Taste The Burren Food Trail – Episode 3: Foodie Things To Do In The Burren
Here you are now. You have booked your transport and accomodation to west Clare. You have gotten your days off and you’re planning your holiday and hoping for some adventures on the Wild Atlantic Way. You may also be a great food lover and are wondering about the foodie things to do in the Burren.
So you’ve been to Saint Tola Farm to cuddle some baby goats and even maybe to the Burren Smokehouse where you’ve have the chats with Birgitta and Peter. Your appetite is now whetted and you want to discover more foodie things to do in the Burren. Fear not, I’ve got you covered. First and foremost, slip into something more comfortable, an elasticated waist bands will serve you well if I have my way.
When you leave Lisdoonvarna, go towards the coast via Corkscrew Hill for a very scenic if somewhat head spinning drive to the water. Head to Ballyvaughan and meet with Donal at Gleninagh Farm. Not much to be eaten there unless you fancy eating a lamb gigot straight from the animal in the field. However this is definitely a worthwhile trip to organise as you will learn all about provenance, the life cycle of the animals on the farm and what it takes to bring succulent free range lamb to your plate. Donal rears for orders only which meant that every lamb I met had been promised to a happy customer. A visit to Gleninagh farm is a very welcome educational experience.
Another foodie thing to do in the Burren, is a session with Oonagh O’Dwyer from Wild Kitchen. Oonagh is based in Lahinch and she specialises in foraging walks. She is a fiercely passionate advocate for the wilder side of Irish food. We had a really marvellous chat about all the seaweeds you can get along the west coast of Ireland. Not only will she teach you how to recognise edible wild food and pick it sustainably, but she will also guide you on how to use those new ingredients. Our lifestyles are very different but somehow I think hers is so very inspiring. Ever since then I’ve been that bit more keen to try seaweed and I often add it to my meals.
Another one of the many foodie things to do in the Burren is to go have a chat with Brian of Anam Coffee. He roasts some of the best coffee you can find in Ireland. Like most on the Burren Food Trail, he is madly interested in ethics, sustainability and getting the word out about Irish food loud and prod. Coffee is not technically a food but you know yourself, there are few things nicer than a cup of great coffee after a delicious meal. The current trend for coffee is a fresh, light and citrusy flavour which does nothing for me. I am used to the dark, heavy roasts found on the continent and my taste hasn’t budged from these. The conversation enlightened me as to what it takes to bring a cup of coffee on my table and it’s fascinating. Here are some coffee grains before the roasting.
Now, you can’t go to Brian and buy a cuppa. His business is not a retail one. But you can go there and learn. He is a majestic teacher and the drive to his roastery is worth it all by itself. And if you get really lucky, you will get to play with the most gentle dog around.
About 10 minutes drive from Anam coffee, you will find the most random of day trips, namely Ailwee Caves. Why random you ask? Well, it’s easy, at Ailwee Cave, you can go for hikes in a gorgeously rugged landscape, learn all about cheese making and fudge making and taste some of the most beautiful local products. But you can also visit a Birds Of Prey Educational Centre. It’s all a bit mad, but I really loved it. There is something there for everyone to enjoy. And I got cheeky and very close to the cheese. All the cheese.
There is one last educational stop to be made and it is at The Redbank Food Company. You might be more familiar with their fresh oysters sold under the Flaggy Shore brand. Learn about the life cycle of the oysters and how far they can travel once packed properly. I found this visit particularly fascinating as I knew nothing of oysters apart from the fact that i think they taste amazing.
The good news is that after that walking, sampling, playing with big birds and learning, the one thing left to do is an easy and incredibly tasty one. Go to New Quay. It’s as far west as you can go in the Burren and if you are truly lucky the sun will be shining. Stop for ice cream at Linnalla parlour, you won’t regret it. You can meet the cows that produce the milk the ice cream is made from. Take a seat by the water and take in the sunshine while devouring all the delicious flavours. This is not industrial ice cream and so the flavours are delicate and fresh. This is a really simple and wonderful way to finish your tour of foodie things to do in the Burren.