Clonmel is famous for its apples (albeit mainly cider apples, and known through the product of an international drinks manufacturer based in the town which also uses imported product) so perhaps it should not have been surprising that a big bowl of cheery red apples greeted us on the reception desk as we arrived at the Minella Hotel earlier this summer. It was a lovely alternative to the ubiquitous bowl of mints and next morning, with only two left in the bowl, I saw a notice urging guests to help themselves to local fruit from The Apple Farm, the Traas family’s famous fruit farm between Clonmel and Cahir.
A small gesture perhaps, but it was one of the memorable details of the trip and a welcome reminder of the benefits that close relationships between hotels and local produce can foster – a point that was underlined by a contrasting experience at the other end of Ireland more recently. Picture the same scenario, with a bowl of apples at reception. Were they local perhaps? Response: “I really don’t know.” Another try – they don’t look impossibly perfect, like imported supermarket apples, might they grown in County Down? Final response: “I haven’t a clue, but help yourself anyway.” Oh dear.
Those apples at the Minella were the last of the previous crop, but – although less plentiful this year due to the weather, which will make them even more special – this season’s first deliciously crisp and refreshing Discovery apples will now replace them, and the hotel also showcases other products including the unique sparkling apple juice and apple and blackcurrant juice.
Probably the world’s only sparkling cloudy apple juice, it’s available all year and you can buy it (along with other pressed juices from their range, and the delicious Karmine natural cider vinegar) online or from their farm shop, which is open all year and well worth a visit. Here, in a large and immaculately organised barn, you’ll find everything that’s sold through the online shop plus a range of whatever fruits are in season, preserves and many other nice surprises.
And, if the idea of a summer camping holiday in the beautiful surroundings of a well managed fruit farm appeals to you, take a look at the site while you’re there – the space, excellent facilities and enticing prices may beguile you. Now that could be fun.