Italy, France, China: When you think impeccable cuisine, these are probably the countries that come to mind. Ireland, on the other hand, might not make the list — though not from lack of trying. Ireland has been experiencing a culinary revolution in at least the past five years. Being an island shot through with rivers, Ireland has access to remarkable seafood, and its lush green farmland produces rich, creamy butter and cheese. Yet not many people seem to acknowledge that Ireland is a haven for food lovers (most tourists seem more keen on exploring its ruins and whiskey). A new food festival happening this fall, called Taste the Island, hopes to change all that.
At three months long, Taste the Island is billing itself as the “world’s longest food festival.” It runs for three months, from September to the end of November, and includes around 700 events and activities.
Participants can go on foraging hikes, learn to fish, visit breweries and distilleries, take cooking classes, and dine at pop-up restaurants. Plus, the Meet the Maker series lets guests get an insider’s view of the producers that make some of Ireland’s best food and drink, from ice cream makers to beer brewers.
According to Lonely Planet, Taste the Island also overlaps with smaller festivals with more specific focuses, including Armagh Food and Cider Festival, Murphy’s Oyster and Seafood Festival, Clonmel Applefest in Tipperary, and the Festival of Honey in Wexford.
Ireland’s tourism board hopes to run the Taste the Island campaign for the next three years, and will incorporate a number of events highlighting different regions of the country. For instance, Taste Causeway from October 7 to 27 will host several food tours throughout Ireland’s Causeway Coast — including one that is beer-themed and another all about the humble potato. Meanwhile, Savor Kilkenny, from October 24 to 28, will highlight the exceptional meat products farmed in Kilkenny’s idyllic countryside. Yet another food tour will help visitors get acquainted with Belfast.
Of course, would it really be fall in Ireland if there wasn’t a pagan ritual to participate in? Fire of Samhain Púca Food Festival takes place from October 21 to November 2, for all you Halloween fanatics out there, with a kickoff party lighting fires to symbolize the end of summer.
If you’re eager to gain a more in-depth understanding of Ireland beyond Guinness and U2, then Taste the Island is the time and place to do it. If you love to eat, all the better, but the festival is so much more than food. It’s agriculture, history, and tradition — the true spirit of the Emerald Isle.