Green and sustainably minded travellers who seek out Ireland’s natural nirvanas can’t live off the fresh air that they crave and, indeed, find. They also need plenty of sustenance after a day of hiking or biking, climbing or canoeing.
Northern soul food
Take the train to Belfast to explore some of the Northern capital’s spots that are switched on to food sustainability. Mourne Seafood Bar is the offspring of its mama at the foot of the Mournes, where locally sourced seafood chowders, casseroles and scallops transport you to the sea. Getting to the mothership, and climbing its eponymous mountains isn’t hard, on an hour long bus journey from the city centre.
Before you go walking the hills around Belfast, and there are many fine walks, get a backpack full of locally sourced picnic goodies at the city’s Saturday St. George’s Market. It’s located at an elegant, traditional Victorian marketplace in the heart of the city centre. Open from 9am to 3pm, as well as buying a few Belfast bites, you can drink coffee and enjoy music by local artists.
Another place to pack a picnic punch is at Sawer’s Deli, a Belfast institution sourcing Irish fish, meats and cheeses for hot sourdoughs filled with O’Doherty’s black bacon, O’Reilly’s goats cheese or Armagh smoked turkey, to name but a few. For seasonal suss, and a bit of Northern Class, treat yourself to a night at Michelin starred Ox.
If you arrive into Dublin Port, you can head straight to Greystones by the local DART train, or walk between Bray and Greystones on the Cliff Walk, where The Happy Pear will definitely make you smile. An organic, plant-based and now iconic Wicklow foodie spot, thanks to its founders becoming award-winning publishers and all round outdoor living pioneers too. For example, a few years ago they led a Wicklow wild swimming movement, and are much loved in their community as a result.
Just a couple of kilometres inland is the village of Delgany where you can pack a few pastries in your backpack from Firehouse Bakery, run by chef, baker and author Patrick Ryan. Specialising in traditional, preservative free-bread, as well as renerating a community bakery ethos, combine their irresistible carbs with a walk in nearby Glen of the Downs Nature Reserve.
In the 1980s, Cork County pioneered a revolution in Irish food, from the restaurants catering to the cosmopolitan culture vultures who swooped in on Kinsale every year, to the inimitable. world renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School. Indeed, the latter was the pioneer of the slow food movement in Ireland.
The list of great restaurants in this glorious part of the world is substantial. However, for green travellers arriving into the city by train, one of the best ways to get a sample menu is by taking the Cork Culinary Tour. Introducing you to the historic English Market, West Cork oysters, and a gastro pub for lunch, with local expert guides, this is a fine, sustainable sampling menu. Similarly, you can take a Kinsale Food Tour and, although the town is not accessible by train, it is just a 44 mins Bus Eireann journey on the hourly 226.
To experience West Cork fare in one small, delicious place, take a bus to Clonakilty, just an hour from Cork, a place where you can rest assured to be replete. The Lettercollum Kitchen Project is a picnic panacea, with many ingredients sourced in their nearby walled garden. Scally’s SuperValu supermarket is brimming with ‘Clon’ fare, and An Súgán Seafood Bar & Restaurant has been run by the same family for over thirty years.