Farmer owned and operated ice cream parlour in Burren ready for surge in demand during heatwave

‘The only thing we knew was milk, we thought about making fudge or cheese but settled on ice cream’

Running an ice cream parlour and a farm in the current heatwave is no mean feat, but Bríd Fahy and her husband Roger are two cool customers with preparations well under way for the expected surge in demand as temperatures climb this week.

Situated on the stunning Flaggy Shore, in the heart of the Burren along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, the pair run Linnalla Ice Cream, one of the few farmer owned and operated ice cream parlours in Ireland.

“I have the cold room well full of ice cream ready for customers this week,” Bríd tells The Irish Times.

“Milking typically starts at 6.30am every morning and we use all our own milk and cream to make the ice cream. Our main herd is made up of 80 British Friesian cows but we also keep a small number of traditional Dairy Shorthorn cows, and it’s their milk we use for the ice cream.”

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Roger is the sixth generation to farm on the Finaverra peninsula, while Bríd was originally a nurse. The couple were struggling to cope and make a profit from the farm before they decided to diversify.

Almost every field on the farm touches the sea and in the summer the Fahys have to watch the tide to make sure cows don’t get stranded.

“We have a very fragmented farm on a peninsula and we kept being told there was no money in farming and we needed to diversify,” Bríd explains.

“We had three small children at the time and I was commuting almost every day into Galway and overall, the work/life balance was pretty poor. We realised the only thing we knew was milk, we thought about making fudge or cheese but settled on ice cream.”

The ice cream industry is worth €150 million in Ireland, with 70 per cent of that made up of sales of shop bought ice cream which meant that for Bríd’s cafe and parlour to succeed she would have to make sure her ice cream stood out. She travelled to the UK and Bologna in Italy to take courses in ice cream making where she learned how to develop their own unique, on-farm, artisan ice cream.

“The Americans like a very rich ice cream with a high fat content of 15 per cent, but the fat can actually mask the flavour,” she says.

“The Irish typically like an ice cream with a fat content of around 8 per cent which suits the milk we produce on-farm. We don’t like it as fat as the Americans do and like to taste our flavours. The Italians on the other hand will go for a much lower fat content of 4 per cent because they like a very smooth gelato but add lots of fruit and sugar.”

Honing her craft has been second nature to Bríd and while she offers the traditional staples of vanilla, chocolate and mint she has also been experimenting with local and seasonal flavours.

“We currently have an apple pie ice cream, but we’ve also had rhubarb and custard, and wild sloe but I only make enough ice cream to supply our own parlour so we’re quite a small operation.”

While the hot weather is good news for the ice cream side of the business, it can make farming more difficult with grass growth slowing in many parts of the country.

“One of the challenges of farming on the Flaggy Shore is that the soil is thin and will burn a lot more quickly than in other areas. Grass has started to burn up and a week or two ago we did have to feed cows silage that we had set aside for winter, but that’s one of the challenges of farming in the Burren.”

The pandemic also proved to be a difficult time for many businesses in the Burren who rely on tourism and Bríd says being part of the Burren Eco-Tourism Network has been a huge source of support.

With the tourist season back in full flow and a strong US dollar, many businesses are enjoying the return to action and Bríd is quick to point out that the Flaggy Shore should be on everyone’s map this summer.

“Seamus Heaney wrote that the Flaggy Shore was the place to, ‘catch the heart off guard and blow it open’,” she says.

“People should take the chance to experience the beauty of the place, and maybe a scoop of ice cream, for themselves.”