Unspoilt scenery complemented by innovative food producers, award-winning restaurants, creative cafés, diverse markets and great festivals – these are the key ingredients for the taste of success in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
At a time when provenance has become a key consideration for diners, many restaurants around Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands source their produce a very short distance from their doorstep.
Many farmers have diversified into making cheese and other dairy products and have a real pride in their small enterprises. Farmers’ markets can be found throughout the region, and food festivals and initiatives are becoming more popular.
Whether you’re a consummate carnivore or a vegan, you’ll find something in the foodie delights in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands with our top 11 foodie experiences.
Immerse yourself in A Taste of Lough Derg, which is now in its fifth year. A summer series on the shores of Lough Derg in Tipperary, Clare and Galway, there are events taking place around the lake from June until September.
The line-up includes paddle picnics, a tour of a farm that produces award-winning cheese made from sheep’s milk, taste and make chocolate sessions, a mindful breadmaking session on a farm, guided foraging for edible flowers, herbs and salads, orchard tasting events and garden visits. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours and all the food is delicious.
For fine dining aficionados, Wood & Bell is well worth a stop. Former Ireland international rugby player Keith Wood has opened a restaurant in his native Killaloe, Co. Clare.
Upstairs at Wood & Bell offers a French-inspired menu, with fruit, vegetables and herbs primarily sourced from their own gardens. There’s also a café that does breakfast, brunch and lunch for something a little less haute-cuisine downstairs.
Go ‘wilde’ about chocolate as chocoholics will want a taste (or two) of Wilde Irish Chocolates in Tuamgraney, Co. Clare. Over 80 chocolates are handmade in the small artisan factory.
There’s an open plan production area where you can see the chocolates being made and packed. You can taste what’s in production and make suggestions. We’re salivating just thinking about it.
For coffee fans, The Old Barracks in Birdhill, Co. Tipperary is an over-18s coffee bar that does roastery tours, Irish coffee demos, Irish coffee-making classes and Bailey’s lattes.
As a testament to their quality, the owners import directly from specialty coffee-grade farms and roast in Birdhill.
Country Choice in Nenagh comprises of a renowned delicatessen and café established by Peter and Mary Ward in 1982.
It’s all about celebrating artisan food producers and sourcing the best natural ingredients. Peter can usually be found on the premises, with a friendly chat for customers.
Ailbhe Gerrard is an innovative farmer working at Brookfield Farm on the shores of Lough Derg and specialising in artisan food. She produces wild flower honey, beeswax candles and lamb.
She has also introduced hive share options where you can choose from one-eighth of a hive to an entire hive. Walks through 11 acres of wild flowers with honey tasting and yoga are all part of the fun on this standout farm. And a pro-tip: ask to taste the apple juice.
Viewmount House is a 17th century manor at Dublin Road, Longford, and it’s a must visit when in the county. Ingredients are locally sourced when possible, with seasonally changing menus. Expect to see dry-aged beef and artisan organic cheese among the delectable dishes on the mouth-watering menus.
For more casual dining in Longford, The Nine Arches, Ballymahon, P.S. Red in Lanesboro and Purple Onion in charming Tarmonbarry, Co. Roscommon – also an art gallery – are among the highlights. If you are heading for the Purple Onion, bear in mind that it’s a 20-minute drive as it’s on a border.
It’s a phrase that’s bandied about but in the case of a Roscommon farm family enterprise, it rings very true. Liam and Justina Gavin of Drumanilra Farm left the UK in 2012 to farm in Boyle, Co. Roscommon.
They now run an award-winning day-time restaurant, The Drumanilra Farm Kitchen, in Boyle, with every dish containing an ingredient from their organic mixed farm which is 10 minutes drive away. All the Dexter beef, pork, lamb and salad leaves are produced on the farm. They also serve organic chicken, Angus beef and other seasonal ingredients.
The Thatch restaurant and bar, Crinkle, Birr, Co. Offaly has developed its own Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands menu using local seasonal produce.
One of the oldest pubs in South Offaly, the premises has been in the same family for approximately 200 years. You might even catch a gig, and if not, Birr has plenty to see including Birr Castle gardens and science centre.
Enjoy planning ahead for culinary experiences? Then don’t miss award-winning chef Neven Maguire’s MacNean House, Restaurant and Cookery School, Blacklion, Cavan.
As one of Ireland’s best-loved chefs, the restaurant books up fast, but keep a beady eye on www.nevenmaguire.com for cancellations as this is a restaurant you won’t want to leave in a hurry!
Set in a Victorian red-brick building with views of the Shannon, St George’s Terrace, Co. Leitrim, has intimate dining rooms, a bar area for cocktails and a cookery school. The former bank premises is owned by restaurant manager Siobhan Smyth and her business partner, chef Dave Fitzgibbon, a native of Carrick.
The emphasis is on using the finest freshest local and Irish produce to create a modern Irish menu with French influences and it won’t disappoint.
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