Rathcormack Craft and Food Market - A feast for all of the senses!
Updated: Dec 11, 2018
On a proper rainy and wintery Saturday I headed off to the Rathcormac Craft and Food Market, just outside of Sligo town. I had visited the market once before after a friend at work told me about it during our many discussions about how amazing nearby Mullaghmore is. So knowing of the treasures that lay within, I had contacted the market through Facebook wanting to do a piece on it for my blog. The lovely Meg came back to me and was more than welcoming so off I went on my jolly.
The market is located on the main road between Bundoran and Sligo, nestled at the foot of the impressive Benbulben Mountain, with the back of the market looking out on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Pulling in to the car park, I'm amazed to see it is jam packed despite the winter weather. It’s hard to know what to expect and I think it is fair to say that taking it at face value, you would by no means expect to find the treasure trove that exists in this little market.
Standing in its distinguished black and gold colours, first to greet you is ‘Yeats Country Antiques’. A browse around and all sorts of wonderful greets my eye; ranging from trinkets, second hand books, old weighing scales, record players to beautifully restored musical instruments, Victorian 2 piece pitcher sets, cutlery sets and really quality pieces of furniture. I had a lovely chat with John so if you’re in, be sure to pop in and say hi!
Moving on down the yard, the ‘Armada Gallery’ catches my eye. As you enter what can only be described as a pirate’s tavern, your mind is cast to a different place. Philip (with one L as two complicates things, his words not mine!), has blanked out the natural light and he is quietly working on a suite of art pieces for a client-slate and ceramic paintings of Black Rock Lighthouse for a lighthouse keeper who wants them as gifts for his family.
When I get speaking to him he has a lovely soft Southern lilt to his accent and a face with devilishly handsome good looks that enhance that ‘brooding artist’ look about him. Turns out he has always had an interest in art from an early age and having done well in it at school he studied it at college. He has three model ships sitting on his workbench, that he tells me represent the ships from the Spanish Armada which sunk here in Sligo. Asking how long each one takes I’m amazed to hear it’s only 11 days – I can’t comprehend how they are made, let along how quickly he can turn them around giving the detail.
And as a wee anecdote to go along with it – apparently, back in the day the Irish lit fires on the beaches, behind the rocks to supposedly warn ships of the coast. But they would have purposely placed them so the ships hit the rocks and then they would go down and loot the sunken ships!! Who knew!?
There is a ‘play’ gun sitting on the bench beside the ships and I enquire about its origin and I am told that it’s a prop for street theatre! So aside from being a talented artist, Philip also makes props. It’s just fascinating. A world apart from anything or anyone I know! I ask is it difficult to make a living from and he, so rightly says, has friends in many different jobs and all of them would say it is difficult to make a living...! I can’t help but think Philip would be a great man to have a few hot whiskeys with in a quiet bar, I suspect he has a story or two!
Meddling on, I come across Thomas Sheridan’s Spirit of the West studio. I had bought my auntie a little drawing in St. George’s market a few weeks ago, but like a complete numpty I left it behind me in a shop so I thought this would be the perfect place to find a replacement. As soon as I start to look around, a friendly voice with just the slightest hint of an American accent starts telling me the technique she has used to create the little wall plaques. Layering different paints, using different techniques to create a tactile piece. She assures me they are meant to be touched and encourages me to have a feel. A refreshing approach as art is normally so far removed from inviting unwanted tactile touching!
June explains that her husband creates all the other paintings displayed around the cabin, but the little wall plaques are her creations. I enquire as to her accent and she tells me she married a man from Dublin and moved over to Ireland many years ago. Having previously come from high end graphic design jobs, both her and her husband now sell their own pieces at the market. This is the reason I love hearing how people have got to where they are!
I purchase the perfect mandala piece for my aunt and a ‘Cinnamon and Sandalwood’ candle from Inishowen Candles and go on my way. (I have since burned this candle and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Normally when I light scented candles in the house my daddy is always commenting on the ‘stink of that phucking thing’ but alas, this time he was commenting on the lovely smell that was in the house).
Two more visits before the foodie tent…first stop is Colm Brennan the wood turner. As you enter through the door, there is an immediate increase in the temperature and closing the door behind you, you automatically feel protected from the elements. Colm is busy having a yarn with another visitor so unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to speak to the man himself. His woodwork is just incredible, art in its purest form. You’ll see from the photos a sample of the pieces he creates, and what makes it even more special is he marks the base of each of the pieces with the type of wood that has been used in the making. I’m very hesitant to leave the warmth of Colm’s cabin, and the gorgeous woody smells associated with his work.
Down the bottom of the yard sits the potters, Benbulben Pottery. I spied their works when I was down before and was adamant I was bringing one of their pieces home with me this time. When I explained myself to the lovely lady keeping house she was more than welcoming and invited me to come back in a little while when the potter was back, and I could be shown the process from start to finish. I’m so gutted I ran out of time, so in the off chance that you are reading this Dave I’d love to come back and see you at work again sometime!
Lastly but by no means least I visit the covered hall, where all the food is. I knew I’d be walking out of here with my arms full of goodies! The hall was super busy so I didn’t get a chance to speak to many of the vendors but in here you can get homemade jewellery, jumpers, artwork, wooden pieces, alternative therapies, skincare and food! And as food is life, show me the food...!
First up…Izabelle’s Kitchen Delights. When I was down before I got chatting to Izabelle and she was telling me she was originally from Malta but moved to Ireland some years previous. My friend and I were actually heading to Malta a few weeks later so she was able to give us some good advice on the food there! Now Izabelle specialises in baking traditional Maltese food and selling her wares at the local markets. She has these little ‘Date Diamonds’ – dates wrapped in pastry. I bought 3 intending on eating one and bringing the other two home to the boys…I ate them. All. In the car.
What’Soup - These guys had caught my attention on social media so I was intrigued to see what they had in store.... Mushroom soup. Ugh. Worst. I don’t like mushroom soup. But this was wild mushroom soup. Would it be any different? Would it NOT!? I had a little taster and I hadn’t even finished the shot glass and I was like eh yea, I’ll have one of those please! It was super tasty and the proper chunks of wild mushroom were divine. Winner!
Next, Steevos. Again, I’d seen Steevo’s empanadas and pies on Facebook and so I was well ready to get my chops round one! And it didn’t disappoint. I introduced myself and straight off we got chatting. He had trained and worked as a chef for many a year and then went to window cleaning! What a transition! And now he has his mobile catering. I think it’d be a real shame if he wasn’t involved in catering at some level – his food is too good not to be available to the masses. And his oven is amazing! A proper big old, flame fired oven! A work of art in itself!
The Murson Farm stall is my next stop. A vast collection of jams and chutneys first draw my eye... Then the cheese... Then the breads... And the home baking... And the potato bread. Yas! This is where it is at! I buy some of the goats cheese with fenugreek – a spice popular in Indian cookery, I’m not sure how it occurred to someone to mix it with Irish Goat’s cheese but they are on to a winner! And with a loaf of their rye bread stuffed into my ever growing bag of goodies, I am off!
Lastly I eventually got to meet the lovely Meg that had been so welcoming on the emails! She is a really lovely lady and made me feel super welcome so thank you Meg! Meg has her own jewellery stand, and although illness no longer permits her to make her own jewellery she picks up preloved pieces and other bits from small suppliers. Some gorgeous bits on her stall, including the most beautiful broaches; they’d make the perfect keepsake for any family. And I love the gin bottles lit with fairy lights on her stand – so simple but yet so effective!
So off I go, soup on one hand, a (damn good) hot coffee from the Vintage Lane café and arms filled with all of the goodies from the market. On my way out I spy the fish guy. Fresh fish – all sorts of it! My absolute favourite. And all of a sudden I feel a pang of regret I had spent all of my cash on presents for other people, while I fantasised of the tuna dinner I could have had…I will be back!
West truly is best! Rathcormac, thank you for being so warm and welcoming. I look forward to when we meet again!
More information on the market can be found at www.rathcormaccraftvillage.com