Ireland took my heart hostage – that’s obvious by now! It’s scarred history and its wild beauty were perhaps the two obvious reasons to fall for its charms. But for me there was an unexpected (and delicious bonus), and that was the food. I didn’t go to Ireland for the food – but if I had, I would not have been disappointed.
I’d come from balmy afternoons eating wonderful food in France, both in my friends’ home, and in quirky street cafés, and then from the delights of London’s Borough Market, and the delicious Eating London Tour, so I was kind of sated. Plus, when I scanned the schedule for Fáilte Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way tour, packed with glimpses into history, the environment, and sports and leisure activities, I presumed that food would be fast fuel to propel us to the next stop – I couldn’t have been more wrong!
I suppose my awakening had begun in Cork, with the outstanding Boardwalk Bar and Grill, and the sumptuous breakfast at the Montenotte Hotel; and continued in Cork’s iconic English Market, where homemade pastries jostle with Mediterranean olives and Irish pies, and the café and bar on the mezzanine level give “a quick lunch” a whole other meaning.
To go from Dublin to Sligo, as we did initially on this trip, is to traverse the country from east to west, with photo op stops that’s three or four hours or so, so refuelling was necessary. The stop we made for refreshment en route should have been my first clue. At the Mullingar Park Hotel in Westmeath, despite our tardiness (the beginning of this feature of our journey already!) a welcome afternoon tea awaited us. Even though most of us had missed lunch there was going to be no way we could do justice to the mounds of fresh sandwiches and cakes we were offered.