Christopher Moriarty continues his exploration of East Cork.
The piece of Cork that lies between Ballymaloe and Youghal contains some of most exciting spots, both ancient and modern, that can be found within a short trip through Irish countryside. Gentle country, with a rolling landscape of green fields and hedges, it has a long border of coastline with romantic islands at each end. A day trip will give you feel of it, but half-days spent here and there would make it easy to pass a very pleasurable week in region.
Our trip from fabulous Ballymaloe House begins in very remarkable seaside village of Shanagarry. Its great claim to historical fame is that surrounding lands were granted by King Charles II to Admiral Penn and managed by his son William in years before he established his Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania. Traces of Penn’s castle remain – but modern Shanagarry has a great deal more to it than that.
Follow signposts to Ballymaloe Cookery School, where you would be wise to yield to temptation of booking in for a half-day course or something very much longer. If you have less time than that, don’t pass without making a tour of shop, gardens and the farm. Most of garden has been created, or rescued after a period of neglect, within past twenty years. Part of it is for pleasure, part for fruit and veg, but even culinary side has been developed as a thing of beauty. And farm stock includes rare breeds such as a herd of beautiful black Kerry cows.
Back on main street of village, a white-painted building that stands beside castle is home of Shanagarry Design Center, another emporium offering very best of Irish craftwork, together with some fine imported goods and a very friendly café. It is owned by Kilkenny Design, organisation that was set up fifty years ago in stable yard of Kilkenny Castle and brought about a revolution in variety and quality of Irish crafts.