Gortnanain Vegetarian Guesthouse and Organic Farm, Co. Cork

Some very good friends kindly gave us a voucher for Gortnanain Vegetarian Guesthouse and Organic Farm, which we used last weekend. This guesthouse is situated in the rolling countryside just outside Kinsale in Co. Cork and consists of the small guesthouse itself and around 9 acres of land given over to growing a staggering array of vegetables and to a lesser, but increasing, extent fruit. The bulk of this produce is used to supply a handful of restaurants in Cork city, including one of the world’s great vegetarian restaurants – Dennis Cotter’s Cafe Paradiso.

Not only do Lucy and Ultan tend the crops, they also do a great job as hosts and chefs for dinner and breakfast. After arriving, we were given a nice cup of tea and had a great chat. We also got to meet the house’s other permanent residents, Snapple and Bramble – head rabbit catchers on the farm. There was one other couple staying that night: Michael and Lorna from NYC. Everyone – guests and hosts alike – sits around the big kitchen table for dinner.

The dinner menu is fixed, but Lucy did ask when we booked, whether we had any preferences or allergies; and they work out the menu based on that information and whatever is available in the garden. Gortnanain has no wine licence but provides a glass or two on the house and you can, of course, bring your own. Dinner was excellent, especially the tomato salad, which completely changed my views on the merits of beefsteak tomatoes. These were ripe to perfection and bursting with flavour. The conversation was great and continued after we retired to the lounge for tea and coffee. Lucy and Ultan’s take on organic was very refreshing. They are committed to local organic food because being near, it’s in peak condition, and organic farming is so much better for the environment. They made no claims that it’s necessarily better for you: for that they’d rather wait for conclusive scientific evidence. Mind you, I think it’s obvious that they believe it.

Next day, after a delicious breakfast, Ultan gave a tour of the farm. It was quite astonishing, what could be produced from a small plot. As we wandered up and and down drills of various vegetables in glorious sunshine, with Ultan weeding as we went, it was quite obvious the amount of work that goes into producing such great vegetables. You must need huge commitment to be doing this on the many rainy days we have.

I can’t recommend Gortnanain highly enough and would urge you to spend a night or two if you’re ever in the area. I know we’re looking forward to our next visit.

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