Mourne seafood chef Andrew Rea.
Northern Ireland produces some of the finest food and drink in the world.
Around every corner you’ll find food tours and farmer's markets, beer tastings and bake offs and restaurants and recipes.
If you consider yourself a foodie, this culinary trail of local specialties and gourmet treats will keep your taste buds tingling.
Set off from Belfast, wind through the gastronomic heartland of County Down and the orchard county of Armagh, before exploring the Fermanagh lakelands and tranquil County Tyrone. Dip into County Londonderry, before tracing Antrim’s Causeway Coastal Route back to Belfast.
Belfast city to County Down
Don’t deny your stomach’s rumbles as you walk alongside the displays of fresh fish at Friday’s variety market, Suki Teas at Saturday’s lively food and craft market, or Broughgammon Farm goat meat on a Sunday.
Belfast is also a great base to discover Northern Ireland’s regional delights by undertaking a food tour with a food-loving local, from walking tours around the city to coach tours of County Down.
Once you’ve had a taste of what Belfast has to offer, head towards the stunning coastline of Strangford Lough in County Down.
Visit the Echlinville Distillery, which has revived the age old tradition of distillery floor malting to create Dunville’s whiskey, as well as Jawbox gin.
Meandering south through St Patrick’s country, join the Mourne Coastal Route at the picturesque fishing village of Dundrum, where the Mourne Seafood Bar serves fresh seafood from local ports and their own shellfish beds.
In the seaside town of Newcastle, the Mourne Foods Cycle Tour highlights the link between a heather-rich land and delicious local produce, just sample some Mourne blackface lamb. Or if you’re a seafood lover, book a hands on class at Mourne Seafood Cookery School in the fishing port of Kilkeel.
County Armagh to County Fermanagh
From Kilkeel, move onto the Georgian city of Armagh. Here, you’ll find strong Christian heritage links to Saint Patrick, with two cathedrals named after the saint. In the grounds of the Palace Demesne public park in Armagh you will find The Moody Boar which has a menu full of fresh local ingredients, much of it plucked from the restaurant’s herb and vegetable garden.
Continue through ‘Orchard Country’ to Loughgall, the heart of 4,000 acres of apple orchards and home to the annual Apple Blossom Fair in May, which offers family activities and opportunities to taste and meet cider producers in the area.
Pop in to Portadown’s beloved Yellow Door Deli, Bakery & Cafe. Owner, Simon Dougan, bakes some of Northern Ireland’s finest bread and showcases the products from local artisan producers, from Broighter Gold rapeseed oil and Abernethy Butter to Glastry Farm Ice Cream.
Set amid idyllic surroundings, Newforge House is a true gem of a Georgian country house. Start with a house gin, flavoured with their own orchard fruit, dine on grass-fed, dry-aged Hereford Beef from the Glenarm Estate, and finish with Young Buck raw milk blue cheese from Newtownards, County Down.
From the southerly shores of Lough Neagh, continue your food tour heading west for Fermanagh. Dungannon's Deli on the Green beckons for lunch on the way. Located within the Linen Green designer village, it’s a fine place to sample a salad of Fivemiletown Creamery goats’ cheese, served with pickled carrot, orange and candied walnuts.
Drive south to Upper Lough Erne, where Lisbellaw’s Belle Isle School of Cookery is set in an enchanting 470 acre estate and working farm spread over eight wooded islands.
Entering Enniskillen, you have a great choice of restaurants, from Dollakis for Greek flavours to Franco’s for local fish and Kettyle beef.
Enniskillen, County Tyrone and County Londonderry
Before you leave Enniskillen, pick up some O'Doherty’s Black Bacon from the local legend of a butcher, who respects his pigs so much they roam free on their own private herb-rich island.
Continue along the westerly shores of Lough Erne to Belleek, and take a tour of the famous the Belleek Pottery factory.
Then head eastwards to Omagh, where the Ulster American Folk Park is a must visit attraction. Nearby, Baronscourt Estate’s Sika venison has been named as one of Britain’s Top 50 foods by the Great Taste Awards.
The estate offers salmon fishing during summer months and game hunting during the winter. There is also accommodation in cottages where you can cook up a feast of estate produce.
From Omagh, it’s worth detouring across the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains towards Castledawson. Home to the original Ditty's Home Bakery, the source of some of the island’s best oatcake biscuits (perfect with Irish cheese) as well as soda farls, wheaten breads and wee buns and scones – these are the perfect accompaniment to a mid morning cup of tea.
On to Londonderry, where a lunch of locally reared Glebe Wagyu beef from the Pykes 'n' Pommes food truck looking out towards Lough Foyle offers an unforgettable flavour of Derry~Londonderry.
Derry~Londonderry to County Antrim
Explore the Walled City of Derry further with fine dining at Browns Restaurant and Champagne Lounge, craft beers at the Walled City Brewery or seasonal cooking at Beech Hill Country House Hotel. Browse the weekly and monthly food markets for Dart Mountain Cheese, Flossie’s Fudge or local turf-smoked salmon.
Next, embark along the Causeway Coastal Route, which meanders along the Antrim coastline to Belfast. Stop at the Old Bushmills Distillery for a tour or a drop of malt sitting by the roaring peat fire.
Make your way to the legendary UNESCO World Heritage site of the Giant’s Causeway before a spectacular coastal drive to historic Glenarm Castle for a charming sojourn. Refresh and refuel in the tea rooms overlooking the kitchen garden, where afternoon tea features Glenarm Organic Salmon from the nearby salmon beds.
Keep going to Ballygally Castle Hotel, where an afternoon tea is inspired by the nearby filming of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Where else would you feast on Dothraki trifle with mini dragon’s eggs? Overnight guests can enjoy Clandeboye Estate yoghurts at breakfast, produced with milk from their Holstein and Jersey cows.
You could head straight back to Belfast, or you could head a little further south instead to check out not one but two Great Taste Awards supreme champions in the village of Moira, County Down. Besides his Himalyan salt-aged Glenarm Shorthorn Beef, Peter Hannan sells all manner of fresh and preserved produce at The Meat Merchant. Down the road, McCartneys of Moira are famous for their award winning sausages which come in dozens of flavours, including several seasonal treats.
Backtrack to Belfast via Lisburn, home to Ireland's oldest independent brewery. Not surprisingly, the menu at Hilden Brewery's restaurant, The Tap Room, features dishes cooked with its' own beer, as well as paired with it.
Back in Belfast, take your pick from a host of gourmet experiences, whether dining at the Michelin starred OX or Deane's EIPIC Restaurant or or one of the city’s many excellent casual dining options. Pop into the Aladdin’s cave that is Sawers Belfast to fill your suitcase with gourmet goodies.
Maritime buffs will enjoy a night at Rayanne House in Holywood, just outside Belfast, where the Titanic’s first class menu is recreated and can be enjoyed with views overlooking Belfast Lough.