Ireland’s food tour movement is an ever-trending moveable feast.
Locally inspired food tours are cropping up in locations across the country and taste-testing your way across a town or city is an increasingly popular way to experience a town (think of it like the 12 Days of Christmas — but without the hangover).
As sustainable, immersive tourism becomes an increasingly popular trend and with this season set to be a bumper year for food tour tourism, I spoke this week to Stephen Clarke of Westport Walking Tours to get the lowdown on our growing appetite for flavors on the move.
“Our food tours have been a huge success amongst both domestic visitors and locals,” Stephen, who began Westport Walking Tours in 2015, tells me.
“French or Italian cuisines may have a reputation for being the best in the world, but Irish food and produce is so underrated and, in my opinion, it’s the best in the world.”
Guests on the Westport tours get to experience a smorgasbord of delicious delights featuring a strong side of Mayo.
“Everything we sample on our tour, from our meats and cheeses to seafood and local honey or handmade ice-cream comes [from] the county,” says Stephen.
“Offerings vary depending on what’s fresh and available on the day, but some of the tastes our guests sample include a sweet and savoury mix such as homemade Westport scones with local jam, traditional Irish boxty with Kellys of Newport black pudding, Achill Island smoked salmon, Newport organic apple juice, Westport handmade chocolates and Achill Island sea salted fudge.
“We always finish with handmade ice cream from a fourth generation gelato, Westport’s very own ice cream Willy Wonka, or Graham at Krem, as he’s better known.”
Clarke believes it’s the immersion with the locals which really adds to the overall experience.
“I think meeting the makers and hearing their stories is often the real attraction,” he explains. “We meet fifth generation bakers, The Curry sisters, who converted their family sitting room into tea rooms.
“And we call to Alain [Morice, born to a French chef father and Irish mother and raised in Mayo until his family moved to France when he was six] at Savoir Fare who worked in Michelin starred restaurants in France before coming ‘home’ to Mayo and opening up one of the finest Charcuteries in the country.”
Paired with a strong focus on using compostable materials along with a ‘Leave No Trace’ ethos, the company’s sustainable outlook adds extra appeal with guests for the year ahead.
“Bookings are already looking busy,” says Stephen.
“Our pub tours are expanding to include a whiskey tasting experience at Connaught distillery.
“And our food tours are expanding and will include a quick pub stop and a tasting of local craft beer from the Mescan Brewery.
“So we’re really looking forward to pairing the beer with some of the finest local cheeses and seeing our guests’ reaction, we’re certain they’ll love it.”