Once in a while, something really stops you in your tracks. And occasionally, something blows your mind. Visiting Michael Flanagan's Achill Island Turbot is one of those mind blowing events. From the outside, Achill Island Turbot looks like any IDA plant, someplace to build circuit boards, perhaps.
Inside, in an insulated building into which seawater is pumped up from the nearby coastline, there are tens of thousands of beautiful turbot, of different ages and sizes, lolling contentedly in the seawater baths, pouncing up to the surface only when some feed is thrown in. This fish farm recycles its seawater, so only 4%-5% of new water is required each day. There is no visual or environmental impact.
It's the smart phone of fish farming. It's incredible. It makes you say things like, “So, this is the future of fish farming”. And the fish eats deliciously, as we discovered when chef Ollie O'Regan cooked it with a tomato and chive beurre blanc that evening as part of a stupendous dinner in the Mulranny Park Hotel.
But Achill Island Turbot isn't the only thing pushing the envelope in County Mayo. Here are some more:
The Great Western Greenway
17.5kms of beautifully arranged cycle track from Newport to Mulranny. Soon it will extend all the way from Westport to Achill Sound, and it will be crowded with cyclists and walkers, so get there early.
You could call it Avoca-Way-Out-West, for Aran McMahon's shop and café has the same pitch-perfect judgement as Ireland's leading luxury brand retailers.
The Mulranny Park Hotel
Chef Ollie O'Regan has been here since the hotel opened and his cooking is rock-steady perfect. Manager Dermot Madigan leads a great team. Worth the trip just to eat Helen's brown bread.
Kelly's Butchers, Newport
Irrepressible creativity from Sean Kelly and his boys makes for one of the best butcher's shops anywhere.
Andrew Pelham-Byrne makes beautiful cheeses: catch them at the Westport market on Thursday and Saturday.
The Gourmet Greenway
A selection of specialist food producers who work near to the Great Western Greenway. Achill Island turbot, Sean Kelly and Carrowholly are in the pack, along with the wonderful Curraun Blue trout, Jerry Hassett's Keem Bay smoked fish from Keel, and the Gannon family's smashing Croagh Patrick seafoods. There is a smartly designed, useful map available which shows you where everyone is: www. MulrannyParkHotel.ie