A food trip in Northern Ireland
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The environment alone – wild seas, rich pastureland, gentle climate – produces wonderful ingredients that have inspired producers and chefs to create a delicious destination.
Whether it’s the seafood at Kilkeel, the cider apples of Armagh, the meat at Ballycastle or the beer from the Mournes, the menu is something special. Not to mention the local tradition of wonderful breads and farls. You’d better pack an appetite!
This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips. You can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative for further information.
Nearest airports: Belfast International Airport, George Best Belfast City Airport, City of Derry Airport
Total distance: 296 miles (476km)
We start our tour in the buzzing capital city of Belfast at St George’s Market. It’s open Friday to Sunday, selling locally produced game, cheese, meat, fish and vegetables. The Belfast Bred walking tour, led by Barney, a fictional cook from the tragic Titanic, around the city’s finest food stores, runs on selected Saturdays through the year. Tickets cost £22, including food samples, but book early. Can’t get the timings to mesh? Make your own tour, and take in Sawyer’s Deli, Mourne Seafood Bar, the Kitchen Bar for Paddy’s Pizza and John Hewitt pub for local beers.
[1.1 miles/1.7km/ 8 mins drive, 16 mins walk]
Drop into Long’s, the oldest fish and chip shop in Belfast, for their signature dish, or try the homemade pasties.
(Drive 2.1 miles/3.7km/15 mins drive/ 33 mins walk)
Titanic Belfast is the next stop, just a short walk from the city centre. Tickets are at timed slots every 15 minutes. Groups of more than 15 should be pre-booked, which gets a discount. Arrive 15 minutes before your slot, and allow 90 minutes for the self-guided Titanic Experience, and 30 for SS Nomadic. All sites are accessible, with audio guides available. If you visit on a Sunday, book a delicious Titanic Afternoon Tea, with sandwiches, cakes and even a glass of bubbly. If you have more time, you can pay a visit to HMS Caroline, too – a World War 1 Light Battle Cruiser, it’s the last surviving ship from the Battle of Jutland.
(4 minute walk)
Complete your Titanic journey with a stay at the beautifully restored Titanic Hotel, which is in Harland and Wolff’s art deco former head office and drawing rooms.
Take a leisurely drive towards Strangford Lough, and the pretty village of Comber, County Down. On the first Thursday of every month there’s an award-winning farmers’ market there, but the town also has lots of cafés and shops to browse, and is also home to the Comber potato, which has EU Protected Geographical Indication status. Three miles away is Castle Espie Wetland Centre (pre-book for groups over 12 and earn a discount), where you can feed birds, go walking along the nature trails or just soak in the surroundings.
[5.1 miles/8.2km, 12 mins drive]
Head south to Balloo House, where downstairs offers delicious classic pub grub. Upstairs is only open for dinner at weekends, although they also do a terrific Sunday lunch.
[25 miles/40.2km, 42 mins]
Our next stop, Enniskeen Country House Hotel in Newcastle, is very popular with walkers of all abilities, and offers self-guided trails or walking guides if required. Try out the highly unusual but very enjoyable Mourne Foods & Films Cycle Tour, a self-guided bike tour that visits local food producers and film locations. It takes several hours, though, so you’ll need to make room in the schedule. Essential, however (and included in the tour or available by pre-booking), is afternoon tea at the hotel: sandwiches, scones and cakes with a stunning view.
No need to drag tired limbs from the comfy sofas and crackling fire – Enniskeen is the overnight stop.
Our first stop is Kilkeel, home of Northern Ireland’s biggest fishing fleet. At the Nautilus Centre, alongside the maritime and tourist centre, you’ll find the Mourne Seafood Cookery School, which offers classes and demonstrations on choosing and cooking top-class seafood. The courses use local ingredients, such as bacon from Cunningham Butchers and Mourne Oyster Stout brewed at the Whitewater Brewery. There are official classes offered on specific dates, but demonstrations can also be arranged for groups of 12-24 people. They last about an hour with tasting session and recipe sheets.
(52.4 miles/84.3km, 1hr 31)
There’s time to digest that delicious seafood; lunch is at Deli on the Green in Dungannon. Eat in or take away, but make time for some shopping.
(39.8 miles/64km, 55 minutes)
Amid meadows, hills and the beautiful lakes of Fermanagh, Belle Isle Cookery School is not just a pretty place where ingredients grow – or indeed wander – around the estate’s fields and gardens. Besides being attached to a luxury hotel, this is home to serious cookery, and you can book classes to learn from scratch, brush up your skills, or simply watch the experts show you how it’s done. The team will arrange bespoke cookery courses, demonstrations and dining experiences for groups of eight or more.
(62.2 miles/100km, 1 hr 47)
For tonight we head to Derry-Londonderry and the beautifully restored Bishop’s Gate Hotel – which also offers a standalone Fabulous Foodie Break for visitors looking for a one-night treat.
Now’s your chance to look around Derry. Made in Derry walking tours last four hours and run on selected dates, introducing eateries and producers (with lots of tasting on the way). Drop into the Craft Village, check out Pyke’n’Pommes, and the Walled City Brewery, and head to Primrose restaurant and delicatessen. Family-run Broglasco Farm [15.6 miles/25km], a short drive east along the Causeway Coastal Route, offers tours to see how Broighter Gold rapeseed oil is grown and bottled in the area (wear sensible shoes). Open Mon-Wed 11am-1pm, or contact them to arrange a tour at weekends.
[25.4 miles/40.8km, 38 mins]
The next stop along the Causeway Coast is Bushmills Distillery. Although for groups of 15 or more, you’ll have to pre-book a tour before 1pm. It’s worth it. The oldest working distillery on the island of Ireland pulls the crowds, keen to find out how 400 years of whiskey making is still going strong. Individuals or groups of fewer than 14 will be allocated a slot in the existing tours, which continue all day. In winter, Mon-Sat opens at 10am, Sun 12pm.
Eat heartily at Bushmills Restaurant itself, or wander down to The French Rooms on Main Street, Bushmills (open Wed-Sat), for Mediterranean-style cuisine featuring delicious local ingredients.
[7.3 miles/11.7km, 9 mins]
Broughgammon artisan farm and butchery is a family business where you’ll learn about every step of production from farm to fork, and meet the animals. They offer courses in butchery, wild game and sausage making, though they book up fast. Tours are popular, but groups of more than five must book ahead. It’s open Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat, by appointment. Even if you just want to visit the well-stocked farm shop, call ahead. It’s a working farm, so they might be out in the fields if you turn up unannounced!
[37 miles/59.5km, 58mins]
On the way back to Belfast, try to squeeze in a trip to Ditty’s Bakery in Castledawson beside Lough Neagh. It specialises in Northern Irish breads, such as wheaten and soda breads, soda farls and potato farls, plus traditional oatcakes, made with Gubbeen farmhouse cheese, smoked Irish oatcakes and walnut oaties – perfect for presents. Open Mon-Sat 7am-5pm.
This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips. You can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative here for further information. Please note, any mention of specific product on this itinerary is meant to be used only as an example and does not represent an endorsement of that product by Tourism Ireland.