Select: the literary festivals to fill your belly and your brain

There’s a literary feast awaiting the country in the coming week, with three festivals taking place. We’ve rounded up some places to fill your belly while you fill your brain

 

There’s a literary feast awaiting the country in the coming week, with three festivals taking place. We’ve rounded up some places to fill your belly while you fill your brain.

This weekend, the Festival of Writing and Ideas (festivalofwritingandideas.com) returns to Borris House, Co Carlow. The three-day festival begins on Friday June 5th and runs until Sunday, and will host speakers including director Neil Jordan, authors Anne Enright, Ian McEwan, Kevin Barry and Belinda McKeon, Catriona Crowe of the National Archive and children’s author Shane Hegarty (formerly of this parish). There will be workshops for aspiring authors, comedy from Tommy Tiernan and an “unplugged” performance of Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by actress Aoife Duffin.

On the food front, there will be a talk from the ubiquitous Happy Pear twins David and Stephen Flynn, along with a discussion on food production on Saturday afternoon at 3pm. On Sunday morning, brunch is served in Borris House, with a talk from biologist Jeremy Cherfas and Rosie Boycott of London Food on future ways to feed ourselves. And while that’s going on, your €12.50 ticket will let you feed yourself with brunch treats – including a breakfast empanada – from three surprise chefs.

Just outside the walls of Borris House, the Step House Hotel (stephousehotel.ie) serves good food in both its 1808 bar and Cellar restaurant. In the bar, there’s free-range chicken (€18) with white bean stew, Gubbeen chorizo and organic cabbage, plus a good cheeseburger with smokey bacon for €14. In the Cellar, dinner costs €36 for two courses, €40 for three; the menu includes starters of open ravioli of local oxtail with horseradish and onion confit, or rabbit with herb risotto and black garlic. Mains include Tom Salter’s free-range pork with sweet potato puree and crackling, or Mary Walsh’s free-range duck with arancini, pear and duck sauce.

To escape the hustle of Borris, take a quick drive south to St Mullins, where Mullicháin Café (oldgrainstorecottages.ie) sits in a restored grainstore on the banks of the River Barrow. You can sit inside the stone walled café, or on the plentiful riverside benches. There’s lots of home baking – Emer’s pavlova (€4.20) is moreish – and a cheese board (€9, including five Irish cheeses). There’s a good Duncannon prawn and crab salad with the café’s brown bread (€11) and you can stroll down the river bank before heading back to the festival.

Next week sees a host of events leading up to Yeats Day (yeats2015.com), a celebration of the 150th anniversary of WB Yeats’ birth on June 13th.

The heart of the action is in Sligo, where a Nobel Dinner cooked by Joe Shannon at the Radisson Blu hotel Sligo will celebrate the meal served in Stockholm when Yeats collected his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. The event is on Thursday June 11th at 7.30pm, with guest of honour Edna O’Brien.

There will be readings and music from Sligo Orpheus Choir and the five-course menu will include Lissadell mussels with local smoked salmon and Atlantic prawns, a poitin sorbet, 17-hour slow roasted Yeats Country beef and a lemon and raspberry posset. Tickets (€45) include a drinks reception, meal and wine. Book on 071-919 2414 or email berni.chambers@radissonblu.com. 

On Yeats Day there are boat trips with afternoon tea around Lough Gill – rather fittingly to the Lake Isle of Innisfree. Departing from Doorly Park Pier in Sligo, the Rose of Innisfree will sail around the lake with a recital of Yeats’ poetry by the boat’s captain, George McGoldrick. There’s a full Irish breakfast on the 8am sailing (this is now sold out) but you can get afternoon tea on the 12.30pm and 3.30pm sailings. Tickets €15 from info@roseofinnisfree.com or 087-2598869.

There’s a Wine and Sausage trail, a nod to the yarn that when Yeats received a call telling him of his Nobel Prize victory he went to the cellar to fetch a bottle of wine, only to find there was none. Instead, he and his wife Georgiana celebrated with a dinner of sausages. You can have your wine, and eat your sausage too, on this trail, where eateries will serve €5 small plates such as Hargadon’s Pub's (5 O’Connell St), spicy chorizo and chick pea in spicy tomato and basil sauce from 4pm-7pm, June 10th- 13th; Cafe Fleur (18 O’Connell St) is serving a Maude Gonne sausage-and-wine baguette from noon to 5pm, June 10th-14th; or McGarrigles (11 O’Connell St ) will have Yeats sausage with mash and gravy from noon to 8pm, June 10th-14th. See sosligo.com

In Co Waterford, Immrama, the Lismore Festival of Travel Writing takes place from Thursday June 11th to Sunday, June 14th. This year’s theme is “Journeys of Historic Proportions” and there will be talks from adventurer Charlie Boorman, lecturer and guide Jonathan Shackleton (cousin of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton) and Beiruit- based journalist Robert Fisk, along with travel writing workshops with Paul Clements.

On Sunday morning Ballyrafter House Hotel will host a literary breakfast at 8.30am with Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, author of A Short Ride in the Jungle, an account of her journey along the Ho Chi Minh Trail on a battered old Honda Cub. Breakfast will include a full Irish fry, with local produce (apart from Clonakilty pudding from across the border) and teas and coffees followed by Antonia’s talk. Tickets are €25 from lismoreimmrama.com

On Sunday, Lismore Farmers Market takes place on Castle Avenue, leading up to Lismore Castle from 9.30am to 4pm. There’s fresh fruit and veg from Tallow farmer Tony O’Keeffe, lots of baked goods from Homely Bakes and Granny Maddocks Pantry (who do gluten- and wheat-free treats such as honey and almond slices and chocolate cake), coffees from the Market Café, and chutneys and some unusual homemade cordials from Aurelia – such as lemon and parsnip or orange and carrot. There’s a playground and park to have a picnic if the weather allows. 

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