Culinary tourism has taken off in a big way in many regions around the world, and armed with some of the freshest produce on earth, culinary artists in Northern Ireland are determined not to be outdone. The rolling green hills and countryside that the nation shares with the world are not just the scenic settings of historic castles and modern movies. Indeed, 2016 is a big year for food and drink in Northern Ireland with the national tourist board proclaiming it the year of food and drink.
The verdant landscape offers up flavourful fruits and vegetables, as well as, abundant fodder for grass fed sheep and dairy cows. The country’s Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea coasts also deliver an abundance of fresh seafood for consumption in Irish homes and restaurants. Visitors who want to experience the nation’s culinary culture in comfort can choose from among numerous lodging options.
Here are three places to try out while exploring this gastronomic wonderland.
1. Newforge House, Magherlin, County Armagh
Northern Ireland’s culinary offerings have evolved over the years to produce fare that tempts even the most sophisticated cosmopolitan palates. Meanwhile, the country’s lodging options have kept pace remarkably well. One of the top Northern Ireland hotels is the stately Georgian mansion called Newforge House in Armagh. Rooms at Newforge overlook cultivated gardens and are furnished with restored period antiques that lend them a truly romantic look and feel. When travellers want gracious accommodations, as well as, samples of the best cuisine in Northern Ireland, they often consider the Newforge House. The historic lodging establishment has consistently won Irish awards like “Culinary Haven of the Year,” “Best Green Hotel,” and “Best Country House Breakfast.” The inn is also committed to sustainable business and lifestyle practices; subsequently, its food consists of the freshest seasonal produce from local sources.
2. Belle Isle Estate, Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh
The Emerald Isle is known for its majestic castles, and visitors to Northern Ireland can lodge in one of the country’s noble abodes instead of just touring it. The Belle Isle Estate allows visitors to choose among accommodations at the castle, couch house or one of the cottages that can be found on the 400 plus acre estate. While Belle Isle Estate is beautiful enough to attract wedding parties from all over the world, many guests opt to stay there to take lessons at the lodging’s cookery school. Guests who attend classes at the school learn to make a variety of local and international dishes using the region’s fresh produce. Cooking class topics throughout the year include Everyday Easy Comfort Food, Delicious Desserts, Breads of the World and Organic Vegetarian Cookery.
3. OX, Belfast
A trip to the capital of Northern Ireland (Belfast) is a must if you are planning your food exploration of this wonderful country. The restaurant scene in Belfast is thriving and one restaurant in particular is continuing to earn rave review after rave review. OX Belfast has established itself at the pinnacle of UK and Irish cuisine. In fact, Condé Naste Traveller just named it as one of the hottest restaurants to eat in the world, citing the “warm glow created by big bunches of fresh flowers, happy diners and on-it staff brimming with Belfast wit.” If you are into seasonal food with a twist that’s cooked to an extraordinary standard, this is the Michelin Star restaurant for you.
Belfast is a great place to set up camp in when visiting Northern Ireland as it is home to many of the country’s top restaurants, and a short drive from other top eateries. Find a hotel in Belfast city centre and set off on foot exploring some of the city’s best eating establishments.
Final tip – be sure to visit the impressive St George’s Market for the ultimate NI foodie experience.
Cover photo credit: William Murphy / Flickr