Search for Great Places To Stay & Eat

Lucinda's 20 BEST Foodie Pitstops along the Wild Atlantic Way 2019

Lucinda's 20 BEST Foodie Pitstops along the Wild Atlantic Way 2019

Wednesday 31 July 2019

Start your Wild Atlantic journey off in style in Ireland’s gourmet capital, Kinsale, Co. Cork. The Bulman, which is right on the water’s edge in Summercove, does legendary lobster lunches, and the craic, with locals and tourists alike, is always mighty. Upstairs, its Toddies restaurant is a popular mainstay for those in the know.

Heading west, you’ll come to the Mountain House Steak & Seafood Bar at Ardfield, near to Clonakilty in Co. Cork. It’s set in a classic Irish pub, and boasts some tremendous food, courtesy of French Chef Frederic Desormeaux, ex-Greene’s in Cork City. In the summer, you can dine al fresco with Fred taking his culinary skills outdoor.

Beside the famous Leim Ui Dhonnabhain ravine in Cork’s village of Leap, Ger’s Diner serves great fresh food, to suit all pockets. Choices range from an all-day breakfast to the farmhouse burger or fish & chips, to the other extreme of fire-roasted white wine lobster or BBQ red mullet with hot salsa.

Set in the nautical village of Baltimore, West Cork, at Ireland’s southern tip, Mews has been on the foodie radar since it got its Michelin Star. I heard one expert gush, “the food was so amazing that I cried”. Well, I didn’t cry, but, with its new wave Nordic style and classic minimalist Scandi decor, I found Mews to be a lovely experience.

Chef Rob Krawczyk’s Chestnut in Ballydehob, Co. Cork is another restaurant shining brightly with the glow of a new Michelin Star. Drawing on his natural surroundings, Krawczyk’s menus take you through the fields, forests, flora, fauna and oceans of West Cork, in a charming, no nonsense atmosphere.

Established in 1984 by the O’Carroll Family, who still run it today, and with breathtaking sea views, this is a perfect place to visit while on the Ring of Kerry. Grab a cocktail and peruse an excellent menu of steaks and fresh seafood.

The Fish Box in Dingle Town has been a big hit since it opened last year. With the freshest of seafood, caught by their own trawler, the Flannery family’s Seafood Bar has been wowing the fishophiles. Grab a table or take a ‘box’ to enjoy by the water on a scenic sunny day.

Moving into North Kerry, perched high on Ballybunion’s Cliff Road, is Dan and Emily O’Brien’s restaurant. Keeping food simple is Dan’s mantra but all the classy classic touches are there. Think whole Dover Sole with caper & lemon butter; scallops with yuzu and pancetta, or beef carpaccio with Gouda cheese and hazelnut salad.

Head up the coast to the seaside town of Kilkee, Co. Clare, which is renowned for its magnificent views of Kilkee Bay and the surrounding cliffs. Grab a pint or a casual bite from Hickie’s Bar at The Bay View Hotel. This boutique Victorian townhouse is gorgeous, and there’s lots of great local seafood at their Pier Restaurant.

Ennistymon, Co. Clare is hot and hip in a big way, with cool new bars and eateries. Look out for the perky yellow fronted Little Fox by Niamh Fox ex Kai in Galway. Perk yourself up with rhubarb & ginger lemonade and enjoy dishes such as sweet potato hash with Gubbeen chorizo, followed by lemon drizzle cake or caramel squares – and they do Barry’s tea!

With great fresh, home-made meals, cakes and breads, as well as craft beers, Johnnie and Maria Begley’s super cafe on Oughterard’s Main Street in Co. Galway is a must stop en route Wesht. Try the breakfast or excellent lunches – or, in summer and Autumn, they also do dinner from Tues-Sat.

You don’t need an entrance ticket to Kylemore Abbey estate – which is also in Co. Galway – to visit this big self-service cafe and shop, which serves good wholesome food in line with the ethos of the Benedictine order. There’s lots of choice, with vegetarian dishes aplenty and free baby bowls for kids aged four and under. Check out the Abbey’s new visitor exhibition.

In the cosmopolitan town of Westport, Co. Mayo, Cian Hayes has recently opened DINER in the former Quay Cottage, doing burgers, hot dogs and fish, as well as vegan specialities.

Belleek Castle in Co. Mayo is a medieval dreamland. Walking through the great hall is like stepping into an episode of Game of Thrones. Its Jack Fenn’s Cafe, housed in the former coach house, offers a great assortment of sandwiches, wraps, salads, soup, sharing platters and boards. While you’re there, make sure that you check out the 200 acres of woods that surround you.

In Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, Waterfront House is a great shout for Wild Atlantic wanderers. Right by the water – and now owned by Jason Horkan and Daniel Mayr, both ex-Ice House – it’s been making a splash on the hospitality scene. Their Waterfront Restaurant is doing some fabulous food with a focus on fresh, local and seasonal produce.

Garry and Mairead Anderson’s Seafood Shack, on the pier in Killybegs, Co. Donegal, made big waves this year when its chowder was crowned as Ireland’s Best at the All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off, an annual event organised by the Kinsale Good Food Circle. Now, folks from far and wide are making their way to Killybegs for their super seafood. Try the scampi.

Further along the coast, in the town of Ardara, Co. Donegal, you’ll find the delightful Nesbitt Arms, a family run boutique hotel. With a classic Donegal friendly feel meets contemporary style, their Ramblers Bar is a perfect spot for some casual grub in an atmospheric setting, while, upstairs, their Ramblers Restaurant is very popular for dinner.

The lighthouse at Fanad Head is on the northern Donegal stretch of the Wild Atlantic way. With remarkable cliff-side scenery and Atlantic views, it’s worth the trip to the top of this tower, followed by a visit to the Lighthouse Cafe.

A short walk from the beach in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, is Belle’s Kitchen on Pier Road and its sister business, the Salt ‘n Batter fish and chip shop. There are lots of light bites and lunch-time winners here, including an assortment of three-egg omelettes, and, for bigger bites, the likes of butterfly king prawns and Hawaiian steak burgers.

The setting at family-run Ballyliffin Townhouse, on the Inishowen Peninsula, is idyllic. Stay the night in this plush, luxurious townhouse, and enjoy a lavish breakfast before exploring the Mamore Gap or the Doagh Famine Village, or perhaps, Ballyliffin Golf Club’s 36 holes – designed by Nick Faldo.

First Published In The Sunday Independent