Ireland's food festivals

A food festival in Ireland? It’s “one of the 12 greatest shows on earth” declared the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper

The above quote might sound like a sweeping statement, but when you consider that the Galway Oyster Festival has been shucking oysters since 1954 (making it one of Europe’s longest-running food extravaganzas) it doesn't sound so incredible.

One thing’s for sure, Ireland enjoys celebrating food. In 2000, there were about 20 food festivals on the calendar; two years later that number had doubled with festivals being held everywhere from Kinsale to Kilkeel.

Take for example Inishfood in May. This weekend festival evolved from a dinner date between two bloggers to picking 140 participants via Twitter (@Inishfood, for next time round!)

Food festivals come in many different flavours, but their chief ingredient is a celebration of Irish foods and the local producers, chefs and restaurateurs that champion them.

Belfast’s Taste and Music Fest does al fresco dining in the enchanting Botanic Gardens. Armagh throws a festival in May for the blooming pink scenes – and cider – that come with apple blossom season.

And against the natural backdrop of the Burren, The Burren Slow Food Festival advocates sustainable food production and tradition.

Seafood treats

As well as the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival in April, the next shellfish hot spot in the calendar is the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival, where a sheltered Galway Bay and delicate ratio of fresh and salt water makes for a delicious oyster offering.

Seafood lover Mark Graham who writes A Year of Festivals blog, recommends September’s Galway Oyster Festival, which comes later that same month. Festival manager, Suzanne Meade, promises it’ll be “fun, lively, tasty, colourful and noisy,” with tours to the oyster farm and shore walks.

Galway doesn’t have the monopoly on bivalve mollusks, though: County Down’s Hillsborough Oyster Festival also kicks off oyster season that month. Swallowing the little critters is record-breaking business here: the Guinness World Record for eating the most oysters was made at the 2009 festival: 233 in three minutes. Gulp.

A 10-day food fest

The 10 days of the September Waterford Harvest Festival is a foodie extravaganza for a city with its very own bread (blaa – a fluffy bread roll). But let’s not forget the other attraction of bringing foodies together, as Mark Graham recalls. It all starts with a restaurant crawl…

“It was especially for singles, a chance to sample the grub in a few different chow houses, while also chatting to, flirting with, or sometimes avoiding your fellow diners.

“Maybe not the best idea when your mouth is full a lot of the time, but it was good fun and I even made a new friend.”

New friends and good food – what more could you want?

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