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sligo

Green

Seaweed – a new kind of edible or a centuries old secret?

July 4, 2014

Once I’d picked myself up off the floor having opened the invitation and itinerary to attend the SoSligo Food and Cultural Festival in June, the trip we were being taken on that really jumped out of the page was seaweed foraging with Prannie Rhatigan.

Seaweed - a new kind of edible or a centuries old secret?

Sea or Mountain Woman?

I was born and reared within earshot of the sea and now living on top of a hill, almost an hour’s drive away from the coast, the deep yearning for sea air never goes away. I moved away from the seaside as a young child and my teenage years were spent close by to the salty marshes of Maldon, in North Essex, famed for its Sea Salt. I have no recollection of seaweed. Wistful memories tend to be of swimming every day with friends in the creeks, laying in bed listening to the bells ringing on stormy nights as they swayed violently on the tips of masts on yachts moored close by. Depending upon the wind direction, the sound of hammers and drills could often be heard echoing around the village as men worked in the boatyard on barnacle encrusted barges that sat resting, out-of-place high in the air on cradles, paint peeling from their hulls. The sounds were mirrored by the screech of the seagulls as they fought for morsels of food thrown from small fishing boats that lazily bobbed by.

But seaweed? I’m guessing there must have been some lying around the muddy marshes but it certainly wasn’t something we ate.

Edible Seaweed

Seaweed - a new kind of edible or a centuries old secret?It came as a bit of surprise last year when I attended a fascinating talk about seaweed by Sally McKenna, author of Edible Greens, followed by a Japanese cookery demonstration by Fiona Uyema, that not only is seaweed edible, those in the know have eaten it for centuries and it’s packed full of properties that are tremendously good for us.

Prannie Rhatigan

Prannie Rhatigan

Prannie Rhatigan was reared by the sea too but unlike me, she grew up learning its secrets. She describes in the introduction of her wonderful book, Irish Seaweed Kitchen how, as a child, she would help her father harvest the glistening seaweed on the edge of the Atlantic ocean throughout the various seaweed seasons. These days, as well as practising as a medical doctor, Prannie is sharing her knowledge and having stood spellbound in welly boots on the slippery rocks, surrounded by an abundant carpet of free and now I know, almost completely edible carpet of seaweed, I can safely tell you she really knows her stuff.

Prannie is not only passionate about seaweed in its raw and cooked forms, she’s also convinced of its health benefits and although her medical training dictates that she works from an evidence base, she can see that evidence building. She’s looking forward to seeing the day when seaweeds have mainstream preventative and therapeutic roles as anti-inflammatories, anti-cancer and antivirals among other things.

Seaweed - a new kind of edible or a centuries old secret?As we carefully wove our way around the slippery Sligo rocks, Prannie introduced us to the magnificent gifts from the sea that lay strewn around us, ensuring that we understood how to harvest seaweed responsibly, explaining that it wasn’t to be pulled out by its roots or from its mother plant, but snipped carefully and sustainably.

 

Seaweed - a new kind of edible or a centuries old secret?The waterproof Companion Guide to Edible Seaweeds that’s recently been launched to accompany The Seaweed Kitchen has an illustration showing exactly where to cut each variety of seaweed with scissors, an invaluable guide to anyone new to seaweed foraging.

Seaweed might be free, but taking anything from the seashore in Ireland should be done so respectfully and sustainably and Prannie was keen to point that out (see here for the Irish legislation about seaweed harvesting).

Seaweed - a new kind of edible or a centuries old secret?

Sea spaghetti growing out from it’s parent plant

I could spend pages extolling the virtues of this cook book and guide with a difference, from its thoughtful bookmark that gives quick tips on preparing seaweed to the tried and tested recipes that include starters, canapés and deserts, compiled from local people’s favourite gems, or the thoughtful illustrations and photographs. The book and guide haven’t left my bedside since I arrived home as I’ve loved every moment dipping in and out of them, bringing me back to the seashore every time I do so.

Seaweed - a new kind of edible or a centuries old secret?During the foraging trip Prannie introduced us to her power packed green smoothie, sea spaghetti and cheese straws, as well as bladderwrack soaked in brandy. Who needs olives when you live by the sea…

You might wonder why someone who lives inland is so excited about a seaweed cookbook and the chances of foraging will be rare? Thankfully there are people who’ve created a business with folk like us in mind, selling little bags of dried seaweed that we can buy from specialist shops and online stores, re-hydrating them when we’d like. I now have a bag of sea spaghetti waiting to be turned into a salad dish I spotted in Prannie’s book, once I harvest my own cosmic purple carrots.

Seaweed - a new kind of edible or a centuries old secret?

Bladderwrack & raspberries in elderflower fizz

If you’re interested in learning more about seaweed, there are several opportunities for you to forage along the clean waters of the Wild Atlantic Way. Prannie herself will be hosting a rather special sounding two-day course in the summer that would be a wonderful treat for someone special (treat yourself perhaps) or there are several other foragers dotted along the coastline. Failing that, buy the companion guide or a seaweed foraging book and see what you can find for yourself.

If you’d like to learn more about our seaweed walk, Irish TV accompanied us on our Sligo tour and you can view the episode below (usually found on Sky Channel 191). Susan from the Vibrant Ireland blog has also covered the foraging trip in a post here and has included a garlicy seaweed recipe conjured up by her husband Terry.

Have you discovered the hidden qualities of seaweed yet? Are you tempted?

 

Lifestyle, Travel

10 Fun Eco Friendly Things To Do In Sligo

June 16, 2014

Sligo Beach & Mountains

We’ve lived here for 15 years but had never made it as far north as Sligo, a county in the north-west of Ireland that’s doing it’s best to tick the boxes and encourage a more sustainable approach to tourism. However, having now seen the beautiful coastline, the striking mountain range and the passion of the people who are proud to live in this historic county, it won’t be the last time.

Vegetable Soup & Connacht GoldCounty Sligo, (home of Connacht Gold, a company that has over 1,000 diary farmers supplying them with milk), and just one of several counties marked on the Wild Atlantic Way, offers lots of activities that cater for all ages, abilities and budgets with a more eco conscious ethos.

Whether you’re looking for some adventure or quieter meals and walks there are lots in Sligo to keep you occupied.

10 Fun Things To Do in Sligo

1. Sea Trails

Auriel Robinson of Seatrails

Auriel Robinson of Seatrails

Auriel Robinson, a qualified maritime archaeologist, is a font of local, historical, maritime knowledge which she’ll happily share with you in various ways. From prehistoric walks to more rugged treks, you’ll find yourself swept away and more interested in Irish history than you might possibly have imagined. Auriel accompanied us on the horseriding trip, sharing tales of three ships from the Spanish Armada that were wrecked on Streedagh Beach.

It’s one thing learning about this historical invasion in school text books, quite another when you can picture the scene in front of you. She also takes local groups out on regular beach clean ups, something that’s becoming more necessary as the big storms sweep ocean litter up onto the beaches.Take a look at seatrails.ie for more information on the variety of interesting tours available.

Damien Brennan2. The Yeats Experience

I covered the Yeats Experience in another blog post but this unusual dinner party encompasses so much of the what defines the responsible traveller.

Damien manages to weave art, history and poetry alongside the natural beauty of the surrounding hills and lough, while his wife Paula and her helpers, present guests with locally sourced, home cooked food.

3. Walking Tour of Sligo Town

Walking Tour of Sligo With our Guide NiamhSligo tourist office can give visitors with a signposted walking tour map of Sligo that points out all the interesting parts of the town itself.

If you’re visiting during the summer months however, I’d urge you to take a two-hour walk with Niambh (the time flies by) who will open your eyes to the trouble and strife the town faced during the days of the cholera epidemic in the 1800’s.

She might also regale you with tales of what might have inspired Bram Stoker to write the scary Dracula story he’s famous for. The tours leave daily from the Tourist Office. See here for more details.

Photo Courtesy: Isle Magazine

Photo Courtesy: Isle Magazine

4. Horse Riding on Sligo Beach

If you like horses, a trip to the family run Island View Riding Stables in Grange is a heavenly treat. With horses, ponies, guides and instructors available to cater for all experiences, as well as hats, boots and chaps, the stable will make sure everyone on the ride gets a taste of what they’re expecting.

From a slow, gentle walk, to a more bouncy trot or a hearty canter along the sandy beach, you’ll be well looked after. Island View offer a range of riding experiences, from half hour rides to B&B Holidays. For more information take a look at their website here.

Lough Gill, Sligo

5. Stand Up Paddling & Guided Canoe Tours

Stand Up Paddling is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and if you fancy your chances of balancing on the loughs, it’s available in Sligo from the Perfect Day SUP School.

Everywhere we went people were recommending we try this unusual form of travel but time didn’t let on this occasion. I don’t think I’ll be trying the yoga poses pictured in some of the literature but a gentle paddle sounds tempting. For those of you who prefer a more relaxed time on the water, Adventure Gently offer guided tours in Canadian canoes that might be more to your liking.

6. Seaweed Foraging

If you want to use seaweed in your kitchen or garden it’s essential that you harvest it sustainably and just like hedgerow foraging, it helps to know what you’re picking. As a life long seaweed forager, Prannie Rhatigan is a real expert in this field. Keep an eye out for her workshops. From the brief time we spent with Prannie, I can guarantee you’ll come home armed with enough information that you’ll want to cook with seaweed as much as possible.

Seaweed Foraging

7. Seaweed Baths

If you’re looking for a relaxing activity, the Seaweed Baths in Strandhill might be for you. Luxuriate in the healing waters and feel all your troubles drift away as the essential oils are released. Afterwards you might like to pop next door into the award-winning Shells Seaside Bakery, Shop & Cafe for a delicious juice or a slice of home-made cake..

Beetroot, Carrot & Apple Juice at Shells in Strandhill, Sligo

Beetroot, Carrot & Apple Juice at Shells in Strandhill, Sligo

Sligo Surfing

Sligo Surfing – photo credit Val Robus

8. Surfing on the Atlantic coast

Sligo is apparently the 4th best location IN THE WORLD for big surfing waves and has one of the most consistent swells in Europe. Whether you’re a beginner or a fan of the giant waves, there are several kite surfing or general surfing schools dotted around the Sligo coastline, or just bring a board and find out where all the locals are surfing. For more information check out the Sligo tourism page.

Pranie's Guide To Edible Seaweed9. Relaxing on a Green Coast Beach

Sligo boasts five Green Coast Beaches and they really do live up to their awards. Unspoilt and scenic, they’re the perfect place to spend some time if you’re looking for a beach that’s not surrounded by chip shops and souvenir shops. Bring a picnic and grab a copy of Prannie’s seaweed guide as these are the places you can carefully harvest seaweed for a home bathing or cooking experience.

Flowers in Sligo10. Secret Gardens of Sligo

There are several hidden gardens nestled in Sligo from large to small, privately owned and open to the public on various dates throughout the year to raise funds for various charities. There’s no admission charge but all donations greatly appreciated. Take a look at the Secret Gardens of Sligo website for more information.

Where to stay in Sligo

From Dublin you can pick up a train or bus that will take you directly there, but from Carlow or Kilkenny it isn’t the easiest place to travel to.. It would have several taxi, bus and train changes to get us there, so I car shared with Susan from Vibrant Ireland for this trip.

The Wine BuffWe stayed in the very groovy 4 star Glasshouse Hotel in the centre of Sligo town, which meant we were within walking distance of local shops, restaurants and bars.

Notable were Donaghy’s, famed for their chicken wings among other dishes, Osta Cafe & Wine Bar who can serve you up a tasty tapas on the riverfront, and the very helpful Wine Buff who can recommend exactly what wine’s to taste with which cheese, handy if you’re self catering.

The Glasshouse Hotel Sligo

The Glasshouse Hotel Sligo

 If visitors haven’t done their homework, they might be in for a surprise when they walk into the family owned but very contemporary designed Glasshouse hotel, unlike any other I’ve stayed in! I had a peek online before we traveled and loved my orange room with river views, smart television and family sized bed. The rooms were spotless, the service friendly and the car park free for residents.

Eithnas By The SeaWhere to eat in Sligo

If you visit Sligo during a festival, it’s likely you’ll be able to choose from over 25 local food establishments that take part in the Food Trail, with each one offering a signature dish for just five euro.

Outside of the town we dinned in Eithna’s By The Sea, a delightful seafood restaurant in Mullaghmore, where we sampled the delicious tasting menu, with plates piled high with locally sourced lobster and mussels, seaweed salads and king prawns.

I hope that’s given you a flavour of some of the things you might experience if you have the opportunity to spend a few days in Sligo. If you have any other tips about places to see or visit there, please leave them in the comments below as I’m looking forward to returning sometime soon with my family and it’s great to hear about places you may have been.

Finally, if you’d like to read more about some of the things Sligo has to offer, check out magnumlady.com blog for some great insight and photos.

Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by Connaght Gold who want to share and shout out about all the lovely things their County has to offer. The fact that the trip was sponsored has in no way influenced anything I’ve written, as the one thing I hope you’ve come to expect from my blog is honesty and transparency. See here for my full disclosure policy. 

Travel

Celebrating WB Yeats In Sligo

June 13, 2014

This is the first of two or three posts I’m looking forward to sharing with you about my recent short trip to County Sligo, one of many destinations here in Ireland that are perfect for Eco tourists looking to take a more natural, responsible approach to holidays. With images and poetry, this post may help to give you an idea for a destination to visit that apart from offering the usual festival, fun, celebrates the life of a celebrated Nobel Laureate, William Butler Yeats.

WB Yeats Statue, Sligo

William Butler Yeats ~ Statue in Sligo Town

Yeats Day

June 13th is Yeats Day, a celebration of a time in 1865 when WB Yeats was born in Ireland. I’ve always been attracted to the poetry of WB Yeats and the evocative and accessible way he weaves our language, helping us to smell the apple blossom, or picture an island full of growth and wildlife that he longs to be close to. It was a delight therefore, to find Yeats celebrated in so many places in and around Sligo, the county he spent his formative years.

Painting by Jack Yeats

Painting by Jack Yeats

There are several ongoing exhibitions in Sligo of Yeats’ life, family and poetry. Amongst others, the Sligo Museum houses a small exhibition about Yeats which includes his Nobel Prize Medal and The Model Gallery is hosting an art exhibition of his brother Jack’s work.

From statues and museums, to recitals and trails there are lots to keep Yeats fans happy indoors and out.

Rumour has it that during 2015 everyone in Ireland will be able to share a national celebration of Yeats life, with festivals and events being arranged around the country.

The Yeats Experience

The Yeats Experience

In the meantime however, if you’re planning to visit Sligo or even if you live there and are looking for an evening or lunch with a difference, I’d highly recommend a visit to the home of Damian and Paula of The Yeats Experience, located near Carraroe, where you can wine, dine, listen to the history and poems of Yeats in a casual environment of mixed and friendly company.

Good conversation at The Yeats Experience

Good Company at The Yeats Experience

This is a unique experience where dinner parties take place in the couple’s private dinning room, overlooking breathtaking views that those familiar with Yeats work will recognise.

Catering for around twenty-five on the evening we arrived at Broc house (but can cater from 10 to 50 people), Damien talked us through Yeats lifetime, which took place in some very turbulent times of Irish history, transfixing us with tales and love poems he recited to us between dinner courses.

SorbetAs a rural vegetable grower who’s new to bee keeping, this is a particular favourite Yeats poem…

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by WB Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

A spellbound Guest at The Yeats Experience

A spellbound Guest

If you’re even remotely interested in poetry, film, art, music, good food or history, the 11th to the 15th June for the Só Sligo Food & Cultural Festival is the place to be as they celebrate with a packed and varied programme catering for all tastes and ages (see Vibrant Ireland’s blog for more details).

However, if you’ve missed the festival or have never been to Sligo and are thinking of doing so, you won’t be disappointed… Within a very short space of time, we fell in love with this beautiful county that has more than it’s fair share of unspoiled beaches and hill climbs, lakes, cliffs and forests. There’s so much to do I can’t wait to return with Mr G and spend longer exploring it.

Tourist Tip: Do pack midge/mosquito repellent as the lake water attracts these irritating little pests. I’ve found Dr Vogel’s Herbal Insect Repellent to be very effective once I remember to pack it!

Over the coming days I’ll be sharing our bloggers tasty seaweed experience as well giving some tips on how you might like to spend a couple of days as an eco/responsible tourist in Sligo.

With thanks to Connacht Gold and the organisers of the  Sligo Food Cultural & Food Festival that’s taking place in Sligo right now, some fellow Irish bloggers and I were able to experience a snippet of some of the cultural, food, sporting and natural attractions that Sligo has to offer this week and beyond. Keep an eye out for posts from Vibrant Ireland, The Burlesque Chef, Irish Food Guide, Isle Magazine, Magnum Lady and Oonagh Eats, bloggers covering several areas of interest, for more information about the Festival.

Travel

Food Festivals, Foraging and Fun to be had in Sligo!

May 31, 2014

One of the drawbacks of being a vegetable grower is that since we began growing our own food, we rarely get to take breaks away together. Partly perhaps, because we don’t want to leave the vegetables we’ve carefully natured over the past few months, but also finding minders for our chickens, pigs, dogs and cats for more than one night can be difficult.

Strandhill, Sligo

Photo Credit: Val Rubus – Strandhill, Sligo

Thankfully, living on an island means that’s not too much of a problem. In four hours we can be standing at the water’s edge of Donegal or in under an hour walking in the Wicklow mountains. We may not be guaranteed weeks of blue skies, but we’ve fantastic scenery, superb food, wildlife, big seas, star filled skies, friendship, fun, faeries and festivals every weekend, all on hand to entertain, unwind and help us relax.

Holidays in Ireland

My first trip to Ireland and the one that sowed the seed to up anchor and move all my worldly goods here, was spent as a pillion passenger on a large motorbike. I shared my perch with the driver (naturally) a tent, sleeping bags and enough camping gear to make sure we stayed dry and comfortable. We travelled across the southern half of the country from Tipperary to Cork, Kerry and back to Dublin again. We found caves and mountains, hot warm dinners and wet windy roads and I spent hours on the back of the bike in a world of my own, lost with desire to spend more time here.

My second trip many years later involved landing at Dublin airport with a friend and a backpack, climbing onto a bus destined to Galway, and spending most of the week sleeping in hostels and exploring all the lively pubs that we were able to find in the vibrant city that inspired many a tune.

Jump forward several more years and my next trip over the Irish sea was with the man who was to become Mr G. We took the time to tour around, visiting the peninsulas and wild Atlantic coast, falling in love with Beara and dreaming of owning a campsite and surf shop, somewhere we could grow old, living a self-sufficient beach life by the ocean’s edge.

Sligo Surfing

Sligo Surf – Photo Credit: Val Robus

Settling Down

It’s now 16 years since we finally made the move over, choosing instead a small holding life on a hilltop rather than the wilder one we’d envisaged. Over the years we’ve taken several short breaks to various parts of this beautiful island that we now call our home, almost always under canvas, and not nearly as many as we should have given how close we live to all the places we still want to see!

Unlike Mr G, the one place I’ve yet to visit, the place that everyone talks about with a slightly wistful air, is Sligo. But that’s about to change.

So Sligo 2014 Food Festival

so sligo imageWith thanks to the So Sligo 2014 Food Festival team, a few bloggers that include Vibrant Ireland, Irish Food Guide, Sligo Secrets, A Taste of Ireland and Isle Magazine among others, have been invited to Sligo to experience a fabulous sounding couple days that will be showcasing everything Sligo has to offer.

The festival starts on Wednesday 11th June and continues until Sunday evening with things happening all over the county. Starting with Sligo town, the Só Sligo Food Trail has over 30 tapas sized house specialities available for €5 each.

I’m particularly looking forward to the seaweed walk and hope to share some of the tips I learn with you. There will also be urban foraging, fermentation and cheese making workshops as well as lots of food demonstrations and talks by local and celebrity chefs.

During the festival JP McMahon will be bringing a pop up version of his award-winning Aniar Restaurant in Galway to The Model on Friday and there will be a Yeats Nobel Dinner by Alan Fitzmaurice on Thursday 12th (the eve of Yeats Day which is also being celebrated in Sligo).

Other events include the World Irish Stew Championship, something that everybody is encouraged to enter by bringing along two portions of stew (they have facilities to heat & serve), as well as several events for children too. A food village will be setting up from 1pm on Friday to Sunday evening, and before wrapping it up, there’ll be a Street Feast where people can bring their own food – or buy it from the stalls and food outlets, enjoying together!

I’ll be reporting back how my trip goes and am particularly looking forward to horse riding on the Sligo beaches and the eco-tourism side of things, something that Ireland can offer in abundance.

Sligo Horseriding

Photo Credit: Val Rubus

If you think the festival sounds interesting and would like to head along, check out the So Sligo website for full details and be sure to find me on any of the social media channels and say hello if you’re in Sligo.

Photo’s for this post have been reproduced with kind permission from Val of Magnumlady.com, a Sligo photographer who captures life there so well.