The Wild Atlantic Way
Where great food and drink is a given
K. Mitch Hodge
Saturday 12 March 2022
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Ireland’s west coast is fringed by the Wild Atlantic Way route; 2,500km of spectacular coastline with white sands and glittering waves, taking you through some of the nation’s best food and drink, most important history and most spectacular views. While the Wild Atlantic Way has always been an impressive tourist destination, it has sometimes played runner-up to the more accessible and populous east coast, with the capital at its beating heart. The West has enjoyed a true renaissance among Irish residents over the past few years, as lockdown has made rural life and culture more appealing.
Even though the bars are now open again, it feels like a real and lasting shift has occurred; the Irish and overseas visitors have rediscovered this land and what it has to offer, both in terms of produce and culture, promising a brighter future for the entire region.
“There's been positive shifts in food culture, beer culture, and for the people bringing this great local produce to the market,” says White Hag’s Bob Coggins. “It feels like a very exciting time, because it’s mostly these very small shops, restaurants, trucks and pop-ups with honestly Michelin-level food, because all these talented chefs got fed up of nothing happening in the city and decided to come out west.”
So hop on the Way, and discover some of Ireland’s best kept secrets.
Shells Seaside Bakery & Cafe, Sligo
Celebrating life by the sea, simple living and all things handmade, Shells in Sligo is a laid-back delight. Generous portions and big flavours are the order of the day here, with an emphasis on the freshest seafood and quality local meats. The baking is obviously out of this world too, elevating something as simple as eggy soldiers to hitherto unseen levels of loveliness. A hug for all the senses.
Pudding Row the Grocer, Sligo
Imagine a local grocer that only stocks the best versions of every foodstuff – delicious, ethical, organic, local and often surprising. You’re picturing Pudding Row. As well as walk-by trade, the grocery does a roaring trade in indulgent mail order ‘comfort kits’ and a gifting-friendly ‘build-a-box’ service. All immaculately presented, of course. They know exactly what they’re doing.
Wild Atlantic Oysters, Sligo
With numerous inlets creating the perfect conditions for oyster cultivation, it’s little wonder that Sligo bay has drawn oyster farmers for more than two centuries. Representing these producers, Wild Atlantic Oysters supplies premium-quality, sustainably cultivated oysters to the best restaurants in Ireland and further afield.
Not an eatery or a shop, but these local heroes definitely warrant a shout. A family-run health food company based in Sligo, Good4U was founded back in 2004, on the back of research from the University of Ulster into the health benefits of sprouted seeds. Since then, the company has been on a mission to make Super Sprouts available to everyone, through a range that now totals more than 40 products.
Woodcock Smokery, Cork
Preserving only wild, non-farmed, natural fish since 1979, Sally Barnes has been one of the key figures in the Irish Artisan food renaissance of the last forty years. You can book from a selection of different classes to learn how to smoke fish with Sally herself.
The Sea Hare, Cleggan
Lobster and pints. Sinead Foyle and Philippa Duff decided to set up their pop-up café in an empty premises
in the fishing village of Cleggan in 2019. To keep costs down, they eschewed meat, in favour of vegetarian and vegan food, and the freshest seafood coming in off the pier. Their gamble paid off, and The Sea Hare is now lauded for its simple creativity and showcasing of the best local ingredients.
The Misunderstood Heron, Co. Galway
This unique, award-winning food truck cafe on the shores of Killary Fjord in Connemara, Galway, was opened by husband and wife team Kim and Reinaldo in 2017. It’s a truly memorable spot for an ever-changing menu of creative, hyper-local Irish food, much of which is pickled, fermented and foraged in-house. There’s also cracking cake and coffee, with a quirky atmosphere and a focus on environmental sustainability. Lovely all round.
Slieve League Cliffs
Wild, dramatic and majestic, you'll feel like you’re at the edge of the world at the Slieve League Cliffs.
Connemara National Park, Co. Galway
Connemara national park covers some 3,000 hectares of scenic mountains, expansive bogs, glorious grasslands and enchanting woodlands. There are some pretty impressive mountains here, such as Benbaun, Bencullagh, Benbrack and Muckanaght, part of the famous Twelve Bens.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, forming a part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, recognised by UNESCO. For anyone following the Wild Atlantic Way, the awe-inspiring cliffs are a key milestone and an absolute highlight.
Night time kayaking
Bioluminescent plankton shine under the stars along Kerry’s Skellig coast, turning the waters a ghostly blue. It’s a magical sight, but doubly so when you’re in amongst it. Floating in a giant clown shoe has never been so romantic.
The White Hag, Sligo
Our old friends in Sligo are an absolute must-visit, especially now the brewery taproom is finally open to the public. Read more here.
Galway Bay, Galway
One of Ireland’s best-established craft breweries, Galway Bay mixes solid gold crowd pleasers with more experimental creations from its phenomenally skilled and inventive brewing team. Well worth a visit.
Another Beer52 favourite. Unfiltered, unpasteurised and conditioned in-tank through secondary fermentation, Kinnegar’s beers are consistently on-point and perilously drinkable. Stop by, but make sure you have a bed close, because you will want to make an extended exploration of its special Phunk Farm mixed and spontaneously fermented ales.
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