Cathy Jordan Singer
What’s your favourite thing about Ireland? Apart from the music, it has to be the craic. Nowhere else in the world do you get so much quick wit, one-liner jokes and slagging, which is an art in itself. I particularly like rural Irish characters and their dry humour. Like the farmer in Roscommon who was stopped by a tourist, who said, “Excuse me sir – could you tell me where this road leads?” The farmer thought for a minute and said, “The last man I seen going down that road ended up in America.”
Your favourite Irish town?
I really love Westport. It has everything – lovely shops and restaurants, and great bars like Matt Molloy’s. You always seem to meet someone you know in there, people who love Irish music. I love to walk around the town across the river, up to the clock and down to the sea, all the while having Croagh Patrick’s peak in the background. Stunning.
Best view in Ireland?
Maybe I’m biased, but my very favourite view is from the top of Knocknarea, which is just outside Sligo where I live. It’s an easy 20-minute hike to the top, and the panoramic view is incredible. You can see into ve counties: Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim, Roscommon and Mayo. On a clear day, you can see the sea all the way up from Ballisadare Bay to Sliabh League in Donegal. Queen Meabhdh’s cairn is at the top of Knocknarea, and it’s aligned with the megalithic tombs of Carrowmore and Carrowkeel, also in Sligo. You should always bring a stone from the bottom to add to Meabhdh’s cairn, along with your hopes and dreams.
Your favourite restaurant?
When I’m back in Sligo, I love to take a spin out to Shells (Shore Road, Seafront, Strandhill, open 9am to 6pm) for the best coffee and food in the west. It’s run by a lovely couple, Jane and Myles, who turned what was once just a greasy spoon into a fabulous seaside cafe, with locally-sourced produce. From the front window, you can see dozens of hardy surfers riding the Atlantic waves in all kinds of rough weather. Just try Shells fresh sh and hand cut chips – yum.
Best bar in Ireland?
For me it’s Shoot The Crows (3 Castle St, Sligo). You will recognise it from its beautiful painted windows, which change every month and always have some mythological Celtic twist. Back nearly 30 years ago, the members of Dervish would play there every Thursday night in a weekly session. Although our touring schedule can be hectic these days, when we’re home, you’re most likely to nd us there on a Tuesday night playing a few tunes.
Favourite weekend retreat?
I really love Kilronan Castle (Ballyfarnon, Co Roscommon). The location is stunning, with beautiful walks around the lake and a wonderful spa. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind for a weekend.
Where do you pick up ingredients for cooking?
If I’m just cooking for myself, I tend to just pop down to the local Centra. If I’m around at the weekend and up early enough, there’s a really nice farmer’s market in Rathcormac every Saturday; and one in Strandhill on Sunday. You can pick up some great organic veg, meat and sh, as well as cheese and herbs. Otherwise, I head to Lidl to do ‘the big shop’.
Favourite Irish building? Strokestown Park House (Strokestown, Co Roscommon) is a lovely building, It’s very close to where I grew up in Co Roscommon, and when I was a kid, I used to go there with my family to all the Strokestown agricultural shows. Today the house is home to the Famine Museum of Ireland, and tours of the house and grounds are available.
What do you recommend to tourists?
There are so many beautiful things to see in Sligo and Leitrim – I love showing them off. There’s a lot of great beaches: Strandhill, Rosses Point, Lissadell, Streedagh and Mullaghmore. If you like walking and hiking, there’s Knocknarea, Benbulben, Ladies Brae, the Ox and Dartry mountains, and Sligo
Way. You can’t pass through Sligo without stopping at WB Yeats’ nal resting place at Drumcliff cemetery, and while you’re there, it’s only a couple of minutes to Lissadell House, where WB would stay while visiting with the beautiful Gore-Booth sisters. The waterfall in Glencar is also a sweet place to visit, and so is Parks Castle, which looks across Lough Gill to the Lake Isle of Innisfree.
• Dervish’s new album, The Great Irish Songbook, features collaborations with Imelda May, Brendan Gleeson, Steve Earle, Andrea Corr, David Gray and more. It’s released on April 12.