Ann keeps us busy during the week, but she’s also helped keep the itinerary full during the weekends. Everything from the Friday night ritual of fish & chips, the Skibbereen farmer’s market on Saturday morning, coffee shops & bakeries when the weather’s foul, to a couple failed fishing attempts and cow adventures… now you’ve got yourself a WWOOFing experience.
Our first weekend at Reen was very, very rainy. So of course, we geared up and ventured into the fray to explore. Our second weekend (last weekend) was sunny and bright which made perfect weather during the Carbery opening hunt and a boat ride into the Atlantic for some whale watching.
Exploring the South Reen Property
Exploring Ann’s property has been our most common outlet for free time. After work we take twilight walks through her forests and along her roads, marveling at the scenery waiting around each corner. It’s as though anywhere one looks could be a postcard photo.
It’s not often dense forest is backed up against a sandy beach. On top of that, it rains so often Ann has channeled the fresh water runoff into drains and streams which now dissect her property. The presence of so much water leaves everything green, more lush than imaginable. The phrase, Everything grows in Ireland, is certainly true.
Maybe it’s her English accent, but we imagine ourselves smack-dab in J.K. Rowling’s Forbidden Forest during some of these walks. Brit wanted to act out a scene from the books once… That’s all.
The Carbery Opening Hunt
This is one of the most unique experiences we had while at Reen. Remember that Disney movie from the 80’s, The Fox and the Hound? It’s sorta like that, but more surreal. Actually, it’s nothing like that. Hounds hate foxes.
We arrived at The Brinny Inn around 11:30am, the pub where the members gathered. The members of the hunt share a pint or coffee before mounting and organizing. Once all members are mounted, the hounds are brought forward to lead the pack on the trail of a fox. Hounds are counted in couples, so there were about “12 couple hounds,” which is 24.
The tradition of fox hunting began hundreds of years ago when English farmers were plagued by pesky foxes who would kill their chickens. The farmers would summon the hunters and hounds who would assemble to sniff-out the fox and eliminate it. Following the hounds on horseback through thick brush and steep banks requires technical riding, so riding in a hunt is reserved for elite horsemen.
Skibbereen Farmer’s Market
Southwest Cork spans hundreds of square miles, but farmers, bakers and small businesses of all sorts gather Saturday mornings to offer their local produce and crafts. We journeyed to the market both Saturdays we spent with Ann. She uses the opportunity to buy her food for the week. The typical grocery list contains a few proteins, several vegetables and a couple loaves of bread.
Lost in the translation of bulk grocery and the convenience of food warehouses is the appreciation of ethical and humane methods for the way food is produced. We spoke to David, who raised the chickens we bought from chicks. He taught us about the best ways to season and prepare his chicken breast. Martin sold us spelt cakes and loaves which he cooked in his handmade brick-oven. Locally produced products prepared and sold in the community from which it was created.
Food doesn’t just taste good, it feels good. Our money supports a family dedicated to food quality, not profit. People coming together to sell the food they’ve made, sharing originality and authenticity is something easily forgotten.
Of course… you shouldn’t expect to change who you are overnight… We found the only BBQ vendor and had a 1/2 pound cheese burger for breakfast at 9:30am. So there’s that.
Union Hall Whale Watching
As of recent, we haven’t lived in a place where the weather is so frequently considered. San Diego is either cold (60 degrees or under), hot (85+ degrees) or nice (anything in between). Much of what we can accomplish on any given day in southwest Cork depends on the weather. Luckily, our last Sunday was a really beautiful day. Irish weather changes about 3-4 times each day, so to have a full sunny day is rare (during the winter).
We met our boat at the end of Reen pier at 10am and set out into the Atlantic. The skies were calm, but the sea had other plans. Offshore swells and chop made for poor whale watching conditions, but we were fortunate to have consistent visits from dolphin pods throughout the day. Matt shot some clips on the GoPro, Brit got some great ones on her rebel.
Although the weather didn’t work with our hopes for whale watching, we had to try. Given the chance to journey into the Atlantic again, we wouldn’t miss it.
Fish and Chips
Union Hall has a handful of pubs and restaurants. We didn’t account much time for dining out, but every Friday night we’d venture off Ann’s property and head into town for fish and chips. So close to the Atlantic, Union Hall’s primary industry is fishing. The availability of seafood is abundant.
Each Friday night we would visit Maloney’s, a local pub which offered fish and chips for a fiver. Beer battered fish and chips and a Murphy’s is the best way to begin the weekend.
Brittany’s love for seafood has been a slow work in progress, but she’s sold after a couple Fridays at Maloney’s forking through her first fish and chips.
Did we mention we were well connected? Ann is a personal friend of the bar owner, Johnny Maloney, who let us go behind the bar to pour our own pints. He even offered Brittany a job, should she ever decide to ditch the game-plan of moving to Colorado with Matt.
Drombeg Stone Circle
Also known as Druid’s Alter, this once ritual-site is located about 2 miles outside of Glandore, County Cork. After hearing about our trip and fascination with Stonehenge, Ann offered to show us the local monument. Although the stones are not nearly as large as Stonehenge, it was a captivating creation. This circle consists of 17 closely spaced stones spanning about 31 ft in diameter (thanks wikipedia). Stone circles were places of ritual and ceremony in the later Bronze Age period (1500 BC-600 BC) and were usually associated with human burial.
As we walked from the car down the path to the stones, dark clouds loomed overhead. We quickened our pace, hoping the rain would hold off until we had a chance to get our pictures and a history lesson. After a few snaps and a couple moments to take in the beauty, we raced back to the car for cover just before a heavy downpour set in.
This post was long, thanks for sticking it out! We wanted to fit both weekends into one post and soon figured out it was a little harder than we thought.
We’ll be doing another update about the specific projects we were working on during our stay at the farm and our last few days with Ann. Stay tuned for mas.
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Blondie and the Beard