Caragh Lake, close to Killorgin, is one of the most beautiful spots in Kerry. Fishermen love it and the Caragh River is an important wildlife habitat because it is so free of pollution. The banks of the lake offer some of the finest views of Carrantuohill, Ireland’s highest mountain in the McGillicuddy Reeks range.
One of the landmarks of the lake shores is Ard na Sidhe. It’s now a fine luxury hotel and ideal for romantic breaks, but was built for Lady Gordon, a noted traveller and writer who spared no expense in building ‘the house of my dreams’ in this magical spot, the name means Hill of the Fairies. She employed English architect Morley Horden and the building is now recognised as one of the country’s finest Arts and Crafts Movement houses.
Ard na Sidhe is renowned for its food, but if you want to pack a picnic perhaps you should try some of these Kerry specialities, all artisan produced from local produce and recommended by the Taste of Kerry.
Annascaul Black Pudding, is made on the Dingle Peninsula to the same recipe that has been used since 1916. Annascaul also produce traditional sausages, bacon and butcher fine Kerry meat. Uniquely block-shaped and smooth in texture, Annascaul Black Pudding is the signature product.
You’ll need some bread for your picnic and Barry's Bakery of Tralee is in its third generation of family ownership. Barry’s are well known locally and you’ll find their bread and cakes across Kerry. If you have special dietary needs then Ó hAnnáin Gluten and Wheat Free Baking make a range of breads and cakes which you can find in local health food shops or at farmer’s markets.
Kerry is justly famous for its seafood and Daly’s Seafoods are specialists in smoked salmon which is shipped across Europe. Cold oak smoked and hot smoked salmon, smoked trout mackerel and fresh fish and shell fish are specialities.
For something sweet, try something from Europe’s most westerly chocolatiers at Skelligs Chocolate Company. They win awards for their chocolates – more than 60 flavours of truffles - which have been made in St Finian’s Bay for 15 years with a view that is beyond awards.
The Valentia Island Farmhouse Dairy is another outlier, actually milking a herd and producing their ice cream in the Atlantic. There is an ice cream parlour on the island or look for it in Kerry shops.
Kerry is famous for its dairy herds, which thrive on the lush green grass of the county.
There are several local cheeses which would make a great addition to your picnic basket.
Béal Organic Cheese is Ireland’s first organic (and vegetarian) cheddar cheese. It has won numerous awards and even won a cash injection on the reality investment show, Dragons’ Den. The company has big plans but is still based at its dairy in Listowel.
There is also a Dingle Peninsula Cheese and Killorgin Cheese. Remember to use Kerrygold Butter on your sandwiches.
To wash down your Kerry picnic, you’ll need something from the West Kerry Brewery – another holder of an Ireland’s most westerly crown – out near Dingle. Born from a union of two pubs, the beautifully-named Tig Bhric and Tigh Uí Catháin, they now make three ales Béal Bán a pale, golden ale, Cul Dorcha, which is dark and fruity and their deeply chocolaty porter (Guinness was originally considered a porter) Carraig Dubh.
Caragh Lake is a great place to chill out and enjoy the solitude of this beautiful area, but if you fancy something more lively you can fish on the lake, take boat trips or enjoy adventure sports at Cappanalea Outdoor Education Centre.
This is the south-west of Ireland not the Mediterranean, but Kerry is well known for being milder than the rest of the country because of influence of the Gulf Stream out in the Atlantic. Temperatures from April onwards rarely drop below 5°C, and starts to head upwards from then. The summer maximums tend to be around 18°C in July and August. It can be dry and sunny in the summer, but this is a maritime and mountainous area so you should always be prepared for rain.
If you have time, and want to cook, you can celebrate one of Kerry’s finest products with a Kerry Pie. Look for mountain lamb which has enjoyed the rich, herby grasslands that give it great flavour.
Dice the lamb into small chunks and brown in a pan. Add the flour and give everything a good stir. In a separate pan cook the diced onions and carrots for a few minutes before adding the floured lamb, herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the stock, cover the pan and allow it to simmer for half-an-hour.
Meanwhile prepare your pastry. A muffin tray is perfect for these bite-sized pies. Line each cup with pastry and make a pastry lid in advance. Add your pie mixture to each lined cup and crimp the lids firmly into place, making a hole in the top of the lid to allow steam out. Finally, brush the lids with the beaten egg yolk.
Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F, 200 degrees C, Gas Mark 6.go back