From festivals to foraging tours: the top five food experiences in Ireland

From fine dining restaurants and a cider festival to food markets and a seaweed safari, the island’s culinary experiences all serve up fun with a laid-back vibe.

Published 17 May 2020, 08:00 BST, Updated 5 Nov 2020, 04:57 GMT
English Market, Cork City

Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Galway have some of the best city food tours on the continent. Pictured is Cork's English Market, a tightknit web of covered walkways, getting you up close and personal with the sights, smells and sizzling banter of stallholders.

Photograph by Getty Images

Michelin’s latest Irish and UK updates saw stars served up to an unprecedented 21 restaurants on this island. In the past, talented Irish chefs emigrated, now the flow is in the opposite direction, as they and restaurateurs get more and more creative with a stunning natural larder — seafood, grass-fed lamb and beef, farmhouse cheeses, artisan breads, vegetables, wild foods and surprising ingredients like elephant garlic. Food festivals are stoking appetites from Donegal to Dingle. In Galway, they’re talking about local terroir. Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Galway have some of the best city food tours on the continent. Just remember to start on an empty stomach.  

For all the Michelin magic, Ireland is a place that likes to loosen — not tighten — its tie when sitting down to eat. Hit a gastro pub. Try a scoop of caramelised brown-bread ice cream. Tuck into an Irish poke bowl, or a pizza dotted with Gubbeen chorizo. 

1. Galway Food Tours 
Immerse yourself in the European City of Culture 2020 with Sheena Dignam and Gosia Letowska’s combo of bites, banter and local brews. Stops and tasters on the 2.5-hour tour range from market oysters to Irish sushi and craft beers, so pack an appetite. From €65 (£58) per person.

2. Firehouse Bread School, Heir Island, Co Cork 
‘Where bread is king’. That’s the motto of this bread school in Cork’s Roaringwater Bay. Full-day classes include lunch with wine, and guests leave on a boat to the mainland laden down with as much bread as they wish to carry. €125 (£104) per person. 

3. Armagh Food & Cider Festival
Armagh is Northern Ireland’s apple country, with blossom-to-bottle businesses dotted throughout its fields and hills. This autumn event is the perfect excuse to explore, with showcases, markets, orchard tours, special dinners and cider-versus-wine face-offs all on offer. 20-24 September.

4. Blackstairs Eco Trails, Co Carlow
Ireland is a sweet fit for foraging, from coastal seaweed safaris to rural rambles like those offered by Mary White from her home outside Borris. You’ll be making wild garlic pesto and gorse ice cream in no time, and there are cosy shepherd’s huts for overnight stays, too. 

5. English Market, Cork City
Cork’s beating heart is a tightknit web of covered walkways, getting you up close and personal with the sights, smells and sizzling banter of stallholders selling everything from artisan chocolates to drisheen (a type of blood pudding). Don’t forget Kay Harte’s excellent Farmgate Cafe, too.

For further information visit Galway 2020 and Galway Tourism

Published in the April 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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