The meandering rivers flowing through Northern Ireland meet sea and freshwater loughs to serve up a rich bounty for local chefs. Mouth-watering salmon, trout and eels join with an amazing array of seafood to make fishy magic on our menus.
Creating your own rivers and loughs food trail is a great way to experience it all. This is where crystal clear waters combine with gorgeous mountain and coastal scenery and quaint waterside restaurants to offer a true culinary adventure through Northern Ireland.
Follow the River
Nowhere better to start than with a fine lunch at the River Room Restaurant at Galgorm Resort & Spa. Here you can indulge your taste buds with slivers of smoked salmon or some fresh sea trout while taking in the panoramic views of the River Maine.
Or start at Otter Lodge, situated on a beautiful location on the Ballinderry River, where the temptations include tasty trout, cod and sea bass.
For dinner, mosey on up to the Bushmills Inn on the banks of the River Bush and dive in to an Atlantic seafood platter or some Antrim coast fish n’ chips.
While in the area your trail can include popping into the Old Bushmills Distillery for some whiskey tasting or one of the many Naturally North Coast and Glens Markets to pick up some local artisan products. Look out for North Coast Smoke House, who take smoked organic salmon to the next level.
Lap Up the Loughs
Six rivers flow into Lough Neagh, and among its bounties are dollaghan, a large and tasty brown trout unique to Northern Ireland. But it is the eel, our first ever EU protected foodstuff, that the lough is best known for.
The White River Hotel sits on the Lower Bann, the only river flowing out of Lough Neagh, and it is a superb location to try smoked eel. Served alongside some baby beetroot, caramelized red onion and buttered soda bread, you’ll be back for more.
The White River Hotel was among the elite local eateries signed up to the first ever restaurant week celebrating the Lough Neagh Eel. Eel-Eat ran from Saturday 25 June and culminated in the third annual River to Lough Festival on Saturday 2nd July at Antrim Castle Gardens.
Complete with pop-up restaurant, cookery demonstrations and artisan food market, this one is a must-do on any food trail. Restaurants around Lough Neagh taking part include Truffles in Randalstown, but watch out for eels on menus all over Northern Ireland.
Lough Foyle is one of the top salmon producing areas in Ireland, and the king of fish is widely available in local eateries, including seafood specialist Pier 59 in Derry~Londonderry.
With magnificent scenery and the chance to stop at gastropubs, cafés, distilleries and breweries along the way, Strangford Lough is another location worth putting into your food trail itinerary.
So is Fermanagh, where the wide expanse of Lower Lough Erne is the perfect habitat for brown trout. If you make a stop at Finn Lough, they’ll serve it with panache. Extend your trail in Fermanagh with an Erne Water Taxi, which can stop at cafés, bars and restaurants on the lough shores or provide a hamper of great local food produce to take with you.
Take a day, or even two – and get creative on a tasty food journey around our rivers and loughs. It’ll be heaven on a plate.