Here is a great piece written by Olivia Duff (our chairperson) on the recent BVFS visit to the Burren.
Sunday morning April 3rd the bus departed from the heritage town of Kells, the place synonymous with the famous manuscript in the heart of the Boyne Valley
This was a journey which was to bring the Boyne Valley on tour to another significant landscape on the West coast of Ireland, the Burren, the common dominator on this occasion being food tourism
Fourteen representatives from potato growers, to restauranteurs, millers to hoteliers travelled to Lisdoonvarna and beyond for two days of networking in the region which won the European Destination for Excellence in Gastronomy for 2015 as well as being reigning Foodie Towns Champions of Ireland. The visit began at the Burren Smokehouse, where host Brigitta Curtin, a formidable force of the current Irish food revolution welcomed the group to this wonderful venue which represents a great success story not only in commercial terms but also for its principles of sustainability. Alongside her husband Peter of the infamous Roadside tavern and Micro brewery stories were racounted and the group were guided around the impressive ‘Storehouse’, a brand new food event venue which will only strengthen the Burren’s brand as a food destination of excellence
Onto Sheedy’s hotel, Martina Sheedy, lady of the house, welcomed the group for overnight stay. Several members of the Burren Food Trail joined the Boyne Valley group for a dinner which oozed provenance of the region. Shelly’s represents the best of family run business in ireland as John, Martina’s husband cooked a wonderful menu which was enjoyed by the array of foodies in the room. Introductions were made, business ideas were exchanged, stories were told, it was obvious that this trip was going to achieve a lot. Tina O’Dwyer from Burren Eco Tourism presented the journey of the Burren Food Trail in a way that was honest & passionate, an inspiration to all. And so…..after formalities were served, the group experienced the very best of what is Irish at the Kifenora Ceile in Vaughans Ceile Barn. Known best as the location for ‘Fr.Ted’, a more perfect location for further networking with more of the Burren Food Trail members could not have been found
Thanks to Martina Sheedy’s amazing hospitality skills, the group managed to depart early for St.Tola Cheese in Enistymon. Siobhan Ni Ghairbith, a true champion of Irish food culture welcomed the group and alongside her Cheese Producer Brian Mc Entee who originally came from Kells, the group enjoyed a tour of the goat shed and listened to the inspirational story of St Tola, its principles of sustainability and its success on the international stage. A quick stop followed at the Burren Perfumery. What was meant to be only a whistle stop en route to a main activity turned into a highlight of the trip. As you meander through this rugged landscape, through cork screw bends, nothing could prepare you for the wonderful surprise that is this beautiful haven of aroma’s, herbs and tranquil surroundings of the Burren Perfumery, shopping bags were filled quite rapidly!
After more warm hospitality from Fiona, we quickly made our way to Corcomroe Abbey where we met George Quinn and Deborah Evers of the Burren Garden Kitchen to enjoy a Heritage Walk of the Abbey followed by again another inspiring visit to Celtic Salads. Who ever knew that a Salad leaf undressed, direct from the field could taste so good! Brothers Donnacha and Colm allowed us to take part in the process that their magical produce takes from field to….well on this occasion it was onto the bus destined back to the Boyne with bags of fabulous fresh foliage from the duo.
Finally, we joined George and his lovely wife Madeline at their family run hotel in Ballyvaughan for another amazing taste of the Burren. Hylands Hotel pulses authenticity and everyone agreed that it was hands down the very best ‘Fish and Chips’ tasted, devine. Not happy with rolling home, we had to stop at Linnalla Ice Cream to Robert and Brid Fahy, for one last taste of the amazing Burren, what a sweet taste it was!
There is so much in common between the Burren and the Boyne Valley, unique landscapes, both regions span over two counties, both can boast Gaeltacht and both have a commitment to great food experiences.
There is also the wonderful story of the Winterage. To this day, the Bruton family of Meath represent one of the largest landowners in the Burren and the cattle arrive each year around Halloween from the pastures of the Boyne to be nurtured in the unique landscape of the Burren over the winter months. This tradition has spanned over centuries and maybe it is time to relive the story….
(Sincere thanks to all of the Burren Eco Tourism Network and the Burren Food Trail for the incredible hospitality, time and warmth shown to us. We returned home inspired and really hope that this may be the beginning of a link between our regions. We look forward to hosting you for the return leg in the Autumn,)