When she’s not stopping on the way home to Ballingeary to pick giant breakfast mushrooms or foraging other edible delights, Dorothy O’Tuama is busy giving tours and taste trips around the Lee Valley. The Lee Valley Taste Trail is a new venture for the Inchigeela native who with a real passion for her home region wants to help develop tourism in the area.
Dorothy has always worked in the hospitality and food tourism industry, running her own very successful restaurant in Clonmel before moving home in 2006.
A trained chef, upon her return to West Cork she took the opportunity to go back to college, achieving a Diploma in Speciality Food Production at UCC.
“I started a small cookie making business selling to local shops but if I wanted to develop it I would have had to go into an incubation unit here in Ballingeary. The competition is huge in the confectionary market and I didn’t want to go back to running a large business with lots of employees again,” says Dorothy.
After completing a Failte Ireland tour guide course, Dorothy decided to combine her passion for food and her surroundings and the Lee Valley Taste Trail was born. “Part of my course was to do an audit of my area and I came up with about 20 attractions. I thought, gosh I could package these,” says Dorothy.
“I’m from a very big family and I know a lot of people locally. We have smashing people, scenery, heritage and food in the area and I want to tell people about it,” says Dorothy.
There are two guided tours on the Lee Valley Taste Trail.
During tour one, you’ll get to meet award-winning artisan producers such as farmer Johnny Lynch of Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella Farm. Other highlights include a walk through Gearagh Nature Reserve, one of only three alluvial (flooded wood) oak woodlands that exist in Europe today; a picnic lunch in The Store of Memories Museum, a well-preserved example of Ireland’s all-purpose village stores from 1900 to 1960s; and a tour of Gougane Barra Forest Park.
Tour two includes the history of Macroom Castle Tower, a visit to Waltons Flour Mills in Macroom, see the oldest wood-fired pottery kiln in Ireland in use at Coolavokig Pottery and a private tour of the 9 White Deer Craft Brewery. There are lots of other interesting stops along the way.
The Lee Valley Taste Trail was filmed for RTE’s Nationwide and is due to be aired in September, so keep an eye out for it.
On Tuesday, September 12, from 9am-4pm, Dorothy will give one of her tours as part of the A Taste of West Cork Food Festival. Check out the programme for more details.
For more information on the Lee Valley Taste Trail tours go to leevalleytastetrails.ie or contact Dorothy on 086 8539744.