Irish Summer Wishlist 2017

Irish Summer Checklist 2017
Bray, July 2014

I really want to make a tradition of making little wishlists every Summer for places I want to visit in Ireland. Summers always feel like they’re full of possibilities here, more than any other places I’ve lived in. Probably because the Winters are so long and dreary, you feel lucky and so emboldened as soon as the sun shows its first rays. You really owe it to yourself to make the most of the brighter days. I made one of theses lists back in 2015, and used it through that Summer and the next one. Actually, I still have a few items I need to tick off so I will definitely go back to it (go have a look at it if you need activity ideas, I reviewed the ones I have done). But I also wanted a fresh one for this new Summery chapter. If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, it won’t surprise you that this lists feature a few grand houses and nature spots. Also, most of the places are close to or easily reachable from Dublin. Here they come, the 10 things I most aspire to do this sweet Irish Summer.

  • Visit the handweaving mill at Avoca (co. Wicklow)
    I would love to see how Avoca’s colourful blankets and throws are made  They are some of Ireland’s most famous exports and this mill is said to be the oldest one working in the country! I’m hoping I can combine the tour with a visit to its neighbouring Knockanree Botanic Gardens.
  • Tour Ardgillan Castle (co. Dublin)
    There’s nothing that makes me happier than visiting a period house and its gardens. Especially when those come with impressive sea views. Bonus point, this castle is in county Dublin so it should be easy enough to get to it!
  • Pick raspberries at Lamberts Fruit Farm (co. Dublin)
    I can’t think of a more summery activity than picking fruits in a field! Located in Rathfarnam, Lamberts Farm open its door to the public for a couple of months just as their berries (strawberries, gooseberries and raspberries) get ripe for the season.
  • See the puffins at Great Saltee Island (co. Wexford)
    Up until recently I thought you could only see puffins on the West Coast of Ireland, which is not that easily accessible for me. But it turns out, and it looks like it’s a bit hush-hush, there’s an island off the Wexford coast, where hundreds of puffins (and other birds) like to spend the nesting season. It’d be a dream come true to take a little boat trip there! (granted it is done with respect to the local wildlife).
  • Finally tick off Glendalough from my Irish bucket list (co. Wicklow)
    Yes, I’m not proud of myself, I have been living here for 9 years and I still haven’t visited this Irish nature wonder which attracts thousands of people from all over the world. Don’t ask me why, I’m as confused as you are.
  • Meditate in Victor’s Way Garden (co. Wicklow)
    This garden is said to be contemplative, it is full of Indian statues, some of them looking rather strange. Definitely not your typical Wicklow garden!
  • Buy a 99 with flake at Teddy’s Ice cream (co. Dublin)
    Last year, I finally tasted Murphy’s ice-cream. I think it’s time, this year, I tried this Dublin institution. I’ll probably go to the original Dun Laoghaire location, as I’ve been meaning to explore this sea town again. It looks like it changed quite a bit since the last time I went.
  • Eat at The Happy Pear (co. Wicklow)
    I’ve been meaning to eat there for aaages, I’m just a klutz when it comes to read opening hours. This Summer, I’ll tattoo them on my arm! I would also love to make more of an effort to eat vegan when I’m out. Do you know of any great cafes or restaurants that have an interesting vegan menu?
  • Walk in Talbot Botanic Garden (co. Dublin)
    This garden is located on the grounds of Malahide Castle. Last time I was there, albeit a long time ago, they were closed for renovations. It would be nice to see what they did with the place and it would be the perfect occasion to finally take a tour of the castle!
  • Visit Castletown House (co. Kildare)
    I promised myself to explore county Kildare this year. It is a direct neighbour to Dublin and quite well-served by transport, so really there’s no excuse to my vast ignorance when it comes to this county. I would love to start with Castletown House as I love the Palladian architecture, also it hosts a very cute market every Sunday!

What are your plans for this Summer?

6 Places Where to Stop and Smell the Roses in Dublin

Places in Dublin Where to Stop and Smell the Roses

I’m sure you have all sorts of busy plans for this Summer, jet-setting here and there. Or maybe working throughout the whole season. With a busy schedule, it’s all the more important to stop and smell the roses. Especially as we have so many fantastic places to do just so here in Dublin. Heck, we even have a festival dedicated to the pretty posy.
And because roses are repeat-flowerers, it means you’ll have until early Autumn to maybe take a few minutes for yourself in one of the places below where roses rule as queens.

Places in Dublin Where you Can Smell the Roses

1. IRISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL GARDENS

If I had to pick one place to come to see the roses in Dublin every year, this will be it. There’s something about the architecture that makes me think of the Roaring Twenties. I can imagine a glamorous flapper being serenaded here under the moon light, one warm Summer night. The roses are spread around a concrete pond in two sunken gardens on both side of the Stone of Remembrance. Four granite bookrooms holding the names of the Irish soldiers who died during WWI stand majestically on both of the rose gardens’ entrance.

Places in Dublin Where You Can Stop And Smell The Roses

2. IVEAGH GARDENS

The Iveagh Gardens are known as Dublin’s secret garden. Located just next to Stephen’s Green, it lives in the shadow of its bigger and more famous sister. If you’re looking to escape Stephen’s Green’s crowded lawns in Summer, this is here that will find your peace and quiet. The Gardens counts whimsical, at times wonderland-esque, features: a yew maze, two striking fountains, a cascade and, you’ll have guessed it by now, a rosarium. The smell inside the arches is so potent you’ll want to bask yourself in it for hours.

Places in Dublin Where you Can Stop and Smell the Roses

3. ST ANNE’S PARK

If you have any interest in roses and you live in Dublin, chances are you have heard of St Anne’s Park in Raheny. This large park facing Bull Island has the biggest rose garden in the city. It even holds a yearly rose festival on the month of July.  It’s a joyous, familial event where you can of course admire the roses in full bloom (I especially love the canopies) but also mooch around craft and food stalls. If you want to know more about the event, you can read my coverage of it here.

Places in Dublin where to Stop and Smell the Roses

4. PORTOBELLO

Portobello is undoubtedly one of my favourite neighbourhoods in South Dublin and it truly comes alive with Summer. Dubliners love to sit along the Grand Canal to sunbathe and roses add colourful touches to the typical cottages’ front gardens. Some of my favourite streets to admire the local blooms are Arnott Street and Portobello Road along the canal but wander aimlessly and you’ll be rewarded! And if you want to make a pit stop for a refreshing drink and a slice of cake, you’ll be spoilt for choices as Portobello is the home to so many great cafes. Bibi’s, Love Supreme, Little Bird, The Greenery, Meet Me in The Morning,… to name a few.

6 Places in Dublin Where You Can Stop and Smell the Roses

5. NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS

If you keep on your left once you enter the gardens then cross the Tolka River, this is where you’ll find the rose garden. I’m mentioning this because even though I visited these gardens many times, I’ve always missed it. It’s certainly easy to get distracted in this beautiful place. The rose garden has the traditionally circular shape and its centre you’ll find one of the garden’s two sundials. The roses there are a joyous multicoloured bunch, there’s even a deep purple species which is something I had never seen before!

Places in Dublin Where you can Stop and Smell the Roses

6. DUBLIN’S FLOWER SHOPS

Dublin has some amazing flower shops and stalls, I would highly recommend visiting them to bring a bit of rose magic in your own home. You can find two of my favourites only a few meters from each other, in Dublin’s creative quarter.
These beautiful rainbow roses were sold by Appassionata Flowers when Ireland said yes. Their display is always a joy to look at, no matter the season. A few minutes away, you’ll find The Garden in the Powerscourt Townhouse’s hall, spilling their lovely posies on the building’s majestic steps. Inside the shop, the beautiful collection of plants, pots, candles and stationary fill the Georgian entrance with breathtaking grace.

The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin

The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
I hope I’m not jinxing it by it saying it out loud or rather writing it here but it feels like Spring is finally in the air. The last few days have shown more blue skies than I’ve seen for the last 4 months and the sun has felt distinctly warm upon my skin. The snowdrops have come and gone, to be replaced by the cheerful daffodils and a few shy bluebells. Some trees have already adorned their branches with some tiny fluffy pompoms and magnolia buds are getting stronger and stronger. Every year, the change of the seasons and the feeling it springs in my heart catch me by surprise. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, maybe it’s because the Irish Winters are the most miserable I have known but come Spring I feel like, I too revive. From a lethargic state, I suddenly turn effervescent and I have this burning desire of witnessing every single blossom in the city quiver in the Spring breeze. Alas, the beauty of this season also lies in its ephemerality so I thought I would compile a list of the best cherry trees in Dublin so we can enjoy Spring without wasting any precious minute.

The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
SAINT STEPHEN’S GREEN

Saint Stephen’s Green is a prime location to observe the change of the seasons in Dublin. It’s no wonder that the expression of the Irish Spring reaches romantic heights here. Walking along its paths planted with cherry trees is just poetry.

The Best Places to see the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
TRINITY COLLEGE

A few cherry trees shadow the walkway next to the cricket pitch of Trinity College. Their petals fall like snow on the constant flux of students going back and forth from the university pub, the Pavilion Bar. Come Spring, the whole area is energised with a wind of change.

Best Places to see the Cherry Blossom Trees in Dublin
IRISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL GARDENS

It is widely known that the War Memorial Park is a breathtaking place to be in the summertime when the sunken gardens are filled with fragrant roses. However the grassy patch next to the temple packs a punch in April and May. The trees look like fluffy cotton candy and as the season goes, they turn the lawn in a joyful pink blanket.

The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
HERBERT PARK

This is probably my favourite spot to honour the Japanese custom, Hanami (literally meaning, flower viewing). The reason is, despite a few unfortunate recent chops, the park holds the highest concentration of cherry trees in Dublin. Also, the location is far enough from the city centre that it still feels like a special secret place.

The Best Places to see the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
FARMLEIGH

I couldn’t make this list without mentioning Farmleigh in Phoenix Park where Experience Japan Festival takes place. Every year, when the cherry trees are in full bloom, this Japanese festival welcomes Spring with a host of fun family activities.

More information on Experience Japan Festival here.

National Botanic Gardens
NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS

You’d make a serious mistake not take the 83 bus to the National Botanic Gardens in the springtime. The place beams with colours and fragrances, it is a heavenly treat for the soul. It would be difficult to pick which is the star of the show among the cherry trees, magnolias, the little enchanted bluebell patch, the clouds of azalea or the rainbow of tulip beds.

Looking for more seasonal recommendations? Watch 7 Things to Do in Dublin this Spring

Irish Summer Checklist Revisited

Irish Summer Checklist Revisited

Since we’ve just entered the month of September (sigh), I thought we could look at my Irish Summer Checklist from last year again and see what I’ve managed to do so far!

Irish Summer Checklist Revisited
✓ Go on hikes around Dublin
I did the Howth Cliff Walk and went up the Hellfire Club. The Bray Head hike is next on my list!
✓ Taste Murphy’s ice-cream (Dublin)
I went for the classic Brown Bread and Dingle Sea Salt flavours.
✗ See the mills in Skerries (Dublin)
✗ Visit the Burren Perfumery (co. Clare)
✗ Get lost in Russborough’s maze (co. Wicklow)
Irish Summer Checklist Revisited
✓ Visit Drimnagh Castle (Dublin)
You can read on my visit to this Norman castle here.
✓ Photograph the roses in Saint Anne’s Park (Dublin)
Click here to read my account of the day.
✗ Go back to Killruddery to do a tour of the house (co. Wicklow)
✓ Wander in Mount Usher Gardens (co. Wicklow)
I’m giving you a tour of these spectacular gardens here.
✓ Stand in the lavender field in Kilmacanogue (co. Wicklow)
More on this little patch of Provence in Wicklow here.

6 out of 10 is not too bad I reckon! Of course I might have updated my list but I’ll keep that for a new version next Summer. The month of September is often a good one here, weather-wise, so I’m hoping I can cross off a few more these coming weeks!

On an unrelated note, I wanted to say a huge thank you to those of you who voted for me in the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards competition, The Art of Exploring has made it to the finals! I’m completely floored by your kindness, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Drimnagh Castle | Dublin

Drimnagh Castle

Did you know that the only castle with a flooded moat left in Ireland can be found in Dublin? You’d think with such a title, the castle would also be ‘flooded’ with tourists. Not quite. It is a bit of a locals’ secret probably due to the fact that it’s located rather far off the tourist track. In fact, the castle was completely unknown to me despite having lived in Dublin for 8 years! It is located in the capital’s South West suburbs, in a residential area called Drimnagh.

Drimnagh Castle

Case in point, when I finally visited this Norman Castle earlier this year, I practically had the whole place to myself bar a group of kids from the primary school next door. I had unfortunately just missed the tour guide but the helpful volunteers in care of the grounds kindly let me in and provided lots of information.

Drimnagh Castle was built around 1215 by the De Bernivale (sometimes spelt Barneville and later anglicized as Barnewall). They had received the land in recognition for their services during the Crusades and the invasion of Ireland. They resided here for 400 years.

See also: Love Irish Castles? Check out this Norman Castle just outside Dublin

Drimnagh CastleDrimnagh Castle

The castle you see today had been updated throughout the years: the main castle on the right of the tower dates back from the 15th century, the tower was built in the 16th, the porch and the stairway in the 19th and various buildings were added during the last century.

It also holds the title of being the longest inhabited castle in Ireland but by the mid-1980s it had completely fell into ruins. Thankfully the local community and An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland) intervened and brought the place back to its old glory. They even added a beautiful 17th century-style garden.

Drimnagh CastleDrimnagh Castle

Inside the castle, the piece de resistance is without a doubt the Great Hall. It has a gorgeous red and black tiled floor, an imposing mantelpiece and curious carved oak figures adorning the walls. Back in the day, the hall had a dual purpose of sleeping quarters cum living room. During the day, the mattresses were replaced by tables and benches.

Drimnagh Castle is certainly a charismatic place and it won’t surprise you that it was used as a shooting location for several productions among which The Tudors and Ella Enchanted.

See also: Killruddery and Powerscourt Estate were also filming locations for the TV show The Tudors.

Drimnagh Castle

DRIMNAGH CASTLE PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Drimnagh Castle – website
Long Mile Road
Dublin 12

Admission
General €4.50 / Students & OAPs €4 / Children €2.50

Opening Hours
9am-4pm (Mon-Thu)
9am-1pm (Fri)

Bus
18, 56A, 151

 

Rose Festival & North Bull Island | Dublin

Rose Festival & North Bull Island

It was a hot afternoon in July, I had just come back from London, right in time for Saint Anne’s Park Rose Festival. I had been wanting to visit the park and its yearly floral event for a quite a while now. Every July, for a weekend, the beautiful rose gardens are celebrated by the local community. Families gather the time of a weekend, to enjoy the festivities. The cheerful atmosphere actually reminded me a lot of the Bloom Festival. Plant sales, craft stands, food stalls were lined up in the park’s paths while a band was giving the crowds a soundtrack for that happy Summer day. The kids were flying mini kites or queuing for a ride on the carrousel. And let’s not forget the star of the weekend, roses in their different shape or colour were admired in one of Dublin’s best rose gardens.

Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull Island

St Anne’s park is located in the north of Dublin bay, between Clontarf and Raheny. It offers many interesting features, aside from the rose garden. Most prominently, many follies in decay but also a walled garden and a clock tower, as well as the Red Stables which houses an arts centre, a cosy little cafe and markets on the weekend. And last but not least, there’s a line of oaks that bears a striking resemblance to the Dark Hedges from TV show Game of Thrones. This park is so fun and its diverse landscape made me think of my childhood grounds, le Parc Solvay in Brussels. This might just be my new favourite park in Dublin!

Another great thing about this park is that it’s facing the seashore, more precisely the entrance to North Bull Island. I had never been there so I decided to kill two birds with one stone while I was in the area and pay it a visit.
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull IslandDublin Rose Festival & North Bull Island

The road to the island crosses salt marshes which holds a UNESCO protected bird sanctuary. Dublin is actually the only capital city which has an entire biosphere reserve within its walls. At the end of the causeway, you’ll find dunes and the man-made beach Dollymount Strand. It’s a beautiful sandy beach which offers great views on the Dublin bay, on one side, the Poolbeg Chimneys stand tall while on the other side, Howth head lies on the fluffy sea.

Kylemore Abbey | co. Galway

Kylemore Abbey

Seeing Kylemore Abbey roll out over the horizon when you drive down the N59 is something that must be experienced once in a life-time. A few years ago, My friend and I were road tripping in the Connemara when we both simultaneously gasped and squealed at the sight of the castle standing majestically over a mirror-like lake. This is the kind of stuff fairy-tales are made of.

You can visit the ground floor of the castle where you’ll learn of its history. It was built in the 1860s by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy London doctor, for his wife Margaret who fell in love with the region. They lived there very happily and had 9 (!) children. Alas, their story took a tragic turn when Margaret died of a fever during a trip to Egypt. Inconsolable, Mitchell built a Gothic Church and a mausoleum in honour of his wife, which you can still visit today in Kylemore. He left the premises, pained by the memory of his wife too present there. The castle was then acquired by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester who had to let it go a few years later due to gambling debts.
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore AbbeyKylemore Abbey

This brings us to 1920 and the current owners of the estate, the Benedictine nuns. They were looking for a new home after their Belgian monastery was destroyed in World War I. They found it in Kylemore Castle which then became Kylemore Abbey. They still live there today, living off admissions, donations and the handmade goods they sell at the gift shop.
Kylemore AbbeyKylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as enthralled by the rooms of Kylemore Abbey as I was for its outside. For me the true gem of the estate is the Victorian Walled Garden. Nestled between hilltops, the abbey gardens are a stunning example of Irish landscaping. Inside the stone walls, you’ll find a vegetable garden, orchards, glasshouses and the Head Gardener’s house. The latter’s period rooms are beautifully laid out in pastel hues. I can’t start to imagine the life led by those who took care of this land, an oasis between lake and mountains.
Kylemore Abbey

KYLEMORE ABBEY PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Kylemore Abbey – website
Connemara
co. Galway, Ireland

Admission
General €13 / Seniors €10 / Student €9 / Children under 10 Free

Opening Times
9.30am-5.30pm (Every Day, Mar-Nov)
9am-7pm (Every Day, July-Aug)
10am-4.30pm (Every Day, Nov-March)

Mount Usher Gardens | co. Wicklow

Mount Usher Gardens

Can you believe this picture was only taken a couple of weeks ago? That’s the magic of maple trees bringing you Autumn in the middle of Spring! The Mount Usher Gardens in county Wicklow have a beautiful maple walk and more than 5000 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants in which you can happily wander.

I had been patiently waiting Spring this year to finally visit one of the most renowned gardens in Ireland. I had first heard of it thanks to Magda’s colourful post and as I’m ticking off my list of things to do in Wicklow, it started to feel slightly wrong that I hadn’t explored one of its star-gardens yet. An hour bus journey or so will take you to Ashford, a little town where the gardens are located. As you go through the car park, you’ll find yourself in a courtyard surrounded by charming little shops. Delicatessen, garden centre and clothes shop,… if you know Avoca you’ll be familiar with the aesthetic. They manage the garden, and in typical Avoca’s fashion, they graced the place with an inviting cafe with a gorgeous vista on the garden’s gazebo. I sat ‘front row seat’ near the window and ordered a peanut butter parfait and a pot of peppermint tea. While I enjoyed my dessert, I observed the rich life of the garden unfolding right before my eyes, insects going about their day and perfectly round robins perched on nearby branches staring right at me.
Mount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens

At the entrance you’re presented with a map offering a choice of trails. The lady at the desk recommended that I follow the tree trail as they have some champion trees of Ireland and the UK. It was fun to try to guess the varieties according to the leaf shapes and have a close look at weirdly exotic trees from Iran or China. I would have never thought these could thrive on Irish soil. Wild garlic was covering the forest ground, filling it with its sharp fragrance.
But call me frivolous, I think I am more of a ‘flower girl’ than a tree-hugger because the area I enjoyed the most was the ‘Island’, a patch right next to the house where so many posies bloom in eye-catching bursts of colours. I was also lucky to catch the tail-end of the bluebell season. I don’t think there’s something that invites more to the reverie than a bluebell wood. Will you look at that purple blanket, don’t you want to dive in it?
Mount Usher GardensMount Usher GardensMount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens

Mount Usher gardens were founded in 1868 by Edward pole and stayed in his family’s estate for a little more than a century. There’s an interesting philosophy behind the creation of this beautiful piece of land. The family was greatly influenced by William Robinson, a famous Irish gardener who reacted against the rigid approach of gardening of his time. He believed a garden should grow on nature’s term.
In the Eighties, Madeleine Jay, a garden lover, bought the property and took the Robinsonian style a step further by managing the property organically. A way of doing that is still carried on today by Avoca.

Mount Usher Gardens
The Walpole family’s pet cemetery Mount Usher Gardens

The Vartry River runs through the gardens and I think, instinctively, people tend to walk along it. It’s a pleasant walk, there are beautiful little cascades, suspension bridges and from time to time, a fish burst out of the water to catch a fly or a mosquito. But wander off the river path and you’ll find yourself inside a beautiful Irish oil painting.

Mount Usher Gardens

MOUNT USHER GARDENS’ PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Mount Usher Gardens – website
Ashford, co. Wicklow, Ireland

Opening Hours
10am-6pm (Mon-Sun, all year)

Admission
General €7.50 / Reduced €6.50 / Children under 16 €3.50 / Children under 4 Free

Bus
133 Bus Eireann (from Dublin)

7 Things to Do in Dublin this Spring | Video

springindublin

Spring has finally arrived! Well kind of, the temperatures are still on the cold side of the mercury here but the weather cast promises a full week of sunshine ahead. I wanted to celebrate this with a video featuring my favourite places to visit in Dublin during Springtime. Hope you enjoy the video!

PS: I previously wrote on some of these spots here, if you need more info Airfield Farm | National Botanic Gardens | Killiney Hill

Zwartbles Farm | co. Kilkenny

The weeks following the Paris Attacks, nothing seemed of importance anymore. Certainly not travel or my microadventures I usually like to write about here. One thing kept me sane though: reading about people’s kindness, about their humanity eclipsing the surrounding darkness. It reminded me then that I had met an extraordinary woman last year whom I hadn’t talked to you about yet and I promised myself I would write about her as soon as writing made sense again.
Zwartbles FarmZwartbles Farm

I was lucky to meet Suzanna during a blogging trip to Kilkenny last year. A handful of bloggers and I were invited to explore the county’s food and craft trails. Just as our journey was coming to an end, Suzanna very generously invited us all in her farm at the last minute. As our car pulled up in her courtyard, it felt like we had just entered the setting of an epic Victorian novel. The farm house looked like the cosiest place on Earth.

The woman of the hour, like an unwavering captain, gave us a brief introduction of her fleet and the work she does at the farm. After a few minutes, it became apparent to my untrained ear that there was a melodic American twang in her speech. Indeed, Suzanna was born in New York but she later moved to Ireland to manage the farm that has belonged to her family for generations. Against all odds, she invested in a few Zwartbles sheep whose black wool was rather unpopular. Undetered, Suzanna managed to get people on board with her project and she’s now famous for the beautiful dark blankets, rugs and yarn she produces from her herd.

Zwartbles FarmZwartbles Farm

She then led us in a tour of her property. First stop, the apple and pear orchard where crates full of produce awaited us. We were invited to pick some and this simple gesture filled me with glee, knowing that I would be able to cook with an ingredient that had freshly fallen from one of the happiest trees in Ireland. We also bonded with Bodacious, the cat shepherd which stunned Suzanna a bit as he’s not usually that friendly with strangers. They must have been some powerful cat ladies in our group!

It was then time to meet “Suzanna’s girls“. Here they come…
Zwartbles FarmZwartbles Farm
As soon as we stepped inside the Zwartbles pen, a wave of chocolatey fluffiness charged at us. I’m not going to lie, for a second I thought I was about to get trampled in a stampede. I had never witnessed such enthusiastic sheep behaviour, they jumped around us like excited puppies. Suzanna had a name for each one of them and the fact that she mentioned in passing that their meat tasted sweeter because of the apples they eat from the ground didn’t even make me shudder. She prides herself in giving her animals a good life and it showed, unequivocally so.
Zwartbles Farm

I could have photographed these little cuties all day, I actually was the last one to leave the pen while Suzanna was patiently waiting for me to close the gate. Unfortunately night was falling fast and in the dusk’s last breath, Suzanna quickly showed us her other pride and joy, a herd of Clun Forest sheep. Funnily enough, this breed stands on the opposite side of the personality spectrum. They’re rather frail and timid creatures, and in lieu of a friendly stampede, they felt more comfortable at a distance, observing us, their rabbit ears pointing towards the sky.

To my greatest joy, we also met some alpacas and discovered a rather amusing fact. They’re used on the farm to protect the animals from foxes. They’re actually very efficient guards as they’re able to knock the predators out with their fast side kicks. Who knew alpacas were ninjas in disguise?!

Zwartbles Farm
Zwartbles Farm
We then met the horses and had a wander through the kitchen garden where grew, to my surprise, grapes. Actual grapes in Ireland, isn’t that amazing?!

When it got to the point where we couldn’t see our own feet anymore, we followed Suzanna in her cosy kitchen for a cuppa and chats. Inside, she surprised us with lamb chops, sprigs of sage and a recipe of her own including all of the ingredients she had so kindly given to us that eve. I unfortunately couldn’t stay as I had a train to catch but one thing I’ll say is I felt energised and inspired by this meeting, I love how Suzanna went with her gut feeling and made the ‘black sheep’ happen in Ireland but above all I admire how she’s in tune with nature, working with it to place on her table and her customers the most beautiful produce.

I’ll end this post by warmly recommending you to follow her on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter if you haven’t done it already. I’ve never seen a business use social media in such fun and genuine way before. Every day, she involves her followers in the daily tasks of a farmer. From the birthing of a lamb to Bodacious, the cat shepherd, sleeping in the crockery, her and her companions will make you smile, sometimes several times a day; and lately, I’m sure you’ll agree, we all need that extra dose of cheerfulness.

More information on Zwartbles Farm and its shop on their website.