So we left Kenmare around 9:30 a.m. after staying for two nights in yet another fabulous B&B (Sallyport B&B – highly recommended). Anyway, the plan for the day was to cross the northern half of the Beara Peninsula on our way to Cork where we would spend two nights.
As usual, Liam almost immediately suggested a slight diversion. Liam had found a “Cursing Stone” the day before when he was off exploring the area and wanted to take us to see it. Now apparently legend has it that a Cursing Stone causes butter to turn to stone when the farmer puts a curse on the person making the butter. In this case, the woman had stolen milk from the farmer’s cows and when he caught her making butter on the large stone, placed a curse on her turning her butter to stone.
In order to reached the “Cursing Stone”, we took a detour off the main road onto a narrow, windy lane. And while we have been travelling on narrow roads, this was REALLY narrow. In fact, if we ran into any traffic coming at us, we would be screwed. Anyway, the road lead us to a farmer’s field surrounded by a wire fence. We had to climb up a two step embankment (a ladder would have been nice) and then climb over the wire fence (good thing for long legs) and then traipse about 100 feet through long grass to the Cursing Stone. Apparently, Liam had been aware of the existence fo the stone, but had never been able to locate it. He finally used GPS the day before and low and behold, we now were able to see the Cursing Stone.
After the requisite pictures, the Cursing Stone was behind us so Liam suggested we continue on the narrow road, which would take us on a less travelled route through the back country of the upper Ring of Beara and up and over a summit known as Priest’s Leap.
As Liam drove, the forested farm land gave way to rocky, rolling pastures and then up, up, up we travelled. About 600 meters from the summit, Liam stopped the car and let us out so that we could walk to the summit. Fortunately, this walk did not have us battling winds like the day before when we hiked to the top of Healy Pass. Instead, this walk had a much steeper incline, but much better weather. In fact, the sun was even coming out.
As we walked up the narrow little road, we passed sheep grazing so we had the pleasant and now familiar baaaaaa following us up the hillside. In addition, there were a myriad of little streams and brooks bubbling up from the rocky hillside. Before we knew it, we had reached the summit of Priest’s Leap and were treated to magnificent views on both sides of the summit. In one direction, we could see the rocky farmland below. In the other direction, we looked towards the Atlantic and gorgeous rolling farmland. On either side of the summit, we saw sheep everywhere.
At this point, we did not want to stop the hike so we told Liam we were going to walk down from the summit for about ten minutes to enjoy the mammoth views and the company of the sheep. As we walked, none of us could resist taking pictures of the sheep, which helped to frame the amazing views. In addition, we kept seeing sheep standing on rocks or peeking out from behind large boulders. At times it was surreal as we took in the amazing scenery.
Liam finally caught up to us and we drove us the rest of the way down the hillside. At the bottom, we picked up the main road again and drove through Glengariff. From Glengariff we continued on the 71 to the little town of Ballylicky where we stopped at Mannings Emporium for a taste of some of the local cheeses. We were a little early for lunch as it was only about 11:20, but they advised us to take a seat and they would put together a cheese and meat platter for us in about 20 minutes. And I can tell you the platter was worth the wait.
When the platter was ready, Andrew, the founder’s nephew brought out the platter and described what we were being served. There was Milleens cheese from Allihies on the Beara Peninsula where we had been the day before. There was Kerry blue from County Kerry, Clonmore cheddar from County Cork and finally a Camambert cheese from Tipperary. In addition, we were served a chorizo and plain salami, a French sausage and a fennel sausage with pistachios, as well as roasted tomatoes, olives, sweet pepper relish and sourdough bread.
Cheryl and I chose to have a glass of Malbec with our spread, while Donnie had a glass of Fia lagger and Liam had tea. We all dug into the spread and almost immediately, the entire lunch went off the rails. While I was enjoying the Kerry blue and Donnie was tasting the cheddar, Cheryl and Liam decided to try the Milleens. I wasn’t paying much attention as I was enjoying the Kerry blue. Apparently Liam had taken the Milleens cheese and spread it on some of the bread, folded the bread and took a bite. Donnie and Cheryl immediately noticed Liam’s face which was screwed up in a “what the F” look. Cheryl asked him about the cheese and Liam told Cheryl “You taste it ma’am (insert Irish accent here). So Cheryl being Cheryl immediately tried the Milleens and her face immediately contorted into a bitter beer (sort of like she had smelled a stinky sock). Liam immediately started laughing, Cheryl started giggling and Donnie was started cracking up laughing at Liam and Cheryl. I just sat there and didn’t get it so I took a piece of the Milleens and loved it. I had no idea what the problem was.
So for the next five minutes the three of them could not stop laughing. The more I insisted that the cheese was good the more they laughed. Finally, Liam controlled himself enough to find Andrew and have him come over to tell him that they hated the Milleens. Andrew couldn’t believe it. I insisted I loved the cheese. I kept insisting the cheese was really good so finally, Liam stuck a fork in each piece of the Milleens and we all smelled the cheese. I thought Donnie was going to throw up, but when he smelled a second piece, he said it smelled better with a bit of of smoky smell. Andrew jumped in at this point and noted that there were two kinds of MIlleens on our plate: one was smoked and the other was not. Aha. That explained why I didn’t understand the problem.
I then tried Cheryl’s remaining cheese and while it was incredibly strong, I actually liked that cheese as well. Andrew said I was invited back anytime, while the rest of them were “rubbish” and not invited back. That sent the three of them into fits of giggles again.
Anyway, the cheese spread turned out to be one of the food highlights of the trip. Absolutely fantastic with all of us agreeing that the pepper relish was fantastic and at least 3 of the cheeses and all the meats rocked. (I still liked the Milleens.). Anyway, as I was writing this blog, I Googled Milleens and found this from a letter to the editor of the Independent in London:
Not the smelliest: “Sir: I am sorry to lob a pail into the churn, but the claim that Vieux Boulogne is “the world’s smelliest cheese” (report, 26 November) seems to be based on a very narrow sample dominated by France and Italy. My own recommendation for this accolade would be the exquisite Irish farmhouse cheese Milleens, which has a browny-red crust, a soft white interior and smells like a bad case of bromidrosis. Fans of Frank Zappa will recall that this is more succinctly known as “stink foot”.” — Moon, Tony. Letter to the Editor. London: The Independent: 29 November 2004.
So there you have it, Milleens aka Stink Foot, is apparently one of the world’s smelliest cheese.
Anyway, after the cheese laugh and love fest, we drove on to Cork. We made a short stop at Skibereen so we could visit the Skibereen Heritage Center which told the story of the Great Irish Famine in the 1840s when the Irish potato crop was completely destroyed by a virus that was brought over from the United States. Skibereen and the surrounding areas were the worst hit in Ireland as the region was highly dependent upon the potato crop for food. In fact, the average family (husband, wife and six kids) consumed 25 kg of potatoes per day.
The heritage center was really amazing. There were exhibits, reenactments and interactive stations that told the story of the famine, the soup kitchens set up to combat the widespread hunger, the workhouses, the mass burial grounds and the great migration of over a million people from Ireland to various countries around the world. What I found particularly interesting was that directly across the street from the Skibereen Heritage Center was a stone building that operated as a soup kitchen during the 1840s.
In addition, to learning about the famine, there was a short movie we were able to watch about Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve, Lough Hyne. The lake is actual a salt water lake that is fed by the Atlantic Ocean and contains a myriad of rich marine life. Apparently, marine biologists from all over the world come to study the marine life at Lough Hyne. Things you never knew!
So after the stop in SKibereen, we made a stop in Liam’s favourite village in Ireland: Clonakilty. The village is off the tourist track so very few tourists ever make it there. Liam is trying to change that. We parked at one end of the village and walked the three or four blocks through the little village past ice cream shops, little pubs, coffee shops and restaurants and brightly painted buildings. When we turned down one street we saw the post office, which takes up the back side of the old stone Protestant Church. And across the street from the Protestant Church we saw the gorgeous stone Catholic Church and a statue of Michael Collins who was born in nearby Woodfield and was an Irish revolutionary, soldier and politician who was a leading figure in the early-20th-century Irish struggle for independence.
We wandered through little alleys and came across a statute of a little monkey and a plaque that told the story of World War II B-17 bomber that crashed near Clonakilty. The U.S. crew, which had been flying from Brazil through Morocco along with a monkey named Tojo, all survived the crash. The townspeople from Clonakilty rescued the crew and the monkey, but unfortunately the cold Irish weather resulted in Tojo’s death. The entire town apparently turned out to give Tojo a grand funeral sendoff. They even erected a statute in Tojo’s memory.
At this point, we began our walk back to the van, but along the way, Liam insisted we stop at De Barra, a wonderful little pub that was home to an incredible memorabilia collection, including platinum records presented to Noel Redding, a local, who was the bassist for Jimmy Hendrix. There were signed pictures of Mohammad Ali, gold medals from the Atlanta Olympics and on and on. The back side of the pub had an open air feel with a cool little stage and another bar. Donnie and I wanted to come back and spend the night. We all concluded this was the best pub we had seen so far.
After the side trip to the lovely little town of Clonakilty, we headed that last 20 miles to Cork. We had a quick trip around part of the city past the amazing University as well as some gorgeous churches before reaching Hayfield Manor, our home for the next two nights. It had once again been an amazing, off the beaten path trip full of unexpected surprises, including the gorgeous weather. Hopefully the good weather will hold for tomorrow as Donnie is playing golf while Cheryl and I tour around with Liam. I have no doubt, the day will be full of more surprises. In the mean time, we are going to enjoy an evening in our fantastic Manor House.