March 16th 2020

Food in Ireland

Quite simply, it's delicious - and so much more than corned beef and cabbage!

To mark St Patrick's Day (on 17 March) let's celebrate the feast of natural produce we can enjoy in one of Europe's most talked-about food destinations.

Those emerald green pastures, deep valleys and abundant waters surrounding the island of Ireland have helped create sublime smoked salmon; the creamiest butter, cheese, fresh-off the boat seafood and exceptional beef and lamb.

Our Walks in Ireland let us delve into the myths and mystery of this ancient land and Flicka Small, Walk Manager on our Ring of Kerry Walk is not only a great foodie, she is also a mine of information on folklore and a teller of tales. We asked her to lift the veil on what is delicious about the Emerald Isle.

Keep in mind that our Walks in the Ring of Kerry and in Northern Ireland sit together perfectly. Book the two together and make the most of our back-to-back deal with the night's accommodation in between on us!

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be at your back...

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Flicka Small

Meet Flicka Small

The Wayfarers' Walk Manager on the Ring of Kerry Walk, Flicka knows - and loves - her food! She is an Irish food scholar and historian, partial to the markets and farms of Ireland's west coast. Check out her fun and informative Food with Flicka videos on YouTube!

We asked Flicka what makes eating and drinking in Ireland so special.

Irish proverb:

"Laughter is brightest where food is best..."

Happy Irish meal

Irish culture is steeped in myth, legend, fairytale and folklore. So it's no surprise that food and feastings play a central role in many of these tales.

From ancient times when people lived close to the land, pagan Celtic festivals were celebrated with feasts and dancing, animals in Celtic mythology were tied in with fertility and vitality and provided a connection to the realm of spirits and gods.

Today Irish cuisine reflects the culture and traditional myths of Ireland. From "pub grub" to world-class restaurants, Ireland is now home to high-quality food prepared from locally sourced produce.

The Ring of Kerry

Legendary landscapes, legendary food

Ireland - Ring of Kerry - Waterville

The chefs in the region have the pick of the best fresh local ingredients. Succulent, prime local beef, superb seafood and shellfish.

And it is well known for its salmon and lamb. The sheep are reared on the green mountains of the Ring of Kerry, and the salmon have been spawned in the sparkling rivers that traverse the bogs. It can't get more local than that!

The same is true for the fresh Atlantic shellfish, from Valentia scallops to Cromane mussels and the famous Dingle Bay prawns.

Renowned for its high-quality dairy and pristine grazing lands, Ireland is a natural destination for top-notch cheesemaking.

A highlight of our Walk is visiting with Peter Ireson to watch him make (and tasting!) his famous Kerry Blue and Knockatee cheeses (Click to watch the video). His cheeses are aged for a minimum of 10 months, producing some of the most sought-after Irish cheddars.

Peter Ireson's famous cheeses

And to wash it down? There is also an upsurge in local distilleries and craft brewing, such as Dingle Gin and Torc Ales. Definitely worth trying as well is, of course, a pint of jet-black Guinness, made from spring water piped to the famous Dublin brewery from the Wicklow mountains.

Our Ireland Walks feature hotels that invite us at the end of the day to enjoy a great meal and a comfortable bed, with characterful surroundings.

All our accommodations on the Ring of Kerry Walk boast 5-star chefs who make the very most of fresh, local ingredients.

In Killarney we enjoy the elegant hospitality at the old Great Southern Killarney, built in 1854 with the remit to 'take the guest's breath away' and it still does.

On to Kenmare and the Sheen Falls Lodge - former home of Lord Lansdowne and previously a hunting and fishing lodge.

The family-run Butler Arms in Waterville is known far and wide as the best place to eat steak - sourced from local craft butcher and cooked by owner-chef. Here there is also the chance of watching dolphins leaping in the morning sunshine or the full moon across the clear sky.

On the shores of Caragh Lake at Killorglin, Ard na Sidhe, gets its "Hill of the Fairies" name from the tree-covered knoll close by where hidden pathways and secret glades give way to the lake and mountains beyond.

Northern Ireland

Taste the tradition

Northern Ireland - Cows on the beach

There's no better way to set up for a day on the trail than with an Ulster Fry: a feast of black and white pudding, bacon, sausages, tomato and potato farls (potato bread).

From there, we'll work up an appetite for lunch and dinner: perhaps a hearty bowl of creamy chowder, chock-a-block with salmon and smoked haddock and served with floury soda bread. Ireland's famous, grass-fed beef is the stuff of legend and a treat on our dinner plate.

Here, in the north, they are proud of a distinct food culture that has developed with a focus on the very best local ingredients with some very original twists.

For instance, the folks at our Ballygally Castle Hotel, had so much fun when Game of Thrones was being filmed nearby, they decided to launch their own themed afternoon tea. Dothraki trifle with mini dragon's eggs anyone?

Old Bushmills Distillery since 1608

And if you fancy a drop of the hard stuff, then where better to experience Irish whiskey at its best than at Bushmills?

Granted a license in 1608, Bushmills is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world. We'll find out how 100% malted barley is triple-distilled in copper pot stills to make a pure - and delicious - malt whiskey.

It's named for the mills that ground the barley and the River Bush - still the water source today. We stay in the nearby historic Bushmills Inn, which began life as a coaching inn some 400 years ago.

Last but not least, we end our trip at the wonderful Merchant Hotel in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. Do not miss the chance to see the Great Room Restaurant - a truly amazing example of high Victorian architecture.

Irish stew and Boxty

Don't leave Ireland without trying:

  • Soda bread Every family has its own recipe for this. Best eaten slathered with fresh, golden Irish butter.
  • Irish Stew As traditional as it gets. This is made with mutton, onions and potatoes, slow-cooked to perfection.
  • Colcannon and Champ Real comfort food. A mash of potatoes, cabbage and butter flavored with green onions, perhaps with some salty ham hock, topped with a fried egg.
  • Boxty A fried potato dumpling or pancake. The name originates from an Irish phrase meaning "Poor House Bread".
  • Black and white pudding Not a dessert. Sausage made from pork meat mixed with barley, suet and oatmeal; sliced and fried and often served as part of a hearty breakfast.
  • Barmbrack Fans of this make this fruity tea loaf all year round and serve it, smothered in butter, with a cup of tea in the afternoon. At Halloween though, you may find a lucky charm baked into your slice!

Barmbrack and Champ

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