Artisan Food Trails Cruise Itinerary
An artisan themed cruise aboard Irish Hotel Barge Shannon Princess will particularly appeal to people interested in the crafting of handmade food products. Guests aboard the Shannon Princess will enjoy tours of the finest craftsmen at work. Each artisan you meet on this fascinating voyage of discovery, will have a their own story to tell.
DAY 1, Sunday : Glasson
You are met at the designated meeting place and transferred by private chauffeured minibus to the Shannon Princess moored at Quigley’s Marina. Your Captain and his crew welcome you on board with champagne, Black Velvets or Irish coffees. Time perhaps for a gentle stroll before your first dinner on board.
DAY 2, Monday : Glasson to Athlone
After an early morning Bread & Baking practical demonstration, there's time for an early morning stroll through twisting country lanes, before we set out to explore a river wrapped in the legends of time. The Shannon Princess slips through countryside little changed through the centuries. Now a preserved area of ecological importance, relax & unwind as we float along the Shannon’s beautiful "Inner Lakes", passing stately riverside homes and some of its reputed 365 wooded islands.
Lunch is served on board. We moor in the pretty bustling Town of Athlone. After lunch on board, we visit Kelly's Moonshine Organic Dairy. Gerry and Mary Kelly are passionate producers with a real connection to the food they grow, source, make and sell. Part of the philosophy is a "back to basics" concept so that, uniquely, products are created with the greatest of care on favourable days in the moon's cycle. Moonshine Dairy is an organic farm that seeks to re-establish the bond of recognition and trust in food relationships.
As artisan producers, the Kelly's offer a range of cow's milk cheeses, probiotic yoghurts and yoghurt drinks. The range of farmhouse cheeses includes the award-winning Grace, a full flavoured soft cheese; Una, a soft cheese with a topping of sundried tomatoes, olives and herbs that won a bronze medal at the World Cheese Awards; Brid, with organic nettles, chives, celery, parsley and garlic and an organic sunflower oil; Aine, organic peppers blended with their own delicious fresh cheese and Derbhella, with a little parsley, onion, garlic, peppers and curry, (all organic), combined with the fresh organic cheese.
DAY 3, Tuesday : Athlone to Shannonbridge
The Shannon Princess descends through Athlone Lock and follows the river as it flows south through "The Callows". These lush grazing meadows have remained unchanged in over 1000 years and are now rich Wildfowl & Fauna Reserves. We moor at Clonmacnoise ruins – the ancient burial grounds of High Kings of Tara and Connaught. Clonmacnoise is an atmospheric and spiritual 6th-century monastic settlement soaked in history and myth. After a guided tour and visit to the interpretive centre we lunch enroute to Shannonbridge. Alternatively for energetic souls wishing to linger and explore, a picnic lunch can also be arranged while enjoying an undulating walk/cycle along rural byways to rejoin the barge at her overnight moorings in Shannonbridge. Shannonbridge is a charming little walled riverside village, an excellent spot for riverside walking, swimming, and exploring. Visit to the quaint and picturesque village of Ballinahowen. Our first visit here is to the Celtic Roots Studio where they design and craft sculptures and unique gifts in bogwood.
The wood, over 5000 years old, is the remains of trees hidden in the bog and brought to the surface thousands of years later. Each piece is handcrafted from this unique piece of ancient material. We then ramble across the road to the studios of Core Crafted Design. The original stylings of the building merge easily with the contemporary design of the new outlet to create an apt showcase for the largest selection of craft designers, artists, and creatives in the midlands region. Quality, design and originality are paramount at Core Crafted Designs and as such, all designers partake in a stringent assessment process to ensure the project represents the pinnacle of craft and design from Offaly and Westmeath. The outlet is also spearheading the growth of craft and design in the area by facilitating makers in showcasing their designs while also arranging demonstrations and craft. We now visit near neighbours Meadowsweet Apiaries & Farm Shop. The bees are native Irish bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) and they are housed in national hives.
The colonies are kept in twelve permanent apiares over a twenty mile radius. Over the years Meadowsweet Apiaries has won numerous awards for its honey produce. Meadowsweet has extensive fruit gardens. Return to barge for gourmet dinner showcasing today's produce.
DAY 4, Wednesday : Shannonbridge to Terryglass
We travel a very evocative stretch of the River Shannon. The Shannon Princess follows the rivers gentle curves, passing crumbling ivy covered ruins, medieval garrisons and sleepy market villages. Onwards we head, in the wake of time, floating by dappled woodlands and floodplain meadows. The ever-changing landscape slipping by, descending through Meelick lock and pausing as Portumna Swing Bridge is opened to allow the Shannon Princess onto idyllic Lough Derg.
We moor waterside at the foot of a gentle hill that slopes up to Terryglass village and partake in a guided tour by the master cheese maker, Ralph Haslam, owner of Mossfield Organic Cheeses. It's not easy to produce an award-winning cheese. But to produce one within a few short years of cheese making would seem to be an impossible task. He made the huge decision to switch to organic production and within a very short time, he became a very prominent organic farmer in the Co Offaly area. After just one year of making cheese, he succeeded in producing an organic cheese that is of such high quality that it took gold and silver medals at the World Cheese Awards. Now 10 years later Mossfield is found on the Cheese Boards of some of Europe's finest restaurants. Heading back to the barge we stop in the lovely town of "Birr" where we drop into a small but wonderfully stocked organic food store.
DAY 5, Thursday : Terryglass to Mountshannon
A full day excursion to Galway City – A lively university town and cultural centre for Irish-speaking regions in Western Ireland. En route to Galway we drop in to visit the Portumna Castle's Kitchen Garden. This is truly a gem full of beautiful herbs and berries and where the Shannon Princes'’s Chef stocks up her galley. Galway is the "Gourmet Centre of the Wild Atlantic Food Trail". Here we visit the world-famous Clarinbridge Oyster Beds on the shores of Galway Bay. Protected by the bay from the force of Atlantic storms, the 700 acres of beds lie in an ideal mixture of fresh and sea water vital for perfect oyster development, taking from three to five years to grow for consumption. MC Geoughs Craft Butchers & Smokehouse – An award winning charcuterie producing smoked Connemara lamb, smoked wild boar, and numerous pâtes, fresh & cured sausages and puddings.
Visit to Galway Smoked Salmon Salt House to see fish landed and prepared for smoking. Free to visit the many gourmet and artisan food shops in Galway. Return to Shannon Princess for "Entertaining with Ease" cookery demonstration. Evening gourmet dinner and sail through the especially beautiful Lough Derg passing Forrest Park and ancient mountains as we set our course for Mountshannon – a lovely lakeside village perched above the Lough.
DAY 6, Friday : Mountshannon to Killaloe
This morning we literately go with the flow, south through Lough Derg and her many islands, castles and medieval strongholds. The River Shannon carves a dramatic route through the hills and valleys of Munster's North Riding before sweeping into Killaloe, once home to the court of the last High King of Ireland, Brian Boro. We moor on the Tipperary side of this elegant little Ecclesiastical town, with plenty of time for you to visit both villages & local sites of interest.
After lunch on-board, we set off by bus to the pretty village of Tuamgraney where we visit “Wilde Irish Chocolate Makers” artisan chocolate makers. If Wilde suggests a bit of decadence, then it's exactly the right name for the chocolate that Patricia Farrell makes, not far from the shores of Lough Derg, in Co Clare. But other words that can be used to describe just how delicious these are might include scrumptious and luscious. And winning Great Taste Gold in 2007 is the definite "proof of the pudding". Chocolate is probably the one food that's practically irresistible. Even the exotic names of the Wilde products are a temptation – Hazelnut Duet, Mocha Mocha, Truffle Temptation. Wilde is the only Irish maker of Organic Fairtrade chocolate, certified by the Organic Trust. There's also a range of conventional and sugar free hand-decorated products. All the chocolates are handmade by the "Wilde Team" in a small artisan outlet in Tuamgraney. When Patricia and Con Farrell opened the workshop in 1997, they had the aim of producing great chocolate. Success followed with the awarding of five Great Taste awards in five years. They are most proud of last year's Gold Medal as it was for their Fairtrade Organic Chocolates. Also, here in Tuamgraney we visit McKernan Handweavers. McKernans is a small family-run business. You are invited to visit McKernan's workshop and showroom.
Take a step back in time and experience Eugene working his magic on late 19th-century looms, where he turns Anke's contemporary designs into colourful arrays of distinctive scarves and shawls. Eugene and Anke McKernan have specialized in woven and knitted scarves and shawls from the finest and softest of natural yarns. Their work consciously differs from fast changing fashion trends and tries to emphasize their individual touch. Visit to Irish Seed Savers in the Village for a short work shop on Native Fruits. Visit to Riverside Artisan Bakery & Patisserie. Farewell Gala Dinner.
DAY 7, Saturday : Killaloe
After breakfast, transfer by private chauffeured minibus to the designated drop off point.
NOTE: Artisan themed barge cruises are charter only. On alternate weeks the cruise is in the reverse direction. Itineraries are subject to change.