If you want to get a sense of the Irish countryside at its absolute best visit County Laois. This inland area is a rural idyll with pure peace and quiet reigning supreme. Even to those of us who live in Ireland permanently it’s possible to get a sense of country Ireland of long ago in these parts. Most summer days you mightn’t see a soul for miles, just the odd passing car or a barrel topped gypsy caravan pulled by an Irish workhorse going at clip clop speed. If you’re lucky the sun will be shining on miles and miles of green fields. In the heart of all this lies Rossmore Farm owned by Aubrey and Rebecca Stanley. Aubrey is a conventional dairy farmer and his wife Rebecca, a nurse turned ice cream maker.
The Stanley’s sought to diversify and utilise the farm’s own milk for ice cream production in the summer of 2008. This is a typical small Irish working farm with just 30 cows which graze the lands around the house. Now its home to an ice cream dairy and during the summer months it provides a welcome respite for travellers passing through the area in need of some cooling refreshment. The couple travelled abroad to learn the skill of ice cream making, buying equipment to fit out a purpose built unit in the farmyard then came back and got going. Rebecca is now a dab hand at devising recipes and Aubrey adds his own influence now and then! Between them they have created a range of upbeat ice cream flavours to please any palate and some zingy fruit sorbets too.
We tried all the ice creams and couldn’t pick a favourite. When you see the names and flavours you won’t be able to either. We guarantee that. Try Killa Vanilla Madagascar, made with Madagascan vanilla pods or chilla Vanilla Madagascar – a version created specially for diabetics. Fudgey Wudgey Caramel Cream contains pieces of real butter fudge and Rebecca adds her own crackly honeycomb to the wonderful toffee flavoured Deadly Buzz. Chockawocka Choca Chip is as the label says ‘double trouble for chocoholics’. It’s rich and intense and we absolutely promise that you’ll be hooked. A word of warning, you may need therapy afterwards to cure your addiction - but don’t blame us! Traditionalists will enjoy the fun of Diddly D’Idle Cream Liqueur, a supremely creamy ice cream with a slug of Irish coffee liqueur for good measure. There is always a flavour of the month too which could be Brown Bread Ice Cream or something equally wonderful depending on season and availability of ingredients. And naturally, Aubrey’s Strawberry Ice Cream is the house special – packed with lively strawberry flavour from fresh Kilkenny and Wexford berries.
The sorbets are pure wake up calls for the taste buds based on a good fresh fruit puree base and everything goes from there. The day we visited Aubrey was making a Lemon Sorbet and the fragrance of freshly squeezed lemons had our nostrils twitching with delight! You can also sample a citrusy Lime and Lemon or intensely berryish Raspberry. As many local and Irish ingredients as possible are used here alongside the farm’s milk and Rebecca’s own added special extras like home made honeycomb and brown bread.
The dairy here is in the farmyard and small groups and visitors are welcome on a pre-booked basis. Local hotels feature Rossmore Ice Cream on their menus and many shops stock 500ml tubs of various flavours. The Stanley’s also supply to some cafes and restaurants like nearby fellow Good Food Ireland member Stradbally Fayre. Ice cream is always available at the farm. Also you will find Rossmore’s traditional old fashioned ice cream cart complete with striped canopy and big bicycle wheels which the couple take to the markets in Thurles and various local food fairs. If you are travelling in the area we recommend you visit the farm though to enjoy your cone sitting outside in the garden, with nothing but birdsong for company.
Must call in advance to arrange a visit.