Irish food has gotten a bad rap over the decades, but that's quickly changing as you'll see when you read about these 6 foodie destinations in Clare, an area of the country that is known for its sustainability.
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And that's not counting the other exciting food destinations that have popped up all across the island of Ireland.
The Burren Farm Experience
If you’re curious to know how a traditional Irish farm works, including the methods that have been specifically used by the O’Rourke family for generations, then the Burren Farm Experience is the perfect place to start.
Owners Cathal O’Rourke, a fifth-generation farmer, and his wife, Bronagh, a regional eco-tour guide, run regular tours of their 500-acre farm that is smack in the middle of the Burren National Park.
The area includes rich grassland for the farm’s beef cattle, as well as deciduous forest and the limestone pavement landscape that is a familiar facet of the Burren region, designated a UNESCO Special Conservation Area.
You'll see the farm and nearby historical sites on a guided tour, courtesy of the O’Rourke family.
Some of those nearby attractions include the Famine Village, the Round Field at Cashel, an ancient ring fort, and the remains of the Shantaghphubble Chapel, the county’s first thatched chapel that was burned to the ground 200 years ago.
A walk through the Burren landscape is also included, as is a charcuterie picnic of homemade and locally sourced food, which includes fresh produce and vegetables, local cheese, and wild oysters and scallops.
The O’Rourkes, who are passionate sustainable farmers, are also the sole providers of Hereford/Angus Burren beef to consumers across Ireland.
The couple says that their succulent meat gets its “Burren flavor” from the farm’s unique limestone-based pastures that also contain wild herbs and clover.
Tours range from 1.5 hours to 3-hour experiences. Prices start at €30 per person. A special family rate of €100 for up to 5 people is also available.
St. Tola’s Cheese
Interested in tasting some authentic Irish cheese?
Get yourself to St. Tola’s Goat Cheese, where you can participate in a public tour of the working farm and see the beautiful pet goats being fed, all courtesy of owner Siobhan Ni Gharbhith, a native of the area.
The tour also includes a lesson on the importance of sustainable farming and the nutritional benefits of goat milk.
A simple cheesemaking demonstration is also included in the tour, as well as a tasting of two varieties of goat cheese from the St. Tola range, which is considered one of Ireland’s leading gourmet food providers.
At the end of the 1-hour tour, visit the “Economusee” museum, where you can purchase cheese from the farm shop.
The cost to join a public tour is €15 each. Email [email protected] to see when a tour is next available.
The farm also has an online shop. At this time, deliveries are only being made within Ireland.
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
Have you ever wondered how chocolate is made?
If so, and you’re in the County Clare region, stop by Hazel Mountain Chocolate and pay a visit to this 300-year-old family farm, where you can witness all the stages of chocolate creation in the making.
Much like watching a brewer create a great beer, on a Hazel Mountain Chocolate tour, you’ll see the experts roast, crack, winnow, stone-grind, and temper the chocolate bean.
Sample the chocolate at its various stages, finishing off your experience with a tasting of the company’s finest products. Yum!
You can also buy them from the company’s online shop.
Flaggy Shore Oyster Experience
Did you know that oysters are quite common in various places around Ireland, including in this region of County Clare?
On a private tour and tasting with Gerry, a former marine biologist, and his daughter, Ciara of Flaggy Shore Oysters in New Quay, you’ll get a lesson on how oysters are grown and harvested, in addition to a demonstration on the shucking process.
The flaggy shore refers to a stretch of limestone pavement that winds its way along the Atlantic. The waters in this part of Ireland are particularly pristine due to the underground streams that come from the Burren region.
In addition, the flagstones for many of Ireland’s cottages have come from this region of Ireland.
The area was immortalized by the Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney in his poem “Postscript” after visiting this part of Co. Clare.
Afterward, armed with a newfound skill, you’ll be able to shuck some Flaggy Shore oysters for yourself and then slurp them down with a specially selected glass of wine.
You can purchase Flaggy Shore oysters and related merchandise from the website’s shop. Oysters are shipped within Ireland and also to the U.K. and mainland Europe.
Wild Kitchen Walks
If you’re interested in seaweed as a culinary delight, you might want to sign up for Oonagh O’Dwyer’s seaweed-foraging walks.
The adventures take place on a beach south of Lahinch, where O’Dwyer shows visitors how to sustainably gather edible seaweed for use in a variety of everyday meals.
The idea is to harvest up to 14 types of seaweed, learn how to identify them, dry preserve them, and then store them.
There’s no better place to engage with nature, learn something new and enjoy the art of seasonal eating and wild delights.
The Ennis Whiskey Trail
Learn about the four pillars of Irish whiskey styles on this whiskey tasting tour of 8 Ennis pubs.
Local whiskey experts Eric Flynn and Paul Quin of the Ennis Whiskey Club take visitors to various pubs in the town to learn about the single grain, single malt, blended and single pot still styles.
Not only is this a great way to learn about whiskey-making in Ireland. You’ll also get to visit some of the medieval town’s best-known traditional pubs.
They include Cruises Bar, constructed in 1658 by John Cruce, an English settler and merchant; the 18th-century Alexander Knox & Co. bar; Dan O’Connell’s (known locally as “Dan’s”), built in the 1700s; the Lucas Bar, in operation since 1836; McHugh’s Pub; Paddy Quinn’s Bar; Fawl’s Bar, and the Poet’s Corner bar.
Tours run every Wednesday at 8 p.m. from May through August. They begin at McHugh’s Pub on Parnell Street in Ennis.
Tickets are €37.32 per person. Use the form on the website to enquire about booking.
Have you visited any of these 6 foodie destinations in Clare? Or have you tasted the amazing variety of fresh, organic food that is available in other parts of Ireland?
Let me know in the comments below.