Northern Ireland: discover one of the world's best food destinations this autumn
Taste the Island: there are wonderful food experiences all over Northern Ireland that are perfect for a short autumn break
Northern Ireland was named the World’s Best Food Destination at World Travel Market in 2018.
This autumn sees the arrival of the Taste the Island celebration, a special focus on food that will showcase the very best of Ireland's food and drink culture, North and South. Every part of Northern Ireland offers great food and drink experiences to excite the senses. Here we take a closer look at what’s happening in Derry, a city which has come into its own on the culinary stage in recent years as well as the beautiful Armagh, renowned for its apple orchards and cider and the traditional recipes of Co Down, a landscape shaped by the majestic Strangford Lough.
One of the most memorable events we have when we travel is the joy of tasting local, delicious produce. Some of the best parts of travelling for a break are the unforgettable tastes and food experiences to avail of.
Northern Ireland is full of lush green fields and sparkling waters which have been producing world-class dairy, beef, fish, vegetables and fruits, for centuries. Now, its food and drinks producers are gaining an international reputation for their quality, and Northern Ireland was named the World’s Best Food Destination at World Travel Market in 2018/19.
This autumn, there are some wonderful food experiences and festivals taking place that are perfect for a short break in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
Armagh Food and Cider Festival
In the glorious orchard county of Armagh, it’s all about the apples, naturally. From September 19th to 22nd, you can enjoy the Armagh Food and Cider Festival in Armagh city. There are dozens of exciting events like dinners at stunning orchards, food tours, markets with artisan producers and food experiences, as well as the gorgeous apple juices and cider to enjoy.
The top chefs in the area are working along with the producers to highlight the local tradition and heritage, but with modern Irish cooking. One of the most interesting ways to explore and learn about any product is to see how it’s made, and the passion that goes into it from its producer. At Long Meadow Cider, you can take an orchard tour to see exactly the journey their apples go on from branch to bottle.
Owned and run by the McKeever family, Long Meadow Cider are third generation apple growers and have been growing apples for over 50 years on their 28-acre farm near Loughgall village. In January 2014, the company went into the cider industry and have won many prestigious awards for their products.
All their products are produced from apples grown on their farm and are 100 per cent natural. Autumn is one of the best times of the year to see and learn about the different apples, as its orchards will be ripe and bountiful at harvest time. The guided tour will also feature a visit to the cider premises to include the cider press and how the fermentation process works, and you get to take home a bottle of one of their lovely ciders.
The rest of the programme in this festival includes very exciting, authentic experiences like open air markets, tasting dinners, cider discovery dinners and tastings, culinary masterclasses including Mediterranean, cooking with fire and sushi, Bramley apple banquet, One Giant Step - G-Astronomy Culinary Evening at Armagh planetarium, hedgerow foraging, foodie film nights, art in the orchard, floral demonstrations, wine versus cider dinner, Retox-Detox jazz brunch, Beef Barons dinner, and the orchard tours.
The perfect place to stay for the festival is in the beautiful Newforge House, close to the village of Magheralin. Book in for their Bramley-inspired six-course dinner on September 20th, which is part of the festival.
Proprietor and head chef, John Mathers, has long been renowned for his culinary skill in Northern Ireland and was awarded Best Hotel Restaurant in Co Armagh at the Irish Restaurant Awards for the ninth year in a row. He has created this special menu to showcase the best of local produce with a particular emphasis on Armagh Bramley apples and cider. You will be greeted with an Appletini cocktail and canapes on arrival, followed by dinner in the Georgian house’s elegant dining room.
Overnight accommodation packages are available to book. Newforge is centrally located in Northern Ireland, is a Blue Book member and an ideal base for exploring more.
Armagh Cider Company
Another dinner worth travelling for is the Cider Discovery Dinner with Bill Bradshaw at Armagh Cider Company. Bradshaw is a renowned international photographer, writer and passionate cider enthusiast. He has joined forces with the award-winning Groucho’s restaurant in Richhill, and Armagh Cider Company in a very special evening set in the apple orchards. Bradshaw will guide guests through a range of ciders which will be accompanied by delicious dishes prepped by Groucho’s head chef Mervyn Steenson using the very best of local produce.
Tracey's Farmhouse Kitchen
Just a few minutes from Strangford Lough in Co Down, you will find the lovely Tracey who runs her Farmhouse Kitchen from her 17th century thatched cottage. Here, she teaches traditional bread making and you will be greeted by her own homemade treats and breads with morning coffee to start you off for your baking adventure which lies ahead.
Her approach is relaxed and friendly and she will teach you how easy it is to make your own homemade breads like soda, potato and wheaten to authentic, traditional recipes which you can then enjoy and take home.
Slow Food Festival, Derry
Over the last decade, Derry has become renowned for its excellent food experiences and restaurants. The Slow Food festival has gained a great reputation for its local, clean, fair food, and will return to Guildhall Square this October 12th and 13th. Admission is free of charge. Slow Food is a global, grassroots organisation and their aim is to promote the enjoyment of good food with the commitment to community and the environment. The programme for this year’s festival includes a fantastic Slow Food harvest market, demonstrations, tours, tastings, great street food and lots of family fun.
Walled City Brewery
While you are in Derry, make sure to visit the Walled City Brewery, a unique multi-award winning restaurant and brewhouse in Ebrington Square. Opened in 2015, the fully operating craft brewery, with accompanying restaurant, was the first of its kind in the country. This is the best place to sample a true taste of the north west with their local, top quality, delicious beers and food menu.
Their speciality is slow cooked and cured meats and fish - make sure to try Poitin and beetroot gravalax with house-cured seatrout, pickled courgette and horseradish mustard. Their beer names show off the brilliant Derry wit and fun they are famous for; “Cherry-Londoncherry” and “Beerexit.”
Ardtara Country House
To round off the whole experience, stay in Ardtara Country House, another Blue Book member. Ardtara is a stunning 19th-century mansion set on 10 wooded acres. Its location makes it an ideal base as it is just 15 minutes from Seamus Heaney HomePlace and within 45 minutes of Derry, Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, the gorgeous Antrim coast and some of the Game of Thrones filming locations. Ardtara’s award-winning restaurant uses the best of seasonal local produce and fruit and vegetables from their own gardens.
Ian Orr is the multi-award winning chef and co-owner of the equally fantastic Browns Restaurant Group, as well as Ardtara. Food lovers will adore their gourmet package which is a two-night stay that includes breakfast both mornings, afternoon tea and an exquisite six-course tasting menu in their Michelin recommended restaurant, as well as a package of their Guinness wheaten bread mix to take home with you.
A visit to Derry will leave a lasting memory, for its food, its experiences and its people. Truly LegenDerry.
Derry also throws one of the best Halloween parties in the country at their renowned Halloween festival, which will run from October 25th to 31st, 2019. While still a grassroots event at heart, it has garnered a truly international flavour, with people travelling from all parts of the globe to experience the award-winning Derry interpretation of Halloween through choreography, costume and events.
Now running over the course of a week, with visitor numbers increasing every year, the festival has truly taken on a life of its own. 2019 is shaping up to be the biggest event yet, inspiring locals and visitors alike with the theme "The Other World Awakens".
Taste the Island in Northern Ireland this autumn
• Armagh Food and Cider Festival (19 – 22 September)
• Taste the Island at Culture Weekend, Cathedral Food Market (20 – 21 September)
• Festival Lough Erne (21 - 22 September)
• Belfast Restaurant Week (23 – 29 September)
• River to Lough Festival (28 September)
• Taste Causeway 2019 (4 – 27 October)
• The Slow Food Festival (12 – 13 October)
• Derry International Halloween Festival (26 October – 1 November)
• Taste the Island at the Twilight Market at St George's Market Belfast (12 – 13 November)
• Armagh Georgian Festival (28 – December 1)
Plan your foodie short break now, visit discovernorthernireland.com