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 in three minutes), Colin Shirlow, has held the title since 2005, so a worthy opponent is needed this year.
Fall is oyster season in Ireland, and this delicacy is such a gem of our food heritage that the island has not one but four dedicated oyster festivals - 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 7 is the
Carlingford Oyster Festival in County Louth. Carlingford’s Lough is the source of its 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 of course, and the famous Carlingford seafood chowder. In short: it's busy.
The crowd watching the contest at the Hillsborough Oyster Festival
Hillsborough, County Down
County Down’s Hillsborough Oyster Festival will stretch itself over September 1-6 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 11 the oysters will be shucked (opened) and the slurping will begin. This is one of the great events of the region and locals are proud to showcase their culture with a great mix of food, music, art and song! Galway city
And last but not least is the
Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival on 24-27 September. Galway is renowned for a good party, and it hosts the oysters in its usual 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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So whether you love oysters, or just enjoy a festival encounter on your Ireland vacation, fall is a great time to experience what Ireland has to offer, and enjoy celebrating with the locals!
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