As autumn draws in, October is the month when the nip in the air starts to make itself felt. When bogs, heaths and hedgerows are turning golden, bronze and amber in autumn sun. Days become noticeably shorter until the clocks go back at the end of this month. But it’s also a time of year when Ireland comes to life in terms of events and happenings. When the beach living of summer is long past, but towns and cities come alive with festival mania! Outdoor pursuits become long walks in the country or woods, taking in the sights and sound of the season. If you have been wily enough to save a few days holiday so you can grab a short break you’ll find some great places to visit and events to attend this month.
The Rebel city bustles and bursts with life this time of year! Cork’s famous Folk Festival gets underway from 1st to 4th of October, bringing a wealth of folk and trad sounds to the pubs, bars and music venues. Here is the weekend to find famous faces of the music world browsing Cork’s cafe culture before rolling out a live gig in the evening. Kicking off the Folk festival shenanigans, On the Pig’s Back Cafe is hosting a great Set Dancing Class with Timmy the Britt, on 30th September, as a warm up to the festival long weekend.
While you’re in Cork, sights worth seeing are the Shandon steeple topped with it’s golden fish, St Finbarr’s Cathedral, and the Cork Butter Museum, which tells the story of butter in Ireland. Linehan’s sweet shop still makes boiled sugar sweets by hand the old fashioned way – and has been giving the children of Cork city their bag of sweets of choice from the small shop counter just inside the door. This is a shop from times gone by, and when it is gone, the traditions and skills of making boiled sweets the time honoured non mechanised way will be lost with it. So grab the chance to see it while you can.
For bigger names in retail, check out the shops and department stores on St. Patrick Street, or ‘Pana’ as it’s affectionately known by locals. The small boutiques and pavement cafes of side streets like French Church Street beckon. The Crawford Gallery is a place to find a fine art collection to browse, and the Crawford Gallery Cafe, where you can refresh the cultured soul with morning coffee and home baked treats, lunch or afternoon tea. In Princes Street Clare Nash’s Nash 19 serves a great menu of local produce sourced at the English Market just across the road. The market holds several Good Food Ireland members, as well as a vast array of other food stalls well worth a browse. This food Mecca indoor market has been feeding the people of Cork for years, and is a must see for all visitors. After a morning’s browsing and shopping, don’t miss a fantastic market lunch at Farmgate Cafe upstairs in the English Market.
Take a walk across famous Patrick’s Bridge to cross the River Lee to the north side of the city, where little traditional Cork heritage pubs like the Sine concentrate on old fashioned ‘northsider’ hospitality and some cracking live music gigs and impromptu ‘jam’ sessions. Along the North Mall, Franciscan Well is a pub with it’s own microbrewery – where the home brewed beers and ales comes from the tanks, down the pipes and into your glass! The Everyman Theatre is a listed building on MacCurtain Street, featuring late Victorian architecture and the grand surrounds of it’s era. It’s an intimate theatre of 650 seats, with a packed progamme which includes plays, music events, comedy and dance from some of the finest artists and performance companies at home and abroad.
MEATH AND LOUTH
Less than an hour’s drive from Dublin. counties Meath and Louth are bordered by the coast of the Irish Sea. Meath is in the heart of the Boyne Valley, where early settlers since the Ice Age made their homes on the fertile soil near the River Boyne. Newgrange Passage Tomb is over 5000 years old, a ‘must visit’ World Heritage site. Here, Winter Solstice is celebrated as the sun rises at dawn on the shortest day of the year, 21st December, and the single shaft of light enters a small opening above the tomb entrance. From here the tomb chamber is bathed in natural light, brightening for the briefest of time this black cavernous space. Tickets to Winter Solstice tours are allocated by lottery. But you can enjoy a simulated version of this magnificent annual event every day of the week. Tours must be booked through the Newgrange Visitor Centre. While you are in this county, also include a visit to the Irish Military War Museum in Collon, Co. Meath. A place of record of the history of World Wars I and II, with exhibitions, talks and workshops among the facilities on offer.
A visit to Meath is made all the more enjoyable with a stay at majestic Tankardstown House, a historic country house in its own private estate. Enjoy the gracious living and superlative cooking of Head Chef Robbie Krawczyk at Brabazon Restaurant in the house.
Motoring along to Louth, the beautiful coastal area of Clogherhead is said to be the place where Ireland began. Geologists have analysed rock formations in this region, which show signs of being part of a huge tectonic plate shift as continents collided 500 million years ago. From this point, it is believed Ireland was created, as the land mass of this island separated 20 million years later. This area is known as the Kingdom of Oriel. The Irish Sea at Clogherhead is rich in salt and minerals, now harvested by Oriel Irish Sea Salt, based at the small harbour. It’s worth a walk around the pier at Clogherhead, to see the friendly seals who hang around in the hope of blagging the odd free meal as small boat fisherman sort their catches. Afterwards, visit the fresh fish shop and grab a bowl of hot freshly made fish chowder, before walking up the headland to see magnificent views.
Also in this region, Tara Walker’s East Coast Cookery School focusses on fresh fish and other produce of this region. For the first time this year, Tara is hosting a Mushroom Hunt and Lunch at her home based cookery school on 10th October.
There’s never an excuse needed to visit Galway! The region is is beautiful and untamed, the city vibrant and hip. Galway city is a place where you can take in history, culture, music, arts and food. A place to soak up street performance while sipping on a Guinness or a coffee at one of the many pavement cafes and pub terraces. Also renowned for good food, and boasting two Michelin starred restaurants, including Aniar, as well as award winning casual dining at Ard Bia, great pub grub at the King’s Head, local food at The Chop House, and bistro style dining at Maxwell’s. While you’re in Galway this time of year, make sure to enjoy some of the famous native oysters which come from this area. Accommodation at Heron’s Rest Boutique on the Claddagh in Galway city is a unique experience, where Arthur the heron may pay a visit, and Sorcha Molloy will definitely rise to the occasion with breakast cooked to order as you sit and chat round the big kitchen table. This month, Galway sees the launch of the first Food on the Edge food conference and gathering of amazing speakers, including international and world famous chefs.
Venture out into Co. Galway to visit the magnificent coastal area of the bay, and walk the famous Flaggy Shore of poet Seamus Heaney. Further afield, the mountaineous region of Connemara is not to be missed. The Connemara National Park boasts 2957 hectares of mountains, bogs, grasslands and woodlands, home to all sorts of flora and fauna.You may find Connemara wild ponies, red deer, majestic birds of prey like Merlin, Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and Peregrine Falcons. Hear the calls of the Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, the Skylark, Chaffinch and Robin, to name a few of the smaller birds found here. In the cover of woodlands, you may see rabbits, foxes, stoats and even pine martens.At dusk there may be a free flying display from bats! Rare plants and flowers are also found in this national park, one of the most beautiful and areas of Ireland.