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A sampling of the kind of fare you can expect during your visit to Sligo. Photo: Sligo Tourism.

The Best Food in Ireland: Culinary Offerings in Ireland’s Northwest

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For some, finding the best food in Ireland, specifically along the Wild Atlantic Way, might go hand in hand with exploring castle ruins, island hopping, horse riding, cycling, kayaking, or any number of other attractions that can be found on this popular stretch of western Ireland.

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And while the scenery is breathtaking to be sure and the locals are as friendly as you’ll get, there’s something different about the food that’s on offer here that wasn’t always available before.

This is not to say that you won’t get fresh, wholesome food in other regions of Ireland. You will.

Here we’ll explore the counties of Donegal, Leitrim, and Sligo and in the process, showcase the very best of what’s available in the Wild Atlantic Way’s most northerly counties.

Fancy learning about the benefits of seaweed in a real-life setting, or perhaps you'd like to know more about shucking oysters, then try eating them naked or dressed along with the perfect glass of wine?

From the Ground to your Plate

The fact that no place along the Wild Atlantic Way is very far from the ocean, coupled with the region’s growing sustainable agricultural practices, makes it the perfect place to embrace farm-to-table cuisine.

Malin Head in Co. Donegal along the Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

The West of Ireland and the Northwest of Ireland took the heaviest blunt from the effects of the Great Famine.

The land in the West was always considered poor.

In 1653 when Oliver Cromwell was pushing on with the English plantation of settlers, his choice to the native Irish was “to hell or to Connaught.”

Horses graze near Knocknarea in Co. Sligo. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

Subsequently, the good land, much of it found in the midlands and on the East Coast, was given to the newcomers.

Today, Ireland is noted around the world for its transformative agricultural practices, in part due to an initiative called Origin Green.

The majority of cows in Ireland are grass-fed, which aligns with the country's sustainable farming practices. Photo: Albina Kosenko for Getty Images Pro.

Participants in the program, including farmers and other food producers along the Wild Atlantic Way and in other parts of Ireland, have committed to the practice of sustainability throughout the entire supply chain, which basically starts on the ground and ends on the plate.


Here are some of the treats that await when you go searching for great food and food-related experiences in Co. Donegal.

Seaweed along the Donegal coast. Photo courtesy of Lukasz Warzecha for Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

Experience a Wild Atlantic Way Seafood Feast

Be prepared to enjoy the delicious seafood that’s on offer at the Market House Restaurant in Donegal Town’s Abbey Hotel.

Its specialty seafood dishes are sourced from fish that is caught daily in nearby Killybegs. You'll find more information on the restaurant menu.

A traditional Irish music session in a Donegal pub. Photo: Failte Ireland.

A Trad Session Combined with Great Food

Leo's Tavern is known for its lively traditional Irish music sessions.

Why not stop by to listen and enjoy some great Donegal fare at the same time?

Enjoy locally sourced bacon and cabbage, followed by a tasty homemade dessert, as well as an Irish coffee.

Donegal Food Tours 

If you want to discover the best food in Northwest Ireland, taking a food tour with Donegal Tours is a great idea.

Muckross Head in Co. Donegal, where you can find some of the best food in Ireland. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

There are a range of options to choose from, including Taste the North, a guided excursion that highlights the chefs, foodie destinations, and delicious produce in the northern part of the county.

The Isle of Doagh, a small peninsula in North Inishowen. Photo: Gareth Wray, Failte Ireland.

On the Taste Inishowen tour, you'll spend an afternoon traveling through the Inishowen Peninsula that is known for its stunning sea views, and along the way, you'll find some of Donegal's best foodie gems.

Also available is the Killybegs Food Tour and the Border Hop Food Tour, a 5-hour excursion that will take you to the Donegal/Tyrone border where you'll meet the innovative producers and chefs behind the food scene in Northwest Ireland, in addition to numerous tasting opportunities.

Email to book any one or more of the above tours.

The harbor at Killybegs, Co. Donegal. Photo: Chris Hill, Tourism Ireland.

Food Festivals: A Taste of Donegal, A Taste of Inishowen Food Festival, the Dunfanaghy Food Festival, the Dungloe Street Food Event, the Killybegs Hooked Festival, and Off the Street Food Festival. Find more information on all of them here.

Culinary Hot Spots: Belles Kitchen, Rathmullen; Fisk, Downings; The Rusty Mackerel, Teelin; Johnny’s Ranch Food Truck, Ramelton; Nancy’s Bar, Ardara; Smuggler’s Creek Inn, Rossnowlagh; The Lemon Tree Restaurant, Letterkenny; and The Olde Castle Bar and Red Hugh’s Restaurant, Donegal Town.

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County Leitrim has the shortest length of coastline in any county in Ireland, with only 2.5 miles of it touching the sea at Tullaghan.

Its limited proximity to the ocean hasn’t prevented the region’s food producers from offering up the very best of authentic Irish cuisine and firmly putting Leitrim on the list of places where you'll find some of the best food in Ireland.

Glencar Lake in Co. Leitrim. Photo: Tom Archer for Tourism Ireland.

Taste Leitrim is at the heart of the county's hospitality industry.

The Taste Leitrim Trail includes the town of Carrick-on-Shannon, as well as the following regions: Lough Allen/Drumshambo, North Leitrim, the Shannon-Erne Blueway, South Leitrim, and the Slow Adventure Trails.

Here’s what you can expect when you visit Leitrim, the Wild Rose County.

a bridge the best food in Ireland
Carrick-on-Shannon in Co. Leitrim. Photo: Neal Houghton for Failte Ireland.


There are over 30 restaurants/eateries to choose from in Carrick-on-Shannon, known locally as “Carrick.”

As the name implies, it is situated along the banks of the River Shannon, Ireland’s longest river.

There’s a huge range to choose from, including fine dining establishments, as well as cafes and gastro pubs, all featuring the very best of locally grown ingredients.

Carrick-on-Shannon Farmers Market

Organic local produce is what you’ll find at this weekly farmer’s market that runs every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the heart of the town.

Discover fresh fruit and vegetables, cut flowers and plants, fresh fish, organic meat, and homemade bread.

Book a B&B in Ireland's Northwest

Lough Allen/Drumshanbo

The Food Hub

Drumshanbo is home to the Food Hub, a successful food production and education facility.

The pretty town of Drumshanbo in Co. Leitrim. Photo: Aisling Gillen for Failte Ireland.

One of its tenants is The Shed Distillery, which was established in 2014 and was the first distillery to open in western Ireland in over 100 years.

It is known for its herbaceous gins, including its popular Gun Powder Gin, as well as potato vodkas and unique liqueurs.

Manorhamilton Farmer’s Market

Now in its 14th year, this farmer’s market is a popular event that takes place at the Bee Park Resource Center every Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Expect to find fresh fish, artisan Irish cheeses, local honey, freshly-baked bread, and cakes, as well as a variety of local fruit and vegetables. During the winter months, the market moves indoors.

North Leitrim’s stunning lakes are something to behold. The surrounding countryside is where much of the region’s organic produce is grown.

The Shannon-Erne Blueway

The Shannon-Erne Blueway is one of five waterways in Ireland.

The others include The Lough Derg Blueway, the Royal Canal Blueway, the Shannon Blueway, and the Lough Erne Blueway.

In this region of Leitrim, you’ll discover waterside pubs, as well as restaurants and taverns, all offering the very best in local cuisine.

South Leitrim

This part of Leitrim is known for its gently rolling hills.

A statue of the famous blind harpist Turlough O'Carolan in the village of Mohill, Co. Leitrim. Photo: By Sarah777, CC BY-SA 2.0,

You’ll find plenty of great food in the towns that make up this part of the country. Carrigallen, Dromod, and Mohill are just some of the places you should visit on your culinary tour of Leitrim.

Afternoon Tea at Lough Rynn Castle Estate & Gardens

Don’t miss the awesome afternoon tea that is offered at the Lough Rynn Castle Estate & Gardens.

Lough Rynn Castle Estate & Gardens in Co. Leitrim. Photo: Eoghan O'Lionnain,

The afternoon delight takes place in the castle's Baronial Hall, where the original owners, the Clements family, had their own high tea over 200 years ago.

Choose from a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and desserts.

Tea is served daily between noon and 6 p.m.

The full Drawing Room Menu is available from noon through 9 p.m. While the afternoon tea may seem a little costly at €70 for two, it's totally worth it. Book your reservation here.

people in a forest looking for things best food in Ireland
Mushroom foraging in Co. Leitrim. Photo: Kevin Griffin for Failte Ireland.

A Guided Landscape Walk in the Northern Glens of Leitrim

This guided landscape walk includes a forage through Leitrim’s woodlands.

Guides offer a range of walks so that you can explore the local scenery, nature, wild foods, history, and archaeology of the area.

Forage for edible mushrooms and plants as you go along, and anything else that is safe to eat.

You’ll also learn about the local archaeology and folklore of the area, including its megalithic treasures.

Email [email protected] for more information.

Food Festivals: Nature, Nourishment & Verse in Glencar, Leitrim Boxty Festival. More information on Leitrim's festivals can be found here.

food on a table the best food in Ireland
Some of the fare you can expect at Glenview Country House in Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, where you can find some of the best food in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland.

Culinary Hot Spots: The Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon; Cryan's Riverside Restaurant at Cryan’s Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon; Lough Rynn Castle Hotel, Mohill; Luna, Dromahair; Osta W8, Manorhamilton; River Bank Restaurant & Club House Bar; Carrick-on-Shannon; The Cottage Restaurant, Jamestown; The Courthouse Restaurant & Accommodation, Kinlough; The Landmark Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon; The Oarsman, Carrick-on-Shannon; and Vitto's Restaurant & Wine Bar, Carrick-on-Shannon.


Sligo might be a small county but it offers a lot for the food enthusiast and has rightly earned its place as one of the regions where you're sure to get some of the best food in Ireland.

mountain, the best food in Ireland
A view of Benbulben from the sea. Photo courtesy of Failte Ireland.

No matter where you go, the ocean is never far away and Sligo chefs make good use of that resource, together with fresh produce and other organic ingredients from suppliers located across the county.

Here are some of the culinary experiences that await in Sligo.

a river in a town the best food in Ireland
The Garavogue River in Sligo feeds the oyster beds that are common in this area. Photo: Stephen Duffy, Failte Ireland.

Fancy Some Sligo Bay Oysters?

At WB’s Coffee House in Sligo, you’ll learn about the history and current farming methods involved in the harvesting of oysters along The Wild Atlantic Way.

oysters the best food in Ireland
Participants in Aisling Kelly's oyster farm tour will get to see these delicious Sligo oysters. Photo: ©Anita Murphy 2020

The coffee shop’s owner, Aisling Kelly, provides the Private Oyster Tasting 1-hour experience, which includes an oyster shucking demonstration and a tasting.

A cheese board and wine is included in the experience.

Other available tours include The Sligo Oyster Farm Tour, giving participants exclusive access to a working oyster farm and learning all about Sligo's ancient seafood while taking in stunning views of Benbulben and Knocknarea.

Taste of Sligo Food Tours

Well-known Chef Anthony Gray leads the popular Taste of Sligo Food Tours, which takes visitors into the heart of Sligo.

The 2 ½ hour tours will give you an idea of what’s on offer in this vibrant town.

food on a plate the best food in Ireland
A sampling of the kind of fare you can expect during your food tour of Sligo. Photo: Sligo Tourism.

Learn about the multicultural flavors that are defining Sligo’s position as a culinary destination by following Gray to several local restaurants in town.

Tours are available Wednesday through Saturday, at 12 p.m. and again at 2:30 p.m for groups of up to 8+ people. Tours are also available for singles and groups smaller than 8. Price: €55 per person.

Sligo Food Tours are also available for smaller groups.

Adventure (and Food) in Sligo's Ox Mountains Region

Fancy taking to the waters of Lough Talt, a lake located in the Ox Mountains?

large rocks in a field in Sligo the best food in Ireland
A tomb in the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery in the Ox Mountains region of County Sligo.Photo: DvcDvd84 for Getty Images.

Cawley's Guesthouse in Tubbercurry is offering visitors the chance to experience its beautiful tranquil waters, learn a new sporting activity, and enjoy a delicious two-course lunch afterward.

Choose from stand up paddling, kayaking, canoeing, archery or simply go on a hill walk in the Ox Mountains courtesy of Wild Wet Adventures.

The experience, including lunch, costs €65 per adult and €45 for under 16s. Call 071-918-5025 to reserve your spot.

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Strandhill People’s Market

Every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. experience this unique market set up in Sligo Airport’s Hangar 1.

There’s everything from local crafts, textiles and of course delicious food, including baked goods, fair trade coffee, freshly pressed juices, cheese, herbs and spices, teas, fresh meat, vegetables and so much more. Be sure to check out the market around the holidays.

Lots of opportunities to purchase gifts for the whole family at this market, including jewelry, ceramics, prints, knitwear, handmade soaps, and maybe even the best food in Ireland.

Discover more food experiences in Sligo at the Sligo Food Trail website.

Food Festivals: Sligo Food Trail Harvest Feast. Find more information here.

Culinary Hot Spots: Coach Lane Restaurant & Donaghy's Bar, Sligo town Eala Bhan, Sligo town; Montmartre, Sligo town; Eithne's by the Sea, Mullaghmore;  Hargadon's, Sligo town; Harry's Bar, Rosses Point; Miso Sligo, Sligo town; Waterfront House, Enniscrone; The Beach Bar, Aughris, Áit Eile, Enniscrone.

If you've already visited, where have you experienced the best food in Ireland? Let me know in the comments below.


Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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