September 16, 2011
F announced with only a couple days notice that he booked four days off and that we were going to go camping somewhere on the West coast, the somewhere yet to be confirmed. So, with one day left before heading out he decided on Glengarriff, west county Cork. F. arranged the trains and buses and camping site while I planned possible lunch options and packed up my camping gear. The trip was not to be hard-core camping, so restaurants were allowed which made it easier or maybe harder, I haven’t decided yet! ;)
First, despite Ireland being a small island, I have to comment on far away from Dublin Glengarriff is: a 3 hour train journey followed by a 2.5 hour bus journey and a 2km walk to our campsite with a couple of hours in layovers in Cork and Bantry reminds you just how remote west cork can be, but it’s always worth it! The West is my favourite part of Ireland and west cork is no exception. Everything is so beautiful and the people are so lovely. It’s hard to not imagine that you are in a film as you roam across the rugged landscape or tuck into a cozy pub to hide from a rain shower! ...But with all of this remote wild life comes the downer: eating allergy free is not always a walk in the park... but it was manageable!
Glengarriff is a small fishing village of about 800 people located on Bantry Bay. Although I didn’t indulge in any of the local seafood it is meant to be fresh and tasty and straight from Bantry Bay. The village does a big tourist trade so there is no scarcity of restaurants, hotels and B&B’s. On whole, milk definitely seemed to be a problem ingredient, as per usual, with the irish tendency to slip it into everything and vegetarian options were mildly uninspiring but gluten free diets had a bit more of a presence.
The best bet for coeliac/gluten free diets was definitely The Glen Chinese Restaurant located on the main street. More than half of the menu was marked as coeliac friendly (note: the menu asks you to notify the staff if you require one of the gluten free options) but obviously soy allergies would be a major problem here. Apart from the sauces, there are large pieces of tofu in many dishes. As expected, there are also numerous vegetarian options. The Glen Restaurant also offer takeaway (tel: 027 63947).
I had a hard time staying Dairy Free at the Rainbow restaurant because all of their sauces had some form of milk powder so I would be extra weary here, despite the staff being very helpful. I ended up with a vegetable stir fry which was quite large but uninteresting.
I didn’t get out to the stately Eccles hotel so I can’t advise on the options there.
Our bus had a stop-over in Bantry which is a sizable town of 3,000 people. It is a good place to pick up a few essentials before delving further into the village life of the west.
Briggs Supervalu, located nearby the Bus Eireann stop was a sizable general grocery shop with a small allergy free section carrying popular items such as Dairy Free milks and Gluten Free products, etc. My saving grace for breakfasts was actually a box of Australian made Carman’s Fruit-Free Muesli (also Sugar Free, apart from honey) and a 3 pack of rice milk lunchable sized cartons found in Briggs. I also got some lovely dried figs which tasted great with the jar of cashew nut butter that I threw into my rucksack as I was leaving the house!
The thing about the West is that the opening hours, holidays and general operation of businesses are completely unpredictable. I love this part, and hate it at the same time! It can force you to take life a little bit easier, helping to follow suit, relax and slow down, but it can also cause you to miss out when you are on a time schedule based on buses and public transport!
Also in Bantry was a shop I would have loved to get into called Organico (web: www.organico.ie) but I didn’t find it immediately and the rest is history. It seems to be an organic vegetable store with health foods, a café and a bakery which specialises in spelt bread.
F and I fell prey to the famous Glengarriff question of: ‘Is there a cash machine here?’ To which the answer is a big fat, but apologetic, 'No'! Our solution (being car-less) was to rent bikes with our last euros (€35 for 2 bikes for one day at The Black Cat) and cycle the coast to Castletownbere.
Le pain des fleurs crackersbreads, Dairy Free margarines, tempeh, tofu, a Sugar Free Vegetarian pre-made jelly (Jellivita, sweetened with apple juice) that I hadn't seen before and many other allergy friendly options.
Needless to say, my legs were aching like CRAZY yesterday after our previous 70km cycle but I was glad for our spontaneous camping trip and I think that everybody should jump at the chance to visit the west coast of Ireland!