Sample region-specific treats that showcase the bounty of the area; meet proud makers and producers; and learn about the heritage of the place through the story told by its food. From famous baked goods to fabulously fruity ciders; sensational cheeses to superb sausages; this part of the country is packed full of flavour.
While you can find these local heroes all around Ireland these days, we reckon the very best way to enjoy is to hit the road, go straight to the source and treat yourself...
Some specialities are so distinctively of their place: no matter how close imitations may get, they never taste the same as the real thing. The tradition of the Waterford Blaa dates back to the late 17th century, and this doughy, floury bread roll is now intimately connected with County Waterford.
Awarded Protected Geographical Indication status by the European Commission, it’s like Waterford's own Champagne — it has to come from one of a limited number of bakeries to be truly called a Blaa, like the traditional Barron’s Bakery in Cappoquin. This family business is said to be the oldest bakery in Ireland, and there you can try some of their handed-down-for-generations recipes for all types of bread, along with a universe of sweet treats.
Susan Denn’s celebrated Interlude Restaurant in Dungarvan — which specialises in using the best of local ingredients — uses blaas from Barron’s Bakery for the mouth-watering baked ham sandwiches that feature on their lunchtime menu.
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Also in Dungarvan, try your hand at learning new skills at the Tannery Cookery School, and delight in an award-winning meal at The Tannery Restaurant.
In Ardmore, unwind at the Cliff House Hotel — clinging to the edge of a ridge overlooking the bay, its luxurious spa soothes the soul while its Michelin-starred restaurant is a favourite go-to for indulging the stomach.
There are many rightly celebrated Irish cheeses, but probably the most well-known is Cashel Blue. It was created in the 1980s by Louis and Jane Grubb on their Tipperary farm, which forms part of an area known as the 'Golden Vale', renowned for the spectacular quality of its farmland for producing dairy. Their amazing cheese captures the flavours of the rich grass-fed milk used to make it.
Mikey Ryan’s Bar and Kitchen in Cashel town dishes out pizzas topped with Cashel Blue, spinach pesto and red onion salsa: a stunning taste combination.
In County Kilkenny, Highbank Organic Orchards don’t just brew up a delicious cider, but pretty much anything that you could dream of that involves the organic apples they grow: treacle, vinegar, spirits, syrups and more. This family business invites to you really explore their farm, its buildings and their produce, so you’ll know just how far an apple can go.
Pair a pint of Highbank Cider with some sumptious, local artisan food at Statham's Restaurant in Pembroke Hotel in Kilkenny City.
Cork City's elegantly vaulted English Market, one of the world's oldest (1788) is not to be missed. Wander through the market sampling gastronomic delights and soaking up the atmosphere; tuck into a tasty breakfast at the Farmgate Café, situated in the English Market for 25 years, to indulge in local specialities like Gubbeen chorizo and McCarthy's sausages and puddings. That's only for starters: the city is full of wonderful food and drink showcasing the best the county has to offer. Go on, indulge!
Every Saturday, just up the road in Midleton some of the island’s top food producers gather for the Farmers Market — meet artisan sellers and grab some goodies to take away for snacking on later. Restaurants including the acclaimed Sage Restaurant and long-standing Farmgate Restaurant and Country Store (sister to the English Market location) are some of the local highlights here; but the town also has a big whiskey-making heritage, and is home to Jameson Distillery — a destination in its own right.
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Ballymaloe House was first opened in 1964 as a restaurant, and later as a hotel by Ivan and Myrtle Allen. In the intervening 60 years, this grand house in East Cork has become the spiritual home of Irish cuisine. Myrtle’s daughter-in-law Darina Allen remains one of the nation’s most well-known chefs both in print and on television, while the Ballymaloe Cookery School has educated countless culinary students who’ve spread the Allen family’s knowledge around the world. Come to learn; to eat; to stay; or for any number of regular events they host on their grounds.
Visit the nearby Castlemartyr Resort for a truly luxurious experience. Relax in the five-star resort, or play an invigorating round of golf. And don't forget to experience classic Italian style cooking in Franchini's casual dining restaurant or embrace your inner Downtown Abbey persona with Lady Fitzgerald's Afternoon Tea in the Bell Tower.
Food Trails and Festivals
Sample the Cork Fab Food Trail and meet the people fuelling Cork's lively food scene. Fab Food Trails have been rightly lauded from all corners for their guided explorations. They take small groups on foot through city streets, and with an expert's eye and a local's knowledge uncover all manner of culinary curiosities that are often overlooked. It's a casual and comfortable experience that will give you the inside scoop on Ireland's thriving food scene.
The West Waterford Festival of Food is an annual fixture in the calendar of foodies in the sunny south-east, and in recent years the Waterford Way Tapas Food Trail has become one of the biggest hits of the festival calendar. These trails take in guided visits to a selection of choice eateries in either Waterford City or Dungarvan, where you’ll be treated to a selection of tapas and a paired drink, before finishing the night in a local pub where you can let the flavours digest of a pint and chat — a quintessentially Irish experience.