On Saturday I went along to meet Bianka of local tour company CarlowTours.ie who offer customized guided tours in the South East of Ireland.
We met in Carlow Town where we bundled ourselves into Biankas’ deluxe minibus that can carry up to eight passengers (plus luggage space) and off we set.
Our guide was local historian Peter Kenny who gave us such an insightful and interesting tour of the breathtaking castle, much more information than can be found on the official website! I learnt how to distinguish an old cabinet from a modern one by noting the glass reflection within same (old glass gives a wobbly reflection), that many ladies fainted not because of their corsets necessarily but also because of the oil lamp fumes and lack of ventilation. The decor in the castle is fab-u-lous! It has obviously been restored with much care and consideration, however, as we were not allowed to take photos I cannot show you just how beautiful it is but I would highly recommend a visit!
We popped into ‘Anocht’ the Kilkenny Design Centres’ Cafe for a ‘sticky bun’ (as my fella would say) and coffee. Oh my! #Cakes!! What an array of delightful treats!
Suitably sustained we hopped back onto the minibus for the second part of our day tour – to visit and sample some of the organic ciders and spirits brewed in Irelands’ smallest distillery – Highbank Orchards.
Upon arrival at Highbank Orchards and to a chorus of ‘we want to go on the train’ we were greeted by Rod and Julie, founders and passionate brewers of ciders, spirits and (soon to launch) gin!
Rod gave us a tour of the grounds explaining how they refuse to use chemicals of any kind on their trees or soil thus enabling nature to look after her own. The natural balance has thus far meant that they don’t have problems with disease or bio attacks – nature simply produces whatever is required to negate any potential problems.
After the tour we met Julie who explained the history of Highbank Orchards and gave us a tasting of their produce. My personal favourite was their ‘Drivers Cider‘ – a non alchoholic cider which was sweet and sparkling,they also offer ‘Proper Cider‘, Medieval (Honeyed) Cider and Highbank Orchard Syrup – something I tasted in sloe brandy cocktails at last years ‘Wild & Slow Dinner’ at MacCreddin in Wicklow – Delicious!
We had a tour of the distillery – all shiny and willy wonka-like and Rod explained how the process works. Then we tasted their latest Spirits which included an Apply “brandy” style Spirit. Definitely one to have in the cabinet for visitors! Soon to launch is a very interesting gin – however you will have to wait and follow Highbank Orchards to find out more about this!
Highbank Orchards are also the venue for a number of BiaBeag Workshops (Exploring the world of small scale, ethical & local food producers) such as the #RealBread movement – They have an upcoming ‘Meet The Bakers’ event on January 24th – details here >>
The venue is very laid back and relaxing and Julie confirmed that it often resulted in people at these workshops getting really passionate about the subject matter and sharing more than usual as they felt comfortable and at ease.
After Highbank Orchards we headed off for our final stop on the way back to Carlow: Leighlinbridge!
Leighlinbridge is only 15 mins from Carlow town on the river Barrow with the oldest working bridge in Europe and a fabulous ruin: The Black Castle. Bianka certainly knows her stuff and will give you an indepth history of the area. There are also a number of gardens which are lovingly catered for by the citizens of the village and have lots of sculptures scattered throughout.
Our day tour with Carlow Tours was a resounding success and one I would highly recommend. It is obvious how passionate Bianka is about her business and Irish heritage in general and we wish her all the best in 2015!
Experience day trips with your personal tour guide. We customise tours to suit your needs. Join us for an unforgettable chauffeur driven tour in our deluxe minibus that can carry up to eight passengers on a range of sight seeing activities.You tell us what you’d like to see or do and we organise the rest. You will be picked up and returned to your accommodation for all our trips and tours. Specialised for groups you will enjoy a really unique experience.