Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sunday in Clonegal

It is funny how you can have amazing places close to home and not even realise... it wasn't until I went to one of the #SMEcommunity meetings in Clonegal earlier this year that I discovered Huntington Castle. I had heard of the 'new age' witch living there but I hadn't realised you could go in to the castle or that there were tours to see the place. 
So taking the opportunity that the in-laws were visiting this weekend we went up to Clonegal (it is only about 25 min drive from Gorey) to spend our Sunday. Apart from the castle, Clonegal has another great 'attraction', restaurant Sha-Roe Bistro which is a lovely low key place with stunning top quality nosh!
The plan was to have a treat Sunday lunch at Sha-Roe and then head next door to the castle to check out the gardens (the last time I was there it was so wet I didn't get to see them) and have a tour of the place. The plan didn't disappoint, we hadn't been to Sha-Roe in a good while (why?? I don't know!) but it was as good or even better than I remembered. I had a smoked salmon terrine with haddock fishcake for starters and an absolutely superb courgette and cucumber risotto with scallops. I'm generally not a fan of risotto but this was no ordinary risotto, it was just amazingly tangy and tasty and everything you would need for a tasty Sunday treat! for dessert I had the classic lemon tart with raspberry sorbet which was sweet, refreshing and amazing. We must go more often! 
It was fun to have another tour of Huntington Castle because I got a different guide this time (I presume they are brothers) and we got different anecdotes from the castle's inhabitants and eccentric family residents. The castle was built in 1625 on the site of a 14th century abbey. It was built over a water well which still can be seen down in the basement, where the cult to the Goddess Isis has its 'Vatican' - as the guide said.

It is refreshing to go to a site that has been in the hands of the same family for centuries and see how the place has evolved, without artificial 'additives' solely for tourist consumption. It is a family house that happens to be a castle and have a very very colourful history! now they have opened tea rooms and they also have a resident artist studio, as well as a few crafts on sale.

For such a small place, Clonegal, gives you a good mix of things to do on a Sunday. Oh, and if you fancy walking, the Wicklow Way has its finishing spot here too!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Irish heritage and history in your pocket

My friend and archaeologist Neil Jackman has just launched this amazing project called Abarta Audio Guides. Neil and a group of friends with many different talents from music to acting have produced and launched these fantastic audio guides to 8 of Ireland's most high profile sites and events (Glendalough, 1916 Rising in Dublin, Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny Castle...).

The guides last up to 50 minutes in duration and they offer an interpretation of the sites and events with anecdotes and stories about these heritage sites. The greatest part? you can download it at home and take it with you, no need for queues or renting equipment at the sites. The Abarta team idea is to roll out to more sites in the coming months and develop apps with videos and other exciting things...

Since archaeology jobs are very scarce in Ireland these days, it is great to see the archaeologists still in Ireland come up with ideas to reinvent their talents. He has been working hard on this project for the past few years and I hope they do really really well. It is a fantastic idea and a handy way of taking Ireland's heritage and history in your pocket!

Go on! Check out the Abarta audio guides! you know you want to!