Holidaying on the Wild Atlantic Way? Here are 17 of the best places to eat

Wherever you are on Ireland’s west coast this summer, there’s likely to be a great spot to eat at not too far away

Fisk Seafood Bar

The Harbour Bar, Downings, Co Donegal; fiskseafoodbar.com

Perched on a hill overlooking the bay, chef Tony Davidson and partner Lina Reppert have established Downings as a destination for the seafood lover. Every dish is a celebration of fresh seafood, including local mussels, oysters with spicy Bloody Mary granita, fish tacos or kimchi and prawn banh mi. There are seats indoors, but the best views are outdoors. Pets welcome. Joanne Cronin

The Olde Glen Bar

Glen Village, Carrigart, Co Donegal; 083-1585777, oldeglen.ie

Ciarán Sweeney left Dublin for Donegal, and we all followed him for his incredibly original take on Irish food. His fermented potato bread, served with a copper pot of foaming bacon mousse, is a thing of legend, but you’ll get some cracking fish and meat dishes, too. There’s also a magical outdoor area here. CH

Shells

Shore Road, Strandhill, Co Sligo; 071-9122938, shellscafe.com

What happens when a Dubliner and a South African share a love of food and surfing? The answer is Shells, a cafe and bakery overlooking the sea. Try the beachwalk burrito for breakfast, a special of garlic-butter lobster, or home-made iced fingers, accompanied by their house-blend coffee from McCabe’s. The adjoining Little Shop sells Irish gifts, gourmet food and the two cookbooks written by this energetic pair. JC

Pota

An Tulach, Baile na hAbhann, Co Galway; 085-7566963, potacafe.com

Don’t for a minute think that this pretty cafe, with its thatched roof and red door, is a tourist trap: it is a truly accessible modern space where Diarmuid Ó Mathúna makes full use of the top local producers in the smart, simple dishes chalked up on the menu board. Fresh salad leaves are grown across the road at An Garraí Glas, goat’s cheese and crab come from the Aran Islands, and the meat is from McGeough’s. Corinna Hardgrave

The Sea Hare

Alcock & Brown Hotel, Clifden, Co Galway; theseahare.ie

Cleggan’s loss is Clifden’s gain as Sinéad Coyle and Philippa Duff have scampered across the coast to a new home for their wonderful Sea Hare restaurant, which opened just in time for the summer season. The ethos is the same, with a mix of vegetarian and vegan dishes, and sharing plates with fish and meat dishes in the evening. Check the website for bookings for the renowned long-table dinners. CH

The Lamplight

Market Street, Clifden, Co Galway, H71 P789; 095-30863, thelamplight.ie

Balázs Rakamazi, the Hungarian chef at this charming wine bar and restaurant, started out cooking in the Eiffel Tower. Now he buys whole Mangalica pigs from a local breeder, Alder Hill, and features a different cut on his menu each week, from collar steaks to trotters. A pintxo bar in the cosy wine bar to the front is open on Saturday and Sunday, with top wines by the glass selected by Anke Hartman. CH

Misunderstood Heron

Derrynacleigh, Leenane, Co Galway; 083-0244203, misunderstoodheron.com

The Heron, as its loyal followers call it, is a “wild outdoor eatery” on the edge of Killary Fjord, where Rose OToole’s “bangin” menu with Middle Eastern and South American influences changes daily. Whether beetroot and goat’s cheese croquettes or Toulouse sausages and chimichurri on sourdough, it all tastes better outside. Be prepared to queue. CH

Linnanes Lobster Bar

New Quay, the Burren, Co Clare, H91 NWX6; 065-7078120; linnanesbar.com

Book well in advance if you’re hoping to bag a table on the covered terrace, where you’ll see trays of lobster and Chablis 1er Cru winging their way to the deep-pocketed folks in the prime seats. But there’s also value to be had, particularly the very good clams and fish and chips. And, as Linnanes is the new owner of Flaggy Shore Oysters, do give them a go. CH

Russell’s Bar & Eatery at Fiddle & Bow

Fiddle + Bow Hotel, Teergonean, Doolin, Co Clare, V95 XR0K; 065-6700200; fiddleandbow.ie

Serious crimes have been committed in the name of seafood chowder, but in my book there’s one cardinal rule: no salmon. It is one of the many things Viv Kelly gets right at this totally laid-back restaurant in the supercool Fiddle & Bow boutique hotel. Fish and hand-cut chips and the bouillabaisse also get the vote. CH

Vaughan’s Anchor Inn

Main Street, Liscannor, Co Clare; 065-7081548, vaughans.ie

No trip to the Cliffs of Moher is complete without a stop at Vaughan’s for Flaggy Shore oysters, sauteed scallops or local lobster. Despite the throng of tourists around, there’s nothing rushed or profit-pushing here—three generations have been involved in the business, and none has let standards slip. If you don’t get the Taittinger champagne tasting flight to go with your seafood you’re not doing it right. LC

This Is It

Main Street, Ennistymon, Co Clare; 065-7072252, thisisitennistymon.com

A summer supper club feels like a natural evolution for Ger O’Donoghue’s Ennistymon cafe, which now has its own bakery and is the go-to venue for its serious selection of organic and biodynamic wines. Roy Hennessy is the chef bringing the buzz to evening dining here. The theme changes fortnightly, and you’re likely to encounter a load of creativity around ramen. CH

Pot Duggans

Pot Duggans, New Road, Ennistymon, Co Clare; 065-7071480, potduggans.com

By the river or in the courtyard? It makes little difference: outdoor dining here is on a level that makes you feel like you’re at a festival. Pints and Ashley Gribbens’s Middle Eastern–inspired dishes with big punchy flavours chime with the buzz of great sounds. CH

The Fish Box, Dingle

Green Street, Dingle, Co Kerry; 087-602786, thefishboxdingle.com

It may sound simple to cook fish that has come straight off the family boat, but the key is getting the small things right and doing it at an affordable price. The queue for the fish box at this no-reservation and takeaway spot says it all. Better still, there’s a new outdoor area with a wine bar, booths, a stretch tent, heaters and enough room for 70 people to hang out and listen to cool tunes. CH

Dillon’s Corner

68 Bridge Street, Skibbereen, Co Cork, P81 PR20; 028-23316, dillonscorner.ie

Anyone who is familiar with Trullo and Padella in London will be beating a path to Skibbereen, where Ruairí Melvin Dunne has returned from London and opened a neighbourhood restaurant with his partner, Dawn Price-Latorre. On a rainy Wednesday, just days after they opened last year, a lunch of cacio e pepe pici, beautifully scorched pizza, a porchetta sourdough sandwich and a glass of natural wine felt very special indeed. They serve lunch from Tuesday to Saturday and dinner from Thursday to Saturday. CH

The Fish Basket

Longstrand Beach, Castlefreke, Co Cork; 023-8851716, thefishbasket.ie

Prepare to queue at the Fish Basket, where the lovely staff manage operations with ease. The fish, caught fresh each day at Union Hall before being battered and bundled on top of hand-cut chips, is the big draw, but you might also find lemon sole, scampi or monkfish bites, depending on the day. Sitting on a picnic bench looking down at an enormous sharing box is the perfect end to a sunny day on the beach. LC

Camus Farm Field Kitchen

Camus Farm, Ardfield, Clonakilty, Co Cork; 023-8869199, fieldkitchen.ie

The availability of camping pitches for diners should give you an indication of the festival vibe you can expect at this farm restaurant, where there are plenty of benches for outdoor dining. It serves a €50, five-course menu, and Bob Cairn approaches seasonal and wild ingredients with a minimum of fuss. The menu is easily adapted to vegetarian and vegan diets, and the wine list has plenty of interesting small producers. CH

Saint Francis Provisions

Short Quay, Kinsale, Co Cork; 083-0636879, facebook.com/stfranciskinsale

Chef-owner Barbara Nealon and chef Rebecca Recarey describe themselves as having international flavour rooted in the local larder, with a menu led by the growers and farmers they work with. You might find grilled radishes with ricotta, ox tongue and Templegall croquettes, or octopus with purple potatoes, all served alongside some brilliant natural wines. The seats outside are some of the most in demand in Kinsale, whether or not the sun is shining. Lisa Cope

This selection is from the Irish Times guide to 100 of the best restaurants, cafes and places to eat in Ireland 2022