Clean Atlantic waters, a mild climate and lush green fields
Clean Atlantic waters, a mild climate and lush green fields; the geography of Ireland and its food are inseparable. On the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s natural larder is visible at every turn.
From grazing fields to fishing boats, it’s not uncommon for food to go from ‘farm to fork’ or ‘tide to table’ within hours – if not minutes. Supplying the tasty treats on your plate are artisan food producers and sustainable farmers that dot the coast and have long-seated relationships with the hands that feed you.
As you dine along the west coast of Ireland, you can also meet the maker. Stay on farms, take part in food festivals and learn traditional skills, like foraging and fishing. It’s not a formal affair. Ask in the bakery, at your table, on the quayside or at the bar about your food and how it has travelled, to really get a sense of the place.
Local ingredients and traditions matter. Smokehouses blend fish from the Atlantic with wood sourced nearby for unforgettable flavours. In Co. Clare, Peader Reilly, the master smoker at Burren Smokehouse, handpicks the best salmon and cures it with pure sea salt, before smoking with oak shavings – the traditional wood used since ancient times up and down the coast. Settle into the cosy Roadside Tavern to feast on fish with colcannon, a hearty Irish potato dish made with kale and natural butter.
Over at the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in Co. Cork, you’ll find the birthplace of the international award-winning cheese Durrus, made using milk sourced from two local farms. Like many dairies on the Wild Atlantic Way, this farmhouse welcomes visitors, so you can see the process unfold before enjoying the mouth-watering results.
When you’re ready to unwind at the end of the day, the craft brew community of the west is at hand. In recent years, microbreweries have really flourished in Ireland with real care and creativity gone into creating full-bodied beers and considered ciders.
Head to Matt Molloy’s pub in Westport, Co. Mayo for Clifford's Connacht Champion Golden Ale, made nearby at West Mayo Brewery. You never know, you might even hear an impromptu tune – Matt is the flautist with iconic Irish trad band, The Chieftains. Meanwhile, at Dicey Riley’s pub in Ballyshannon, you can sip on rich Blonde Ale, brewed in the beer garden by Donegal Brewing Company.
Great food on the Wild Atlantic Way doesn’t always mean fine dining though. Sometimes all you’re looking for is a simple fish and chips supper sitting on a seaside wall, or fireside scones straight from the oven after a long day exploring. It’s a real mix.
Chippers, gastro-pubs, markets, restaurants, cafés, B&Bs and ice-cream parlours with a local pulse are all around on the Wild Atlantic Way. Indigenous Irish ingredients, expertly prepared means simple, unfussy food. Traditional methods passed through the generations have found new life with inspired chefs. Above all this, easy-going defines the atmosphere. It’s all about the simple pleasures, so forget about a rigid itinerary and leave time to soak up the warm welcome.
5 'Don’t Miss' Experiences
We’ve handpicked just a selection of unmissable food experiences on the Wild Atlantic Way.
For remote tranquillity with food inspired by life on the Aran Islands, take a look at Inis Meáin. Foraging and fishing are a big part of traditional life on the island and the menu here reflects that.
For seasonal contemporary Irish cuisine with a Mediterranean twist, Vasco in Co. Clare operates from March – September. A remote find, the drive out there is as dramatic and beautiful as the food.
At Gregan’s Castle in Co. Clare, expect modern dishes with organic Burren game and lamb. Or if you’re a dedicated seafood fan, don’t miss Fishy Fishy in Kinsale - so good “they named it twice”. The John Dory in particular is sublime.
Finally, if you’re looking for Michelin-awarded and a buzzy atmosphere, try Aniar in Galway. This self-described ‘terroir’ restaurant takes its lead from the landscape, letting the course of the seasons dictate the menu.
These are just some of the amazing experiences to be found on the Wild Atlantic Way, there are plenty more worth discovering.
The Cliffs of Moher on the southern edge of the burren, County Clare
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