Some of the most frequent questions we receive from our guests before they arrive in Ireland is about the quality of Irish food. So we thought we’d dedicate a blog entry to telling you about the fresh local food provided along our tour routes. You will be provided with a hearty breakfast at your accommodation each morning to get the day off to a sumptuous start. We actively seek out accommodation that is committed to providing locally sourced products or even better grow their own food (A few even have their own chickens for very fresh eggs!). This is not only in keeping with our Eco-Tourism Policy but is also very yummy. If you are taking a guided Walk with us it is a fully inclusive holiday and we pride ourselves in providing picnic lunches made from the freshest locally sourced ingredients and will organise your evening meals at local venues. If you are going on a self-guided Hike or Bike tour we would be very happy to give you advice on where to eat in your locality. There’s nothing better than having a great meal after a day of walking, hiking or biking outdoors, so it’s important to us that our guests are well fed and happy after an active day in the Irish countryside!
Irish food has been making great strides in quality and taste in recent years. Irish grass feed beef and dairy is considered some of the best in the world. Irish produced farm products are fully traceable from farm to fork and the Irish food authority, Bord Bia, have many checks to ensure quality from Irish products. This means that whether your food comes from a super market or a local shop, once it is Irish made, it meets the highest quality standards and can be traced back to the farmer who produced it.
Look out for the McKennas Guide Plaque on shops and eateries as a point of reference in quality award winning food.
We have a lot of excellent food and Irish culinary talent to showcase, but unfortunately we’re limited by the length of this entry so we can’t put in everything we want to. Do comment with your favourite food and places to eat! Here’s some of our favourites;
There’s nothing as refreshing as an ice cream from Murphy’s in Dingle. They do unusual but delicious flavours like sea salt, and brown bread, as well as the usual chocolate and vanilla type flavours. The ice cream is made from the milk of a rare breed of cattle called Kerry Cows and all the ingredients used are fresh, they don’t use colourings, flavourings, or powdered milk, which makes for the creamiest ice cream.
Sheridan’s Cheesemongers have 4 locations around Ireland, Dublin, Meath, Waterford and Galway. They have a huge array of cheeses to suit every palette, as well as accompaniments in deli food, olives and ham etc., and wine. The friendly staff are at hand to help you choose a cheese and provide tasting samples!
The famous Clonakilty Black Pudding dates back to the 1880’s and the recipe for this blood sausage has not changed since. If you try a full Irish breakfast while in Ireland then you will more than likely get a slice of black pudding as part of it. Some other great black puddings are Annascaul Black Pudding and Nolans of Kilcullen.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, Issies Handmade Chocolate in Cork will hit the spot! Her award winning sweet shop sells a lot of classic childhood favourites as well as handmade chocolates in a quaint little shop in Castletownbere. She also sells coffee and ice cream to help wash your chocolate treats down. Another favourite of ours is Skellig Chocolate located in St. Finians Bay overlooking the Skellig Islands. This small locally owned and operated chocolate factory is well worth a visit for its wonderfully welcoming chocolatiers who are happy to show you how they create the most amazing chocolate you will ever taste.
We’ve become a nation of coffee and cake lovers with little cafés popping up everywhere so we can get our fix. Many cafés are serious about their expresso machine so you should be able to find fresh coffee without having to resort to Starbucks or Costa. Latte art is getting very popular too and Irish baristas will battle is out at the Irish Barista Championships 2015 in order to compete at world championships. The Dublin Coffee and Tea festival takes place from the 11th to 13th September this year and is well worth a visit if coffee is your thing.
Of course, if you’re into the stronger stuff we have tours which give you an opportunity to stop at the Guinness storehouse in Dublin and the Bushmills distillery in Antrim. The Dingle Distillery is a great example of craft spirit production in Ireland. You can visit the Distillery and Joe will take you on a tour and introduce you to Irish distilling from the 6th century up to present times. This distillery produces artesian Whiskey, Gin and Vodka in Dingle town and the gin is one of only two gins produced in Ireland.
Cafés and restaurants
Kay in our office is in love with the Strawberry Field Pancake Cottage these amazing sweet and savoury pancakes are in Kays words “to die for”! They also do gluten and wheat free pancakes on request. Well worth a visit if you’re in Cork.
Fallon and Byrne in Dublin is made up of a restaurant upstairs, a food shop on the ground floor and a wine bar in the basement. The restaurant is pretty pricey but you are allowed to bring food from the deli in the shop to the wine bar downstairs if you’re buying wine. €1 corkage on all wines on Mondays means you can have a fancy meal and wine at a very reasonable price.
Nancys Seafood Bar in Ardara has been family owned by over 7 generations of the McHugh family. Nancys has the feel of a traditional Irish pub with low ceilings and antiques, but the kitchen provides award winning seafood.
We can organise extra activities for our foodie guests, such as participating in different culinary events such as Seaweed foraging and tasting along the wild Atlantic way or perhaps learn how to forage Ireland’s bountiful vegetation. You can try your hand at fishing and eat what you catch, it doesn’t get fresher than that.
We’d definitely recommend St. Tolas goat farm where you can learn about goat cheese and sustainable farming this includes a cheese making demonstration.
Maybe you’d like to learn how to cook Irish food during your holiday in Ireland with a cookery school course in the Dingle Cookery School or Ballymaloe. These schools offer a range of cooking courses like traditional, contemporary and fusion style classes as well as courses in specific ingredients like baking or seafood.
Let us know what you’re interested in and we can find out the timetables and availability of these and other activities. Prices of additional activities are not included in your Ireland Walk Hike Bike tour.
The Galway Oyster Festival is world renowned not only for the fresh oysters but also the seafood and shellfish. First launched in Galway in 1954, it is the oldest oyster festival in the world, so these guys know how to entertain the 22,000+ attendees of the festival. 22nd – 24th September 2015
Another one of our favourites is the Burren Slow Food Festival which promotes locally sourced food and local food traditions in the Burren. The aim of the festival is to help local producers sell and promote their products and it presents cookery demonstrations by local chefs. 16th – 22nd May 2015
To check what Food Festivals are on when you’re in Ireland check out these lists:
Taste Council of Ireland
Farmers Markets are common in Ireland you just have to know where and when to find them! Here are a few directories you can look up to see if there will be one near you on your trip;
One of Irelands most beautiful and historical indoor food markets is the English Market in Cork. Located in the city centre it’s a hub of activity where you can find bakeries, fish mongers, fresh vegetables, chocolatiers, butchers and much more. There is also a really great café upstairs overlooking a fountain downstairs.
We often get guests who have different dietary concerns such as vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free etc. You’ll be happy to know that a lot of restaurants and cafés in Ireland are accustomed to accommodating these requests. You just have to let us know when you’re booking so we can let your accommodation know in advance. This means you’ll have a great breakfast before you set off for the day!
Ultimately it’s important to us that you eat well and enjoy your time in Ireland. We want to share our Irish traditions and lifestyle with you and ensure you leave with a real sense of what it is that makes us tick here on our tiny Island. We have had guests that enjoyed the taste of traditional Irish brown bread so much they continue to make it themselves in Australia. Sometimes it’s as simple as a B&B that gives out scone recipes but it can really make a trip, we’re always here to give advice so just get in touch!
The best thing I had on my walk was in pubs and small restaurants. The west coast FRESH fish chowder (broth based) and good brown bread and REAL butter was just the best. I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life and be happy!