How many oysters can you eat in three minutes? Most people wouldn’t know, but at Ireland’s oyster festivals the competition is the main game. The current Guinness World Record holder (233 shucks in three minutes), Colin Shirlow, has held the title since 2005, so a worthy opponent is needed this year.
September is seafood month and shucking (opening) is the one of the main foods celebrated in the Fall in Ireland. The delicacy is such a gem of Ireland's food heritage that the island has its own dedicated oyster season when food festivals all over the country celebrate.
Four festivals will be celebrating oysters - with tastings, music, parades and some competitions to break a world record or two! So here's to the salty, seafood-nourishing Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea. We always knew there was something special in Ireland's seawater and the oysters are proof.
Carlingford, County Louth
Cracking open the season a little earlier on August 8 is Carlingford Oyster Festival in County Louth. Carlingford’s Lough is the source of their oysters and cements this pretty coastal town with a reputation for outstanding seafood. The four day festival includes an oyster pearl hunt, a sailing regatta, the world crab fishing contest, street entertainment, an oyster tent, food stalls and artisan craft markets and the famous Carlingford seafood chowder. In short: it's busy.
Hillsborough, County Down
County Down’s 21st Hillsborough Oyster Festival will stretch itself over September 5-8 when the search is on for the new record breaker at the World Oyster Eating Championship. And when you've had your fill of seafood, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens is close by. This 18th century mansion is the official residence for Her Majesty the Queen in Northern Ireland and the Secretary of State also resides there.
Serving as the venue for official royal and state functions, the house has spectacular features like the 'Throne Room' and and 'Candlestick Hall'. Guided tours of the house and access to the magnificent gardens are available so you can get a sneak peek at how the royal family lives.
Clarenbridge, County Galway
The next oyster hot spot is the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival, south of Galway City, where a sheltered bay and delicate ratio of fresh and salt water means oyster perfection. Come September 13 the oysters will be shucked and the slurping will begin. This is one of the great local events of the region and locals are proud to showcase their culture with a great mix of food, music, art and song!
Galway International Oyster Festival, County Galway
And last but not least is the 59th Galway International Oyster Festival at the end of September. Galway is renowned for a good party, and it hosts the oysters in its usual cozy revelry style. The headline event is the incredible work of expert shuckers at the World Oyster Opening Championships. Watch, gasp and let your appetite lead you to a Seafood Trail for dinner.
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City of Tribes
Galway City is known as The City of the Tribes – in the late 12th century, 14 merchant families ruled the city. As part of The Gathering 2013 Galway City is calling its tribes’ people home. So do you share your last name with a Tribe name? Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D’Arcy, Deane, Ffont, Ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris, Skerritt. Tribe members can enter a competition to win free tickets to the festival provided you have one of the lucky last names - or if you can prove a link in your heritage/by marriage to one of the Tribes, you are also eligible (spelling variations accepted).
So whether you have a tribal name, a love of oysters, or enjoy a festival encounter on your Ireland vacation, fall time is a great time to experience what Ireland has to offer, and enjoy celebrating with the locals!
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