Fermanagh is a beautiful County and last month, June, the GFI team, spent a week self- catering in a lovely house a few miles outside Lisnaskea.
It was meant to be a short break, away from the pressures of everyday life but, as all Coeliacs know, the need to find GF food and suitable eating venues is an ever present problem so here is a short summary of what we found on our “break”. (I should make it clear that it is only my wife Tina who is Coeliac but her requirements obviously dictate where we eat and shop!)
Our trip actually started on the last Thursday in June when Tina and I drove up to Derry/Londonderry to attend the annual “Positive Lifestyle” event being held for the staff in the North West Regional College (NWRC) on the Friday.
Because of the Maritime Festival taking place in the City, local hotel accommodation was non-existent but we were fortunate to find a room in the Nightingale House B&B just off the Culmore Road. Here we were made very welcome by owner Isabel who also delighted us by providing a wide range of GF food for breakfast. A great start to our “short break”!
For B&B details see Isabel’s website at www.stayanightingale.com
Following the NWRC event Tina and I left the City and headed south towards Enniskillen and Lisnaskea where we joined up with our son Mike, his wife Rachel and their baby daughter Lucy.
During our time in Fermanagh we had both good and not so good experiences so here is a summary of our findings with the positives first:-
We passed through Irvinestown enroute to Enniskillen and stopped at McAleers Spar to purchase petrol and look for a few groceries. What a surprise to see a large sign in the forecourt advertising their range of Gluten Free products. Great to see GF food becoming more accessible in the local convenience stores now that Spar are rolling out their GF range to more and more outlets.
Lisnaskea is a very busy market town and in Main Street you will find The Kissin Crust Coffee Shop & Sandwich Bar who provide food all day including excellent GF scones and cakes made with Sowans GF flour (which is also on sale in the shop). A popular stop for morning Coffee if you’re heading down to the National Trust property at Crom Castle or just enjoying a drive around the Fermanagh Lakes!
If you are self -catering and need to do some shopping then pay a visit to Lidl on the outskirts of Lisnaskea (on the road in from Maguiresbridge). There you can often find a surprising range of GF food. (The GF symbol you find may not be exactly the same as the usual one but we have never had a problem with their products. As ever, make sure to read the labels!) They often have Kelkin products on sale and, as we know, Kelkin make a great range of GF foods.
From Lisnaskea, on our way into Enniskillen, we passed the Killyhevlin Hotel where you can enjoy a good range of GF meals or a simple platter of sandwiches made with Genius GF bread – all very tasty!
For an overnight stay there is the Belmore Court & Motel who provide a comprehensive range of GF foods for breakfast and, if self-catering, the Tesco across the road from the Belmore has a wide range of FreeFrom products from which to choose.
The Linen Hall in Townhall Street is a JD Wetherspoon venue and can provide a good GF meal but do make sure you read the Menu carefully and give clear instructions when ordering to avoid any misunderstandings. We speak from experience!
One other venue we must mention is the Watermill Lodge Restaurant which is located at Kilmore Quay on the road from Lisnaskea to Derrylin. Described as a “Restaurant with Rooms” it’s found in a beautiful building in a stunning location and the chef/owner, Pascal Brissaud, has a Coeliac friend and is well versed in the needs of the GF community.
And then the negatives:-
On one of our days in Enniskillen we visited the National Trust property at Castle Coole and were disappointed to find no GF offerings at all and a very low level of knowledge about the illness.
Apparently the same people now run the Stables Tearoom at Florence Court so I would be wary of visiting there and expecting any GF food to be available!
Just before driving home from Enniskillen Tina and I took a walk around Easons Book Shop and discovered that they have a coffee shop on the first floor called “Ruby’s”.
When Tina asked about gluten free food she was shown some pre-wrapped GF biscuits and a plate marked as “Mars Bar Krispie” buns. When we pointed out that Mars Bars are not Gluten Free we were told quite forcefully that the multi pack version are GF and that the manager is GF and knows they are OK!
As the relevant buns were also sitting alongside non GF cakes, leaving them open to the obvious risk from cross contamination, we didn’t pursue the matter with the staff as it appeared they were not really aware of the problems surrounding gluten free eating!
We know from experience that Mars Bars contain Barley Malt and only the Caramel Bars are marked as “May Contain” Barley so the idea that the Multi Pack bars are safe for Coeliacs is very dubious.
(This can be checked by referring to the Mars website where the Allergen information is freely available – http://marsnutrition.co.uk/NutritionalInformation.aspx )
We emailed Ruby’s when we got home but have not had a response so all we can do is suggest you be careful if you are GF and eating in Ruby’s Coffee Shop!
We won’t be back there!
Here are links to some of the places we visited or products we used:
Nightingale House B&B – www.stayanightingale.com
Kelkin – http://www.kelkin.ie/
Belmore Court & Motel – http://www.motel.com
Killyhevlin Hotel – http://www.kelkin.ie/
Watermill Lodge – http://www.watermillrestaurantfermanagh.com