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Discovering Ireland’s Foodie Culture

By Dawn Rainbolt
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Find out why Ireland is for foodies!

The days of spuds and boiled cabbage are over. Ireland has an up and coming foodie scene to rival the restaurants of London or New York, though scattered across the island. Some of its foodie hotspots include Belfast, Kenmare and Kinsale – but even outside of these towns and cities, Ireland is ripe with delicious and zesty experiences that will tickle your tastebuds!

A typical morning in Ireland starts off with a hearty breakfast, and restaurants are getting more creative (and organic) with the meals they offer. Food is very connected to the landscape and Ireland has a recent though strong farm-to-fork culture.

Whether you’re looking to add in foodie experiences to a ready-made departure or you’re building a tailor made trip and want to add a bit of zest, read on for some of Ireland’s most exciting, off-the-beaten-track and hidden foodie experiences. 

Visit an Oyster Farm

Oyster farm and tasting Connemara

Learn about oysters and how they grow before doing a tasting yourself!

For a unique foodie experience, try oyster shucking and tasting in the mystical Killary Fjord. A region known for its seafood (and in particular, its shellfish), this is the perfect way to experience the magic of Connemara. And did you know that oysters are aphrodisiacs? The best time to experience their aphrodisiac quality is spring – which coincides well, as spring is also the best time for a seashore walk to see their different stages of growth. The west coast of Ireland is well known for its oysters and other shellfish. In fact, that plate of oysters or mussels you’re eating in a Parisian cafe?

There’s a good chance those shellfish came from Ireland. In fact, the name of Co Sligo (or Sligeach) means “Shelly Place” – so named for the massive numbers of shellfish that sustained local populations for thousands of years. For an intriguing local foodie experience, visit an oyster farm to try oyster shucking and enjoy an oyster-and-Guinness tasting against the magical backdrop of Connemara. 

Try your hand at gourmet fishing

Explore the wild coastlines of Kerry by boat, sailed by a local skipper. Not only will you have the chance to explore the hidden coves, inlets and islands of the region as well as spot sea life, you’ll also be able to catch and eat your own sashimi and ceviche in a wilderness picnic on a deserted island, whipped up by your trusty captain! 

Gourmet fishing Kerry

Gourmet seafood picnic made from your own fresh catch! Photo credit: KerryAnn Fitzgerald

Learn traditional bread baking

For those who want to learn Irish tradition baking, join Marjorie in her traditional Irish kitchen for a baking lesson where she’ll teach you how to make Irish soda bread as well as an Irish cake of your choice. Not only is the rural location in the woods of Co Mayo stunning, you’ll get a backstage pass to experience a bit of daily local life!

Traditional Irish bread baking

Traditional Irish bread baking.

Enjoy the ‘water of life’ at a whiskey tasting

Whiskey has been an important part of Irish culture for centuries. In fact, the Gaelic word for whiskey (‘uisce beatha‘) roughly translates to ‘water of life.’ Therefore, finding whiskey in Ireland isn’t difficult! But the best way to experience Ireland’s ‘water of life’ is through a whiskey tasting lead by a local whiskey connoisseur in a traditional snug pub with an open fire roaring in the chimney. 

Irish whiskey tasting

Find your favourite during a private whiskey tasting led by a local connoisseur!

Partake in a coastal foraging expedition

The western reaches of Kerry are rugged, wild and windswept. Kerry’s coastlines are an intricate ecosystem prime for exploring. Combine foodie and nature experiences with a coastal foraging expedition to forage for seaweed and other edible ingredients while listening to stories of local stories legends. Afterwards, enjoy a seaweed-inspired feast! 

Another option is inland foraging – on a gentle hike, learn about the local plants underfoot that most people consider weeds but some consider lunch! Forage and collect various plants before returning to your host’s kitchen to turn these plants into delicious salads, pestos and other yummy, all-organic dishes!

Fennel and kelp cookies - seaweed foraging

Freshly foraged and baked fennel and kelp cookies.

Make your own alcohol at gin school

Though whiskey is perhaps the most famous Irish liqueur, gin is a solid second. Think alcohol and wild landscapes don’t go together? Think again! Head to Ireland’s Ancient East to learn how gin is made. For those that want to start at the beginning, hike through the hills with an expert guide to forage for local gin ingredients such as the all-important juniper. Then it’s back to school – attend an exclusive gin school to learn how to use your newly foraged ingredients to distill your very own bottle of gin that to bring back home with you!

Gin school Ireland

Go back to school to learn how to make and distill your own gin!

Visit a goat farm for a unique goat’s cheese tasting

After a boat trip on the swirling Atlantic, land on a small island rich in history and culture – a true bastion for Irish tradition and language. Rugged and windswept local Gabriel will introduce you to his herd of goats on this beautiful island renowned for its Gaeltacht communities. After you meet Gabriel’s goats, learn how creamy goats cheese is made before enjoying a cheese tasting of their delicious product!

Visit Goats farm goats cheese

Visit a goat farm to learn how to make deliciously fresh goat’s cheese!

A dream come true: try out a chocolate workshop

Chocolate is delicious but it’s even better if you’ve made it yourself. Join chocolate experts in the magical landscapes of Kerry to learn a bit about the history of chocolate and how it’s made – before getting behind the counter and trying it out yourself! Nothing could be sweeter…!

Chocolate making workshop

Chocolate making workshop to learn how this sweet miracle is made!

Find Ireland’s best bowl of chowder

It’s no secret that half the restaurants and pubs in Ireland claim to have Ireland’s best bowl of seafood chowder. So, the only way to test if that’s true is to try as many bowls as we can! Then, we head to a hole-in-the-wall converted stone barn at the ends of Earth in Donegal (preferably travelling there by bike!) for Wilderness Ireland’s pick for best seafood chowder!

Ireland seafood chowder

Finding that perfect bowl of Ireland’s famed seafood chowder.

Take cooking lessons in Ireland

If you want a hands-on foodie experience, take private cooking lessons to learn how to make traditional Irish dishes of your choice. Get ready for a cookery lesson with experts in slow food, organic farming and sustainable and traditional cooking in a stunning location in Ireland’s southwest, known as an up-and-coming foodie destination. After cooking a full 3 course meal, it’s time to tuck in!

Cooking classes in Ireland

Learn how to cook in one of Ireland’s top culinary schools!

Explore Northern Ireland’s landscapes on a foodie walk

Tickle your taste buds along the Causeway Coast on a walking tour led by passionate local foodies. Indulge all five senses as you drink in the dramatic landscapes, listen to the sound of crashing waves, feel the soft grass underfoot and smell the seaweed in the air. Then, rub elbows with the producers, artisans, bakers and chefs leading the way for Northern Ireland’s up-and-coming foodie culture as you taste their wares!

Foodie walk Northern Ireland

An autumn inspired picnic during a foodie tour of the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland.

Extravagant afternoon tea for two

For a more high-brow foodie experience, enjoy a celebratory high tea with all the trimmings (three-tiered silver platter laden with delicious sandwiches and handmade desserts paired with unlimited tea…) in the decadent marbled surroundings of what was once the magnificent headquarters of the Ulster Bank. Sip your tea under the largest chandelier in Ireland surrounded by 19th-century elegance to feel like royalty!

Merchant Hotel Belfast

Now that’s the setting for the most decadent afternoon tea you can have!

Coffee beans roasted in Ireland!

Ok so yes, coffee beans don’t grow all that great in Ireland. But join Paola and Andrew on a tour of their coffee roasting farm in Sligo, along the Wild Atlantic Way, whose passion for coffee commenced in Colombia. Explore their farm to learn about the process of roasting coffee beans as well as how coffee is produced in this little-known yet ruggedly beautiful part of the island.

Coffee beans roasted on Wild Atlantic Way

Visit a farm where coffee beans are roasted on Wild Atlantic Way!

Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture, intriguing history, ancient castles, cheery locals and sweeping landscapes of Ireland.

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