Summer boltholes: Graham Norton’s Ireland paradise
Each summer the Bandon-born TV presenter and comedian spends more than two months at his home in Ahakista, close to Bantry in West Cork
Norton says some of his favourite places to eat locally include the Good Things Cafe in Durrus, which is also a cookery school, as well as Blairscove House and Restaurant, another popular spot also in Durrus.
“If I’m just by myself I’ll stay in my house,” he says. “I kind of run an unofficial B&B for the summer where friends from London come over.” Does this mean he’s up at the crack of dawn cooking his guests the full Irish? “I do that for a couple of days and then I’m like, ‘you know what, I have had enough’ so then we head out. We go to Durrus a lot, or we might drive to Kilcrohane, where the Post Office cafe is nice, and they do lots of nice things.There’s also a lovely little pub on the pier in Ahakista, or we also go to the Heron Gallery for lunch. They have beautiful food, and we sit out in the garden and it’s really lovely.”
While Norton hasn’t noticed a significant change in the local welcome over the years, he has noticed that there were fewer locals around to do the welcoming. “What was odd was if you came to this country from abroad looking for the Irish welcome, a lot of the people working in service industries tended not to be Irish,” he says. “So that seemed very peculiar to me and I think to a lot of visitors and not in a kind of xenophobic way. It was just odd that I would come home and everyone else seemed to be gone. So that was an odd feeling. I think that’s changing a lot too.”
When he is not in Ireland, Norton likes to visit South Africa and also New York, where he has invested in property in the past. “I go to New York a lot, which seems odd living in London. There is a different energy to that city. It is fantastic.
“I just did a safari in Tanzania and I’d recommend that highly.”
As someone who admits to have run out of Ireland in his early 20s, at a time when the country was not particularly welcoming either to Protestants or homosexuals, Norton finds it ironic that his time every summer in west Cork is one of the most anticipated parts of his year.
“I come back every year for two to two and a half months. It is incredible to me that I enjoy that so much, given that I ran out of the place. It is like my favourite part of the year now.”