One of Ireland’s most interesting visitor destinations, the Cill Rialaig Arts Centre is the public face of the Cill Rialaig Project which saw the restoration of a remote pre-famine village in the 1990s, to be used as an artists’ retreat.
Founder Noelle Campbell-Sharp is still closely involved with the project and very likely to be at the centre when you call by, keeping an eye on things and dreaming up new projects - an inspired recent example is her novel ART250 concept where donated artworks - some by famous artists - all sell (unidentified) at a flat rate of €250. Needless to say it has been a huge success, both for the art-buying public - many of whom are getting a bargain that could inspire a lifetime of collecting - and as a fundraiser for the Cill Rialaig Foundation.
Unlikely as it may seem in this beautiful but remote location, there’s an ongoing programme of exhibitions, workshops and other events all year, and it’s an excellent place to shop for quality items that you won’t find elsewhere, especially crafts and prints as well as original artwork.
And fortunately the inner man is well looked after here too, at the Cill Rialaig Café, where chef Ivor O’Connor has built up a reputation for the quality food he puts up every day in summer and at weekends off season (light lunchtime fare, coffee, tea and cakes), and the special evening buffets that are a highlight of the new exhibition openings all year.
Ivor’s experience in France, Italy and the Caribbean lends a sunny tone to his cooking, but it’s thoroughly grounded in the best of seasonally available local ingredients and artisan products whenever possible - and he operates a catering business as well as cooking for the café.
So whether you’re in the mood for a warming bowl of tomato & red pepper soup, a crusty bruschetta with buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes & chargrilled peppers, a hearty Ballinskelligs Bay fish pie - or just a coffee and a slice of chocolate cake - factor in time for a break here, as there should be something tasty to suit.