Considered by many to be the food capital of Ireland, Cork is the ultimate culinary destination for many foodies looking for a short break around Ireland. With so many popular coastal towns boasting a great reputation for their local produce, cafes and restaurants, Co Cork is an area worth considering if you’re seeking a local foodie adventure.
From the famous produce of West Cork to the gourmet food capital of Ireland that is Kinsale, a taste experience to remember lies in wait when you visit Cork. Today we take a look at some of the must-visit towns to get the most from your trip to Ireland’s food capital.
Begin by Exploring Cork City
Begin your foodie jaunt to Cork by heading straight to Cork City and the famous English Market. Located in the heart of the city, the English Market is one of the oldest municipal markets of its kind in the world and has been serving people from Cork, and indeed all over Ireland since 1788. Today the market is home to many local producers, serving everything from fresh fish, fruit and veg to meat, chocolate, baked goods, cheese and so much more. To get an introduction to what you can expect from Ireland’s food capital, look no further than the English Market.
While exploring the English Market, be sure to check out the popular Farmgate Cafe, recently named among the top 100 restaurants in Ireland in the McKenna Guide. While you’re exploring Cork City, take the time to visit the Cork Butter Museum and find out a little more about one of Ireland’s most famous exports.
Another great way to get a real sense of the great food on offer in Cork City is to join the popular Cork Tasting Trail, which is organised by Fab Food Trails. Lasting almost three hours, this food odyssey reveals a number of foodie gems in the city, providing you with many great tasting opportunities. The tour also gives you some insights into some of the city’s most famous buildings, allowing you to learn a bit more about the city while you fill your belly! Find out more about the Cork Tasting Trail.
When it comes to dining out, Cork City has an abundance of cafes, pubs and restaurants to keep you fed and watered, with Elbow Lane on Plunket Street, Miyazaki on Evergreen Street, L’Atitude 51 on Union Quay, Nash 19 on Princes Street, Cafe Paradiso on Lancaster Quay and Greene’s Restaurant on McCurtain Street all worth considering.
Next Stop: Midleton
From Cork City, head east towards Midleton, home to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. Take a tour of this world-famous distillery and find out a little bit more about the history and heritage of arguably the most famous whiskey in Ireland. There are two tours available at the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, so be sure to add this to your list of things to do on a foodie trek to Cork.
While in Midleton, be sure to check out the award-winning Sage Restaurant on Main Street. Sage prides itself on serving the finest local produce through its 12 Mile initiative, where the team source the majority of ingredients from food suppliers located within 12 miles of the restaurant. For a real sense of the great produce available in Cork, and in particular East Cork, Sage Restaurant has you sorted.
Another must-see destination when visiting Midleton is the stunning Ballymaloe House, home to one of the most important families in Cork’s recent food heritage, the Allens. From exploring the historic grounds of Ballymaloe to taking part in one of the many cookery courses and demos at Ballymaloe Cookery School, you’re sure to get a real insight into the pride the people of Cork have in their food and produce by visiting Ballymaloe.
Onwards to Kinsale
As you leave Midleton, head west along the coast towards the town of Kinsale, Ireland’s gourmet food capital. As you travel, be sure to make a stop in the town of Cobh and visit the famous Frank Hederman Smokehouse, home to some of the finest smoked Salmon to be enjoyed anywhere in Ireland.
When it comes to Cork and food, very few towns come close to what is on offer in Kinsale. With so many cafes, bars and restaurants just waiting to be experienced, you’ll need to plan to stay longer than a day to get a real sense of the quality of produce available in Kinsale. With many menus inspired by the coast and something to suit all taste buds, Kinsale is the culinary highlight for many travellers to Cork.
The Kinsale Farmers Market is open every Wednesday and will give you a real taste of the area, while Kinsale’s Gourmet Food Festival, which takes place every October, attracts food lovers from all over Ireland to the town. There is a real sense of pride for the food on offer in Kinsale, and the Kinsale Good Food Circle is a group of local restaurants that work together to provide a variety of food events and dining experiences across the year, so be sure to check what is on if you are planning a trip.
There is no shortage of dining options when it comes to visiting Kinsale, and whether it’s fine dining or pub grub that you are after, you’re spoilt for choice. Among the most famous and popular of Kinsale’s many eateries are Nine Market Street, Fishy Fishy, The Black Pig, Bastion, Twisted, Finns Table, Jim Edwards and Lemon Leaf Cafe.
If you’re looking for alternative tours while visiting Kinsale, look no further than Blacks Brewery Tour, which runs through the spring and summer. The tour takes you around Blacks micro-brewery, while also giving you a chance to find out a little more about the gin and rum on offer at Blacks. For the chocolate lovers among you, look no further than Koko Kinsale, an artisan handmade chocolate producer located on Pier Road.
There are several great walking tours available in Kinsale, but the top of any food lover’s list should be the Forage and Find tour, a foraging tour along the shores of Kinsale. Local man Kevin O’Connell heads up the tours, which run from spring to autumn. A great way to spend some time exploring the natural produce that is available in the wild in Kinsale, you can find out about any upcoming trips by visiting Forage and Find or the Forage & Find Facebook page.
Continue West towards the Islands
The last stop on your foodie adventure in Cork is the west of the county, with the towns of Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Baltimore and Bantry serving up lots of variety for food lovers. The islands of West Cork are simply stunning on a clear day with the Atlantic Ocean crashing on the shores. Relax on one of the popular Ten Island Tours where you can get a real feel for the heritage of these islands, along with the sea life and vegetation that occupy them. Enjoy a fishing trip of the islands or set sail from Baltimore to catch a glimpse of the schools of whales and dolphins that call these waters home.
The western Cork coastal towns of Clonakilty and Baltimore will give you more great choice for food exploration, with the Clonakilty Walking Food Tour popular across the summer months of June, July and August. Deasy’s Harbour Bar in Clonakilty and Glebe Gardens in Baltimore were both among the 18 Cork eateries listed in the 2017 McKenna Guide to the top 100 restaurants in Ireland, while Good Things at Dillon’s Corner in Skibbereen also made the list.
One of the highlights of the Cork food calendar is the Taste of West Cork Food Festival, which takes place every September (this year it’s the 8th to 17th). The festival sees the towns, villages and islands of West Cork celebrate the rich food heritage that this part of Ireland has, with cooking demos, dining experiences and a number of food events planned throughout the festival.
If you want to get a real taste for West Cork then look no further than the many farmer’s markets that take place within the region. The towns of Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Bantry, Bandon and Schull have weekly markets that showcase the great produce that has deservedly earned Cork the title of Ireland’s Food Capital.
Find out more about the West Cork food experience.
Plan Your Foodie Experience to Cork Today
Has this guide whetted your appetite for a trip to Cork? With so much to see and do in Rebel Country, your tummy will be kept happy as you sample the great food on offer along Ireland’s south-west coast.
Images via Fáilte Ireland