Cheshire Cat Team trip Blog 2015.

Following trips to Rioja (2013) and the vineyards of Mallorca (2014) it was time for the cool climes of Ireland, the home of co-owner Mary and her brother and Red Lion manager Brian as well as Barry from the Bulls Head.

They were joined naturally by Tim, James from the Three Greyhounds Inn, Simon from the Church Inn, Jess from the Cholmondeley Arms, Shane our Company Support manager and James our longest serving senior deputy manager.

The team flew in on Tuesday and were met by Tim and Mary at Derry Airport with the minibus kindly driven by Hugh from the Derry Airporter Bus Co. The weather was clear and mild with no breeze at all as we headed to the World Heritage site of the Giants Causeway. The weather was stunning on arrival and the team enjoyed a good solid walk around the causeway blowing the cobwebs away following a very early morning flight. The views were spectacular and certainly memorable.

We headed next to the Bushmills Distillery only a stone’s throw (Finn McCool’s term!) from the Giants Causeway. We were given a guide to the world’s oldest distillery by a charming young lady before all trying either a hot whisky or a Bushmills 12 Year Old Malt (of which a bottle is on the Bulls Head bar ready for tasting). The distillery is worth a trip for sure and the team jumped back on the coach with a glow about them!

Next up was lunch at Harry’s Shack at Port Stewart. This unlicensed Beach Café is a real treat and we all enjoyed mussels and fries and other fishy delights with views of the strand as the sun beat down with temperatures of 21 degrees! We enjoyed it so much that we forgot what the time was as we rushed for the McGilligan Ferry to Greencastle….thankfully this is a part of the world where you can ring the ferry and they will wait a few minutes for you! So we crossed the Foyle Estuary and arrived in Greencastle to be met by Gavin (Marys other brother) our Cheshire Cat website man! He then jumped aboard to join us for the evening.

A pint of Guinness was enjoyed at the Ferryboat Inn before we headed across Northern Donegal to Carrigart where the team stayed in a B&B. The night was then spent at the famous Glen Bar run by Aengus and Cormack. This is Tim and Mary’s favourite pub, after their own pubs of course! Aengus and Ashling welcomed the team warmly and we then met the brewer from Kinnegar Brewery in Rathmullen who brought some of his great craft beers for us to taste. We then enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by Cormack and the team. We then spent the rest of the night enjoying some music before the taxis picked us up for a much needed sleep after a wonderful first day…..

Wednesday morning we were up early travelling from Donegal via Sligo to Westport. In Sligo we stopped at the grave of the poet Keats before arriving at the Shells Café for lunch. More seafood was enjoyed and a few special lamb pittas before a long walk on the beach. The weather again was truly unbelievable for this time of year. Having told the team to wrap up and bring fleeces and waterproofs, most were now in T-shirts!!

We then headed out to County Leitrim and to the Shed Distillery. This is a new distillery opened in the ‘Food Hub’ of Drumshanbo. The Distillery belongs to one, PJ.Rigney, (ex-Baileys and Sheridans) and is so new they are still finessing their Gin and Vodkas for release this Christmas. We were shown around by Liam and met the Head Distiller Brian (formerly of the Dingle Distillery). The whiskey is in the barrels but still has a few years to go before being ready to bottle. We previewed the gin in its raw form and it was delicious! Look out for Gunpowder Gin….

We then climbed on to bus again heading to Westport in County Mayo. Westport is a tourist hotspot and you can tell when you get there. It is a pretty town with lots of atmosphere. We checked in to the Wyatt’s Hotel after the long journey from Donegal. The team met up at Matt Malloy’s Bar and we were served by a lovely lady from….wait for it….Bedford! The back bar displayed a couple of Matt Malloy’s (and the Chieftain’s) Grammy awards which James, Tim and Simon were quick to claim as theirs before the intervention of said lady from Bedford! Her service was excellent and we went on to enjoy a very good meal in the Pantry and Corkscrew Restaurant famous for ‘slow food’. The meal, like the night before at the Glen Bar, was a real treat and we were looked after wonderfully. We tried an excellent Italian red from Tuscany from the vineyard owned by the Bocelli Family and one, Andrea Bocelli!

A few scoops were had afterwards by the team as Tim and Mary made a dash to their hotel to rest up for the big walk the next day!

Thursday started a little misty after the last two very sunny days. The plan was to climb the famous Croagh Patrick mountain….so off we went on the bus thinking maybe it was too foggy to do it. When we arrived at the foot of Croagh Patrick you could see the sun coming through the mist so off we went for it. Nothing could have prepared us for this climb! Boy it is a tough one…and classically you need lots of water and one or two sticks to do it safely. One or two of the team didn’t make the top but most did with Shane (in a pair of conversers) being first at the top with Simon, James B. and Mary in close pursuit. Barry and James G. were held up by Tim but then made it to join the rest for a great team photo on the summit.

The trip down the mountain was hazardous to say the least and tired legs ensured Tim fell close to the bottom after a long decent. A kind gent from Chicago arrived on the scene to haul Tim back to his feet…a little bruised and bloody Tim continued to the bottom and to the pub where Jess and Brian were waiting. The rest of the successful climbers were soon in the pub to celebrate their survival!!

The bus was a quiet place as we now headed to the Galway Bay Brewing Co. Most of the team enjoyed a good sleep as we arrived at the brewery a little late. We were met by Chris and shown around this fantastic micro-brewery creating beers for its own pub group as well as other operators. We tried such beers as ‘of foam and fury’ and ‘buried at sea’ and hope to feature one or two during Barry’s Irish week next March 2016. Thanks greatly to the lads at the brewery for their time, hospitality and the beer tasting.

Now the sleepiness had really kicked in so a short journey took us to the G Hotel in Galway for rest time. The team met in the G Hotel bar still buzzed up about the mountain climb and really looking forward to a last night in the city of Galway.

Galway is another touristy city and we found excellent hospitality at the G Hotel but sadly a lot of rolled eyes and rude service in the bars. It would appear in certain Galway Pubs/bars the bar staff are doing you a favour serving you. You can be as courteous as you like but if you appear like a ‘visitor’ then you are treated by some as something the cat dragged in. These pubs are lucky to have customers at all and yet don’t appreciate the fact. Anyway enough of the rant but sadly these pubs need to be given a wide birth. For readers of this blog ask at your hotel reception, which are the best and most hospitable pubs in Galway before you head out to ensure a good night.

We ate at the fabulous Ard Bia at Nimmos. This is a stunningly relaxed restaurant with really welcoming, friendly and attentive service with food to match. We loved it! It was the perfect finish to all the great places we had eaten at on our journey.

As the night moved in to the early hours of Friday morning the team toasted a great trip together through the North of Ireland in to Donegal and down to Galway.

Friday morning was spent eating as much breakfast as was available at the G Hotel before heading in to Galway for a quick shop. The bus left Galway at 11.30am to take the team to Knock Airport for the short flight back to Manchester. It was a great time, fantastic food and drink, wonderful countryside, friendly hospitality and as usual a few characters along the way!

Thanks to the Cheshire Cat Team for the efforts over the year. You deserved this trip here’s to our new financial year 2015/16.

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