The journey begins in the south west with a visit to the magical Dingle Peninsula, where James discovers his inner child in a quest for the perfect ice cream. Then it's on to Country Cork, where the summer season is well under way at the medieval Blarney Castle and a warm welcome awaits at Ballyvolane, a magnificent country house hotel.
In episode two, James meets some people who have got the work/life balance just right… from life on the ocean wave in County Clare with John McCarthy, one of Ireland’s top surfers, to a relaxed family smoker business in beautiful Connemara where owner Graham Roberts fillets and bones up to 50 fish an hour. Graham says: “I’m very content around here between work and between home. I’ll never be wealthy doing what I do but if I can live in a place like this doing something that I enjoy - absolutely brilliant.” James heads to the west coast of Ireland to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions where one million visitors enjoy the view every year. We meet John McCarthy who has been surfing since the age of 10 and has competed all over the world in search of the perfect wave. John lives, eats and sleeps surfing and runs a surf school in County Clare, when he’s not spending time with his new baby daughter. Also this week, James samples the good life with the Green family at their guest house in County Cork, where they grow most of their own vegetables. James tries his hand helping to tag the ears of the pigs on the estate to ensure they can be traced. He says: “They say never work with children or animals but these are rare breed saddlebacks so I’m hoping they’re a bit more refined.” Sadly the pig in question gets the better of James and he realises he won’t be giving up the day job just yet. James also enjoys a spot of fly-fishing for salmon with Justin Green before sipping a rhubarb martini, made with homegrown rhubarb from the grounds of the house, reminding him that in Ireland - life is for living.
In episode three, James explores the people and places at the heart of Ireland’s heritage. He begins by visiting the world famous Blarney stone at Blarney Castle. According to Irish folklore, anyone who kisses the stone receives the ability to speak with eloquence, or the gift of the gab. James meets Sir Charles Colthurst, who lives in Blarney House and discovers that his great uncle was offered half a million pounds in the 1930’s by America, to rent the stone for 6 months and take it to the United States. He also visits the poison garden in the grounds of the castle, which houses some of the most toxic plants on the planet. Head Gardener Adam explains that medieval gardens would have had something similar and they would have been grown by the supposed witches and wizards of the day. James gets his hands dirty by helping Adam to prune an American Poison Ivy plant which can cause rashes, burning and blistering. He dons a fleece and protective gloves before attacking the plant with a pair of secateurs. Back at the castle, James kisses the stone and meets Dennis, whose job it is to tip visitors upside down so they can reach the stone. He takes a turn at Dennis’s job and proclaims it to be the, “Best fun I’ve had in a while actually.” We then visit a tourist attraction very close to James’ heart; Barry’s Amusements, Ireland’s largest theme park, in the seaside town of Portrush in Northern Ireland. James visited the park many times as a child and had one of his first jobs here, manning the big dipper. We catch up with Colim Qiunn who is in his 60th year of working at the park and remembers young Jimmy as the park clown. We explore Ireland’s rich musical heritage and meet married couple and professional musicians, Zoe Conway and John McIntyre. Zoe says: “I’ve toured with Riverdance for many years as the fiddle player, and played classical with orchestras and soloists with orchestras and played in Rock and
In episode four, James visits the picturesque seaside town of Dingle, a tourist mecca that remains a charming beauty spot. Local fisherman Jimmy Flannery says: “It’s a close-knit community so everyone looks after each other. When I left school there was nothing else but fishing. I left school at 15 and went to the fishery college in Donegal, to be a deckhand on a fishing boat.” His son Colm has followed in his father’s footsteps: “The sea is definitely in my blood, there is no doubt about it…They do tell me stories of a baby seat being bolted to the back, and me doing trips with dad when I was very small.” Alongside fishing, the father and son have been running trips into Dingle harbor for 23 years, their boat packed with tourists all eager to catch a glimpse of Fungie, a wild bottlenosed dolphin who has made Dingle his home. Hoping for a closer look, James dons his wetsuit and takes to the icy water: “For your eyes only and in the name of human, dolphin relations, I’m going to brave the depths of Dingle bay to try and have a swim with Fungie.” James is nervous for a reason. He explains: “Colm was saying earlier that it’s only the first five minutes that are really bad in the water, when you think that you’re going to die…” Further up the west coast of Ireland in County Clare, we meet Ireland’s resident cupid Willie Daly, the last in a long line of traditional matchmakers. Willie claims his gift for romance has resulted in hundreds of marriages and he’s devised The Love Trail, taking eligible singles trekking on horses together in the hope of meeting someone special. Also this week, it’s oyster season in the pristine waters of Galway bay and we join Michael Moran of Moran’s Oyster Cottage, as he harvests the season’s unique Galway flat oysters. On his way to the oyster beds, Michael says: “These oysters are the best in the world. They are the Galway Flats and they take five to six years to grow. I’m excited!
In episode five, James celebrates the good times to be had throughout Ireland. In County Clare, he meets matchmaker Willie Daly, who has been bringing lonely hearts together for decades, often in the nearby town of Lisdoonvarna. It’s a pretty village with just 800 residents but every September, 20,000 singles tumble into town looking for love at the annual matchmaking festival. It’s a huge success as Willie explains: “Last year I’d say about 186 got married, related to the festival.” Willie is on-hand with his magical book. He explains: “It’s a lucky book, this book was used by my father and my grandfather. If you touch the book with both hands you’re going to be in love and married inside of six months. If you’re already married and you touch the book you renew your honeymoon.” James is happy to give it a try, before later turning his hand to a bit of matchmaking himself. At a food festival in Dingle, County Kerry, Ryan Coote is preparing his artisan pizza. Ryan is passionate about local produce and has converted a double-decker bus into a fully mobile pizzeria. He’s willing to go to any lengths to bring the best toppings to his customers and as an expert spear fisherman, Ryan takes to the water in search of some fresh fish and seafood. Ryan says: “I can get really good ingredients, I can get really good local salads, really good local cheeses which are just made down the road, so everything I can have I’m confident in that I’m not selling junk food, I’m selling good food.” Also this week, we meet renowned racehorse trainer Jessica Harrington and her family, including her daughter Kate who is a competitive rider. Kate competes at the week-long Galway Races, which attract punters from all over the World. James fully understands the appeal. He says: “For me, there is definitely no bigger thrill in the world, so much so that I am a proud part-owner of a racehorse and nothing makes me happier than watching it sprin
James attempts to this week find the flavours and aromas that set the country alight. At the Dingle peninsular, the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean are home to a rich and varied marine life. In Dublin, a food revolution is taking place and people are looking for tastier food made from quality Irish ingredients. The Burren in County Clare is an ecological wonder and houses seventy per cent of the country’s flowering species.
James is in County Offaly to view the 14th century Cloghan castle, a national, historical monument set within 157 acres. He also takes a look around the 18th century Longville House in County Cork, which has been in the same family for three generations. The Trass family from Tipperary, who started with a small apple farm and have now branched out into pears, plums, sweet cherries, strawberries and raspberries and James finds out more.
James learns more about Ireland’s rich coastal culture including the majestic Giant’s Causeway. On the West Coast James meets Oyster farmer Diarmuid Kelly and local restaurateur Michael Moran, who is visiting Diarmuid’s farm. Former surfer John McCarthy has spent the last twenty years chasing waves all over the planet but Ireland is now a top surf destination which enticed him to Lahinch, in County Clare where he owns his own surf school.