavours.

After the stock reduces, add the rest of  your stock; lower heat & let thicken; this will take approximately 2 minutes.


In a bowl mix the oats, linseed mix, salt black pepper & 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.

Crumble with your hands & let the mix flow through them.


Remove leeks & spinach from pan & put in medium size oven casserole dish

Top generously with your oat mixture, and firm it down so the stock from the leeks & spinach rises into the bottom of the oat mix.

Bake in the centre of a 200c oven for 20 minutes until top is golden brown.


Finished Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek and Spinach Bake

Finished Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek and Spinach Bake

If you’d like the crust a bit more golden & crunchy, put under a medium grill for a couple of minutes—keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

I also like this Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek & Spinach Bake cold the next day.

— Terry


A day being in Ireland is a day well spent; especially if it’s Kilkenny Ireland!

There is so much to do and enjoy in Kilkenny, City and county.

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You’ll find plenty of ideas for things to see and do here, and I’ve made a bit of a Kilkenny map to help you. Also look at the wee video to get a taster of what life in the charming Kilkenny countryside is like. Thanks so much to Suzanna at Zwartbles Ireland sheep farm for letting me visit & film!

US food writer Joanna Pruess loved her day in Kilkenny & Zwartbles Ireland! sheep

US food writer Joanna Pruess loved her day in Kilkenny & Zwartbles Ireland sheep!

Kilkenny Ireland: a perfect mix of city & rural culture.

Campagne Kilkenny Ireland- Michelin star desserts!

Campagne Kilkenny Ireland- Michelin star desserts!


You will truly get the best of ‘both worlds’ here; for example you can experience exquisite tastes at (not one, but 2!) Michelin star restaurants, and explore the rural countryside where several of the food products used in these & other Kilkenny restaurants are farmed. I’ve not yet been to the Lady Helen, but I’ve been to Campagne for special occasions several times. We always go for their Early Bird dinner menu or set lunch menu, as they are good value if you haven’t got the biggest budget. My top tip is to save room for dessert! Seriously have not ever tasted better, so if you are like me & go for 2 courses skip the starter not the sweet 😀

The Ireland you’ve dreamed of

Often when folk visit Ireland they want to experience some of the wonderful ‘cliches’ of Ireland; amazingly green countryside, an ‘Ireland traffic jam’ of sheep herded down a windy road, other-worldly megalithic stone circles and ancient monastic ruins, hospitality & craic of a traditional village pub which also doubles as a hardware shop, a friendly cupán tae in a handmade crafts shop. `

You may think that this is a tall order; perhaps you haven’t loads of time, and figure that in order to experience all this you’ll have to do a several hour trek across Ireland to Kerry, Galway, or Donegal. But you don’t! In under an hour and a half’s journey from Dublin you can be in a very special part of Ireland, a place that everyone, including outdoor adventurers, culture lovers, foodies, fun seekers, and family travellers will enjoy. Welcome to Kilkenny!

Kilkenny Ireland sheep traffic jam

Kilkenny Ireland sheep traffic jam

A world- class friendly city: Kilkenny, Ireland

Kilkenny City was voted the 9th friendliest city in the world by Conde Naste readers in 2013. It’s a compact medieval city home to Ireland’s Medieval Mile; this includes Kilkenny Castle, St Canice’s Cathedral with one of only two Irish round towers you can still climb, Rothe House and much more. There’s nearly always a festival of some sort happening! You should definitely go to Kilkenny City. But what you should also do is explore the Kilkenny countryside.

It is easy to get to Kilkenny City from Dublin. You can take the train from Heuston station, several bus companies go, or you can rent a car and drive. To get to several of the fantastic places in the Kilkenny countryside you’ll need a car. I’m afraid that is true for all of Ireland; many of the gems are tucked away from public transport routes. So, do seriously think about renting a car. If you just can’t get a car, you can still get to some of the towns by bus. There are two routes: Kilkenny City to Thomastown and Inistioge, and Kilkenny City to Graiguenamanagh.

There really is something for everyone in the Kilkenny countryside! What do you want to experience?

You want ancient ruins?

Knockroe passage tomb is second only to those in the Boyne valley when it comes to Irish Neolithic stone carvings. Unusually, is aligned to both the rising and setting sun on Winter Solstice. If you are in the mood for an adventure, this side trip is perfect. Non sign-posted, you have to traipse across some fields to find this truly hidden gem. Finding the 12c Aghavillar monastic site along the way is easier and you can actually go up to the top of the building. Brooding and beautiful, there is a part of a round tower here as well.

Kells Priory Kilkenny Ireland sheep

Kells Priory Kilkenny Ireland sheep

Kells Priory is 1,000 years old. It is a large, walled set of ruins, and the tumbled-down parts are rather maze like. Kids love running around here, and in the field populated by sheep on the short walk to the ruins. Kells Priory is usually deserted, though on my last visit I met a man with his pet fox. This is not the only pet fox in rural Kilkenny! You may also see another man walking with one in Thomastown. With accompanying fox or not, it’s nice to take a nice little walk along the river behind the Priory, where you’ll find the restored Mullins Mill.

Jerpoint Abbey is stunningly elegant & beautiful, dating from the 1100s. Unlike Kells Priory, there is a small visitor centre run by the OPW. Be sure to look carefully around this Abbey, because it has many carvings along and in the stone walls that you may otherwise miss.  There are many more fascinating historic sites in the area- keep your eyes open and investigate!

Want to stroll, or take part in more active outdoor adventure?

In the charming village of Inistioge where the movie Circle of Friends was filmed, walk along the river Nore to ‘Eve’s’ hidden cottage, or stroll in the Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum. You can go kayaking, SUPing, and canoeing out on the river Barrow in Graiguenamanagh, and you can even arrange to take a half day barge trip from St. Mullins to Graiguenamanagh on Larry’s Barge.  If you’d like to get into the water, there are two diving boards (or steps for the less brave) into the river along the quays.


Rent the beautiful Larrys Barge in Ireland

Rent the beautiful Larrys Barge in Ireland

Rent bikes and cycle along the Barrow river towpaths with Bike & Hike Graiguenamanagh (great for families as it is quite flat) or get more challenging along the Trail Kilkenny East Kilkenny bike trail. Or how about a hike up Brandon Hill to look across five counties, or hike in the Blackstairs mountains.

You want tasty artisan Irish food?

There are several award winning artisan food producers in the area, ranging from Stoneyford’s Knockdrinna cheese to Thomastown’s  Goatsbridge trout & caviar to Truffle Fairy chocolates– and loads more. Many of Kilkenny’s restaurants pride themselves on using fresh local ingredients. There’s a whole Kilkenny Food Trail you can explore, too.

You want to experience an authentic traditional Irish pub?

Graiguenamanagh is home to a pub which is also a shop, a hardware store, and a fishing and shooting depot! If you’re lucky, you may hear trad music, or the church bells as you have a tasty pint. Doyle’s is just across the street from the 800 year old (still functioning) Duiske Abbey.

There’s a tiny pub in a farmhouse on the road from Thomastown to Graiguenamanagh, just at the Coppenagh crossroads, . You can glimpse the family watching telly in their sitting room as you sip your pint.

Inside of Doyles, Graiguenamanagh Kilkenny Ireland

Inside of Doyles pub,Graiguenamanagh Kilkenny Ireland. Photo by @GraigueBikeHire

Get your name written in your pint by the barman in Inistioge’s O’Donnell’s pub. Better than Starbucks!

You want Irish crafts?

There’s Cushendale traditional woolen mill in Graiguenamanagh, between Thomastown & Stoneyford you’ll find Jerpoint Glass glassblowers, and in Bennettsbridge there’s Moth to a Flame candle maker and Nicholas Mosse‘s lovely handcrafted pottery & cafe in a picturesque stone mill. Thomastown is a very crafty small town, with several makers and craft shops. Do have a stroll around. There’s even more elsewhere, all on the Kilkenny Craft Trail.

Call it getting off the beaten track, call it community-oriented tourism, or just call it a good idea- exploring rural Kilkenny Ireland will give you an authentic taste of Ireland in uncrowded, special places.

Prepare for that Irish weather!

Transitions well from rainy field nice restaurant! Makes life simpler! My Cotswold Outdoor triclimate jacket

Transitions well from rainy field nice restaurant! Makes life simpler! My Cotswold Outdoor triclimate jacket

One thing I’ve found invaluable when enjoying a day out in Kilkenny, is to be prepared for any weather, any time of year! Even if it is sunny when you start out, it could change and lash down rain for 20 minutes, or just produce a steady, misty drizzle for a few hours before the sun splits the sky again. Don’t underestimate the misty type rain– it will soak you to the skin in a few minutes! Always bring a suitable rain jacket- preferably one that won’t be too warm, or cold!

The joke about Ireland having 4 seasons in one day is TRUE! I’m finding that one of those rainproof jackets that also has a removeable fleece lining is perfect. I got a 3-season one from Cotswold Outdoor online, and I wear it everywhere! I even wore it  into our annual Christmas lunch at Michelin-starred Campagne– I think it looks that good 😀 Cotswold contacted me about testing out an item, and when I chose the 3-season coat I never expected it to look as nice as it does; I figured it would be really frumpy or kinda gaudy because it was functional; but this coat goes fine with most any outfit! You can see me in it in the video & photos; often even with a skirt or dress! Of course if I get it mucky visiting the Zwartbles Ireland lambs that’ll be born around Christmas, I won’t wear it to eat out until it gets a good clean– I’ll let you know how it washes up!  If you are interested in checking out the one I got, it’s also on Sale right now at Cotswold Outdoor; the Women’s Evolution 2 triclimate jacket.

Here’s the Google map with driving routes & some interest points and activities for your visit to Kilkenny.

In the map I have you starting from the area of Kilkenny Castle, heading to Kells. (The route is figure 8-ish, with a side jaunt to Knockroe passage tomb.) I’ve recommended the journey with that starting point because from that driving direction a lovely view of the Barrow valley rises up on your right hand side as you near Graiguenamanagh. There is a roadside pull-off where you can stop and savour the scene.

Have a great time! If you have any questions, tweet me @VibrantIreland. And watch out for those sheep on the road 😀

A version of the Kilkenny information was first was written by me for TBEXcon’s site ahead of their 2013 conference in Dublin.

Alan Foley of carlow's Step House is the McKennas Guides Chef of the Year 2014 Pic by Nick O'Keeffe

Alan Foley of Carlow’s Step House is the McKennas Guides Chef of the Year 2014 Pic by Nick O’Keeffe

Carlow is Tasty!

Taste of Carlow Food Festival is on Sunday 31 August 2014, and it is stuffed full of food, fun, and even family foraging!

There are SO many reasons to visit Carlow, it is full of tasty treasures! The Taste of Carlow is taking place along the river Barrow in Carlow Town from 12-6pm, and it promises to be an event for both foodies and families. I’ll be there, and hope you will, too. Follow the hashtag #TasteCarlow on Twitter & Instagram to see what will be happening on the day- plus I’m also arranging a Blogger’s Tour of Carlow, and we’ll be sharing photos & Carlow tips using #TasteCarlow. If YOU are in or have been to Carlow, do share your pics & Carlow tips using #TasteCarlow, too– let’s spread the word about what’s tasty & good in Carlow 🙂

Check out some of what’s on at Taste of Carlow:


Savour all that is wonderful about Carlow at Taste of Carlow, a dedicated craft and food fair on Sunday 31st August from  12 – 6 p.m. on the River Barrow Promenade, Barrow Track, Carlow Town.

Taste of Carlow - Sunday 31st August

Taste of Carlow – Sunday 31st August


This artisan food and craft fair, which is in its 4th year, will feature local craft and food producers. There will be food demonstrations by leading Carlow chefs, tasting menus, Bungee Trampoline, Kite Flying, face painting, water activities and musical/family entertainment!

Visitors to Taste of Carlow are invited to meet, learn from, taste and smell the produce of the many hospitality providers and artisan food producers whose passion and commitment is profiling Carlow as an up and coming food destination.

Artisan foods will include cheeses, juices, jams, chutneys, crepes, beverages, home baking, fresh meat, organic fruit and vegetables, organic home made burgers and chips, ice cream and mouth watering chocolates. Enjoy your lunch on the banks of the gentle River Barrow!

Cheese  making demonstrations will be delivered by Tom Burgess of Coolattin Cheddar, and the Carlow Bee Keepers Association will give an insight into the fascinating world of honey.

Fiona Dillon author of Food from an Irish garden, Dympna Maher, Healing Herbs and Alan Foley head chef of Step House, Borris will provide insights into the delights of good cooking and healthy foods.

Paul Stock from SMOQUE  Restaurant and Tapas will provide mouth watering Tapas Carlow Style. Imelda Byrne from the ICA Bootcamp will also be in attendance.

Carlow enjoys an abundance of original, hand made crafts including woodturning, pottery and jewellery. A Taste of Carlow is the perfect opportunity to meet local artists and craftspeople who have created a wealth of beautiful and collectible pieces in both traditional and contemporary designs. Featuring ceramics and knitwear, hand crafted enamels, art, jewellery, embroidery and hand made cards, the craft fair is guaranteed to appeal to anybody seeking a special gift or those who just want to browse and soak in the atmosphere of the riverside area.

For the younger among us there is lots of fun entertainment throughout the day, with face painting, musical entertainment & more. While here make sure and visit Carlow Town Park, immediately adjacent, a wonderful amenity for all the family which features a safe and secure children’s playground. Other activities for the little ones include a craft area, bouncy castle and  bungee trampoline.

River activities on the day will focus on demonstrations by Carlow Sub Aqua and Carlow Rowing Club and Civil Defence.

Carlow has so many quality craft makers and artisan food producers and restaurants. This event recognises the importance of this resource by bringing both buyers and sellers together in a dedicated one day event against the backdrop of the lovely River Barrow. Visitors to the fair will be guaranteed both excellent shopping and a very special atmosphere with a wide range of activities throughout the day.

Free Admission and ample free car parking available

For more information telephone 059-9136204 or visit


Seaweeds in a strainer & Guide to Edible Seaweeds by Prannie Rhatigan

Seriously, this stuff is fantastic!

Pepper dulse is like a delicious seaweed garlic. You can nibble it straight from your seaweed foraging as a snack! Also, Terry’s created a tasty recipe for you.

dog reads Irish Seaweed Kitchen cookbook

Petal considers reading Irish Seaweed Kitchen recipes

Inspired by So Sligo Festival and the beautiful book Irish Seaweed Kitchen by Prannie Rhatigan, on the sunny Summer Solstice Terry & I drove to the seaside in Wexford to forage seaweed.

As well as seaweed, we got seaside photos from both Wexford & Sligo for you to enjoy, even if you remain unconvinced about the seaweed 😉

Summer Solstice was a stunner of a day, hardly a cloud in Ireland’s skies. To tell the truth, this foraging seaweed lark was a bit of an adventure for us– we’d never even tried cooking with seaweed, much less hunting for it!

Doing so was all down to Prannie’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and tasty samples during the seaweed excursion she led at So Sligo. She had passed her excitement on to me, so I got her book, showed it to Terry, and he got the seaweed bug as well.

If YOU are curious about seaweeds, and fancy a special weekend on the Wild Atlantic Way in Sligo, I’ve cool trip info to pass on to you in a minute.

blue sky & beach grasses  co Wexford Ireland

Blue sky & beach grasses, Summer Solstice. co Wexford, Ireland

Sea Spaghetti and Pepper Dulse (the garlic seaweed) were top of our seaweed foraging list. Both are tasty nibbled straight from the sea, the sea spaghetti nutty/salty/crunchy; its long strands fun to eat. I was armed to hunt with my laminated font of knowledge: Prannie’s identification Guide To Edible Seaweeds, a handy beachside companion to the Irish Seaweed Kitchen.

Forage for seaweed at low tide, as many interesting varieties are to be found at the farthest receding of the sea. Always be aware of when the tide will turn, aware of your surroundings, and go with a friend. Never forage alone with your back to the sea; freak waves are not unknown, so always have someone with you facing out towards the sea. Don’t go too far out that you can’t easily get back in– tides can come in quickly! Find out the quirks of the area you are foraging.

You can get phone apps that track the tides, and have a look around online (and talk to locals!) for tide times & local sea / beach information before you go.


The ‘spring tides’ are ace times to forage for seaweed; the sea goes out farthest then.

Never pick the whole plant of any seaweed. A good general rule is to only snip off the top third. This ensures it can continue to grow sustainably.

Only take what you’ll use. Legally, removing things from the seaside in Ireland is prohibited.

Many seaweeds need gentle handling. They can become unrooted by human clumsiness & tugs.

Avoid places where you can see lots of bright green seaweed & seepage/runoff from land, as there could be pollution here. Same for marinas & ports.

Don’t forget your plastic bag to carry your seaweeds, and boots or a towel to dry you bare feet. (Yes, when we went the water was warm enough for a very enjoyable wade!)

Pepper Dulse & other seaweeds

Pepper Dulse is the golden one here. The strands are Sea Spaghetti, and the discs are the beginnings of Sea Spaghetti

In the crevices of rocks at Baginbun, Wexford we found our gold– the Pepper Dulse! When it is not growing at the lowest reaches of the shore it is quite tiny, so you must be careful to only snip off the tips of this flavoursome seaweed. The easiest way to harvest most any seaweed is just go armed with scissors & snip, but with these tiny Pepper Dulse I found fingertips easiest– next time I’ll also bring quite small scissors.

Our seaweed harvest had a pleasing variety, but we only found a tiny bit of sea spaghetti. Terry could see some more farther out; maybe we’ll look up the date of the next Spring Tide & try again then.

I really want to find some because in the Irish Seaweed Kitchen there’s a yummy recipe for Sea Spaghetti & Cheese Straws. I sampled them on the So Sligo seaweed walk. Apparently kids love ’em, but any kids around that day missed out cuz us (supposed) adults gobbled the straws all up!

Irish Seaweed Kitchen cookbookby Prannie Rhatigan

Irish Seaweed Kitchen cookbook by Prannie Rhatigan. Beautiful to look at, tempting to read, and a helpful bookmark too!

Prannie Rhatigan’s cookbook is fantastic, and the descriptions & photos will make you want to try some recipes. These are of a great variety, and plenty that aren’t seaweed based; you won’t feel like you’ve a mouthful of ocean 😉 The thing about seaweeds is that they have so many healthful nutrients, so adding just a touch here in there can be beneficial.

Terry loves to use cookbooks as a jumping-off point to create something himself. What he did with the garlic-y Pepper Dillisk was to bring it into a summery bean salad:

Easy Seaside Summer Bean Salad

tin of sweetcorn, drained
tin of chickpeas, drained
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot
hot sauce, to taste (Terry likes Franks Original Hot sauce for this recipe)
juice of 1/2 lime
tablespoon or more of shredded Pepper Dulse, to taste
chopped/ snipped sea spaghetti (we had about  2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon of Shoyu sauce, OR 1 teaspoon of dark soya sauce
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
black pepper, to taste

Peel your carrot, using the peeler to make wide ribbons of carrot. Chop them roughly. Into a good sized bowl add all of your ingredients, stirring well to mix them up. Let it settle and serve. A tasty source of protein as well as part of your 5-a-day veg, with the bonus of seaweed nutrients!

It’s delish, do try it! I even shared it on Twitter’s #SundayCookoff. It got a good response from the Cookoff Chef 

Another interesting thing you can do with Pepper Dulse is to dry it in the sun & then grind it up to use as a seasoning, like pepper. This was a traditional way of using it. I’m curious as to whether it will lose some of its garlic flavour when dried. I will try this and let you know!

If you’ve been tempted to learn more about foraging and cooking with seaweeds with Prannie Rhatigan and you’d like to enjoy a fantastic weekend on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way in county Sligo, this weekend break may fit the bill!

Sligo Seaweed Days 30th and 31st July, 2014

Day 1:  You will enjoy brunch at Lang’s Bar before joining us on a seaweed identification walk on Streedagh beach. A dolphin spotting trip around Sligo/Donegal Bay will be followed by an aperitif and dinner at Eithna’s By the Sea.

Day 2:  You will begin with a visit to Creevykeel court cairn with local archaeologist. Then a cookery demo and hands on workshop with Prannie rounded off with a leisurely lunch at Eithna’s.

Full details and to book, here.

Prannie Rhatigan is a medical doctor with a lifetime experience of harvesting, cooking and gardening organically with sea vegetables. Born and raised in the North West of Ireland where she still lives, she has a lifelong interest in the connections between food and health. Hailed as “Ireland’s leading seaweed expert” in Food and Wine in June 2012  she has represented Ireland’s finest food abroad on many occasions and has given workshops and lectures on sea vegetables and cooking. Amongst other awards, in May 2012 she was awarded Special Acknowledgement for her Outstanding Contribution to Irish Food by Euro-Toques 2012.

I ate at Eithna’s By the Sea as part of my So Sligo visit, and certainly recommend it. De-lish! Amazingly fresh seafood and a charming, lovingly run restaurant. The harbour setting is lovely, too. I’ll tell you more about Eithna’s & how you can do some beach horseriding in the area in an upcoming post.

You can also learn plenty from Prannie’s the Guide to Edible Seaweeds, too. Each seaweed even has a QR code you can scan to watch a video with more information! You can purchase it, and/or the cookbook, from the Irish Seaweed Kitchen website, in bookshops or on Amazon.

When I was having a look around online to see if many other folk found Pepper Dulse garlic-y, I found this on Wikipedia:

Sligo beach

Sligo is special!  This is the beach where we seaweed walked with Prannie

“Osmundea pinnatifida is a species of red alga known by the common name Pepper Dulse.

It is a small seaweed widely found with the tidal zone of moderately sheltered rocky shores around Britain and Europe. Although technically a red seaweed, it can show a wide range of colouring from yellow-buff to a red so dark as to be almost black. Reference is made to its being harvested and dried in Scotland and in the Channel Islands for use as a curry-flavoured spice.”

Curry flavoured? Interesting! I’d love to hear what you all think Pepper Dulse tastes like! If you’ve had Pepper Dulse, let us know–what did it taste like to you? Or if you’ve had another unusual tasting seaweed, have a great recipe or other tip, let us know, too! I’d love for you to share. Leave your comment below, or tweet me at @VibrantIreland or tell me over on the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page.

Enjoy the Irish Seaweeds 😀

Crescent moon over the lovely Belfast City Hall

Crescent moon over the lovely Belfast City Hall

Belfast is brilliant! Yup, the vibe is excellent!

When we went for a Belfast weekend break, we had no idea that it was such a fabulous, friendly, foodie, artsy city. Here are 3 videos & 3 reasons you’ll love it:

1. The People and Atmosphere.

Wow! Everyone was so friendly. The city was clean and buzzing with fun & positivity. We didn’t expect to love Belfast so much, but we did. We feel it combines the warmth of Dublin (friendly, funny people) with the exciting vibe of London (lots of new, trendy places & arts, especially in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.)


2. The Culture & Food

So much culture happens in Belfast! The weekend we visited there were 2 festivals on as well as the play in Lyric theatre. Plus, exhibits in the art and craft galleries, all sorts of gigs in pubs, and of course the myriad of fantastic places to eat as well the delish food in St George’s Market. In the Market our Belfast Food Tour guide Caroline tempted us with the sinfully good and uniquely Belfast treat called a ’15’–OMG yum! ( Don’t worry, I’ll reveal more in upcoming Belfast posts. Well, maybe I won’t reveal the calories in a 15!)


3. The Amazing Surroundings

From buildings old to buildings new, there is plenty of beautiful and exciting architecture to be seen. Belfast is also a waterfront city, and if you take a short drive, rolling green countryside and sandy beaches are there for you to explore. The Giant’s Causeway is also just an hour away!

I think you’ll love having a holiday in Belfast. And of course, from Dublin, Belfast is less than 2hrs drive, or by train just 2hrs 20min– handy for a day trip. But I think once you visit you’ll be like us and want a longer Belfast vacation too. Perhaps we’ll see you there! 😀 If you’d like to see what we got up to on our trip to Belfast, this link brings you to all the places we went, and below are a series of videos. PS: LIAM NEESON ALERT! *swoon* 

This is a 2-minute video of our visit, I hope you enjoy it 🙂

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Susan%20&%20Terry%20Discover%20the%20City%20Vibe%20-%20Belfast”]

Before I show you the other 2 videos, here’s the So You Know: I had been hoping to go check out Belfast  in 2014, and when I got a chance to do so via NI Tourism I jumped at the chance. Terry & I were guests of  AVB Group/NITB, agreeing for the visit to be filmed in these videos & TV ads, but everything we said is unscripted and what we really thought. We had a fab time, and plan to return as soon as we can. It will be nice to go back without a video crew so I don’t have to eat on camera! Trying to eat salad gracefully & without green bits on your teeth is hard! I suppose that’s why that part got cut 😉  Good thing Liam Neeson was only narrating & not actually there!

This one is our 30 second ad for (Belfast) Northern Ireland:

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Discover%20the%20City%20Vibe%20with%20Susan%20and%20Terry-%20TV%20Advert%20Belfast”]

And this last one is a 1 minute ad (showing in ROI) we & others are in, about some of the People & Places of Northern Ireland:

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Discover%20the%20Drama,%20Discover%20the%20City%20Vibe,%20Discover%20the%20Legend…Discover%20Northern%20Ireland”]