With more food tours and trails in Ireland than ever, there’s never been a better excuse to eat your way through a short break, says Pól Ó Conghaile.
Irish food Trailblazers
The Belfast Bred Food Tour is led by a chef who claims to have cooked on the RMS Titanic. Barney is his name, and his 2½-hour tour is a performance piece during which he searches for ingredients to recreate the ship’s launch menu.
Cork City & Coastal Trails
Is Cork the food capital of Ireland? You can judge for yourself on this series of trails developed by Fáilte Ireland. Big hits like the English Market and Ballymaloe anchor the routes, as you’d expect, but it’s nice to see lesser-spotted treats like Linehan’s sweet shop and Clonakilty’s Lettercollum kitchen Project too. There’s no dedicated URL… just Google ‘Cork Coastal Food Trails’ and you’ll find them.
Details: discoverireland.ie; free
The Great Western Greenway is a 42km off-road cycling route between Westport and Achill. The Gourmet Greenway is a spin-off devised by the Mulranny Park Hotel- a food trail featuring 18 local food producers (Kelly’s Butchers in Newport, Cafe Rua in Castlebar, Achill Mountain Lamb et al). John McKenna describes the mix of food and scenery as “one of the most brilliant innovations in Irish hospitality”.
Details: mulrannyparkhotel.ie; free (packages available)
Clare: The Burren Food Trail
You’d be surprised at the bloom of produce around the Burren (smoked salmon, wild hazelnut ice-cream and handmade chocolates just for starters), but the real draw is the opportunity to meet and engage with the locals who produce it. Visitors can download a PDF of the trail, or join the themed events every Monday between April and October — next up is an Electric Bike Food experience in Kilfenora (June 16).
Kilkenny: Fab Food Trails
Trail Kilkenny rolled out its suite of walking, cycling, crafts and food trails long before they were de rigueur. Visitors can seek out stops ranging from Kilkenny Farmers’ Market to Goatsbridge Trout Farm with the aid of brochures and maps, or take a guided tour in the city itself. Eveleen Coyle’s Fab Food Trails run on the first Saturday of the month, and include ‘meet the maker’ craft studio visits.
Details: trailkilkenny.ie; fabfoodtrails.ie; €45pp
French Foodie in Dublin
Ketty Elizabeth hails from the Loire Valley, moved to Dublin for love (that’ll be ‘Mr FFID’), and has since grown her blog and Facebook page to include a movie club and city food tours. So if you want to eat and drink like a Parisian in Dublin, with tastings ranging from cheese to macaroons, chocolate and French wines, you know who to call… Bon appétit!
Details: Facebook.com/frenchfoodieindublin; €45pp
Flavours of Kildare
Kildare Fáilte’s website features 22 foodie stops, ranging from cafes, restaurants and hotels to gastro-pubs like Fallon’s of Kilcullen, Harte’s of Kildare and the Ballymore Inn in Ballymore Eustace. It’s available as a PDF online, with an attached coupon that entitles the bearer (that’s you) to a special offer in each.
Limerick Food Trails
Few people know Limerick’s foodie scene as well as cookbook author (Bread on the Table) and food photographer Val O’Connor. Val does guided tours of the city with a focus on “real diamond finds”. From Limerick ham to Kirsty O’Kelly’s Nordic herrings, from pizza-making to oyster-shucking, her three-hour trails cost around €50pp, and can be booked privately by groups.
Details: valskitchen.com; limerickfoodtrails.com.
Boyne Valley Food Series
Fancy wandering through 9,000 years of history whilst grazing on Louth and Meath’s finest cheeses, sausages, breads and ice-cream? That’s the promise from the Boyne Valley Food Series, which backs up an interactive map with a summer-long calendar of events ranging from foraging days to farm walks, gourmet cycles, summer BBQs and even pop-up Bollywood nights from June to September.
Dublin & Cork: Fabulous Food Trails
Google ‘food tours’ in Dublin or Cork and one company tops the results: Eveleen Coyle’s Fabulous Food Trails. Fabulous is as fabulous does, of course, so Eveleen not only offers scheduled 2.5-hour tasting trails (€55pp), but spices things up with occasional extras like the Cork Summer Show (June 13-15), a Cork Midsummer Walk Special (June 20 & 21; €45pp), and a Food & Fashion Trail in Dublin (enquiries online).
Belfast Bred Tour
The Belfast Bred Food Tour (£25/€31) is led by a chef who claims to have cooked on the RMS Titanic. Barney is his name, and his 2.5-hour tour is a performance piece during which he searches for ingredients to recreate the ship’s launch menu. Guests can taste, chat and sup. A modern-day equivalent, featuring eight stops, is Belfast Food Tours (£35/€43).
Details: visit-belfast.com; twitter.com/belfastfoodtours
NB: Good Food Ireland (goodfoodireland.ie) has lots of food trip suggestions and visitors can request a tailormade itinerary, escorted tour, etc, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.