Ireland is known for many things: its rolling green hills, its fairy tales of leprechauns and gold, even its friendly locals. Having once spent an entire semester getting acquainted with my birth country (yes, I was born in Ireland), I can attest to the fact that Ireland is all of these things and more.
Yet, if there’s one thing that still remains a stain on the Emerald Isle’s otherwise sparkling reputation, it’s the food. That is, until now. Much to my surprise, it turns out Ireland has transformed itself into the ultimate farm-to-table foodie destination! Who would have guessed that the place where I once ate lasagna with a side of fries (not that you still can’t get that carbalicious combination, should you so choose) is now home to an array of world-renowned restaurants run by equally successful chefs? Definitely not me. But let me tell you, my stomach was delighted to be proven wrong this past October.
I was invited to experience the foodie side of Ireland’s Ancient East (basically, everything east of the Shannon River), stretching from Tipperary all the way to Kildare. I know I’ve already written an ultimate Ireland road trip guide to the whole country, but trust me, if you’ve got an extra few days to spare, then make sure you do the Ireland’s Ancient East foodie road trip I’ve included below. Your stomach will thank you.
Table of Contents
Ireland’s Ancient East Itinerary: Foodie Edition
Day 1 -2: Dublin
An overwhelming majority of people who visit Ireland fly into Dublin, Ireland’s largest city. And while I’m a firm believer that you should venture outside the Irish capital, there’s a reason Dublin is one of Ireland’s most visited cities: there is a TON to do here. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Kilmainham Gaol, The Trinity College Library and The Ha’Penny Bridge. But since I don’t have a “things to do in Dublin” guide, I’ll direct you to this post by The Crazy Tourist for some inspiration instead. And being that this is a foodie road trip, don’t miss these Dublin food recommendations from 2foodtrippers.
Where to stay in Dublin:
The below are my recommendations for awesome hotels in Dublin for every budget.
- Backpack: Garden Lane Backpackers | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Save: Dergvale Hotel | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Splurge: The Shelbourne Dublin | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
Day 3: Kildare
Now that you’ve done your fair share of Dublin exploring, it’s time to rent your car and get out of the big city. After a whirlwind two days in Dublin, there’s nothing better than a little rest and relaxation. You can find it at Burtown House and Gardens in Kildare, about an hour’s drive outside of Dublin.
Burtown House and Gardens:
Passed down through generations, this Georgian Villa is home to twelve acres of gardens, a delicious farm to table café, and even a private guesthouse that can be rented on Airbnb (get Airbnb credit here). Visitors can do estate tours run by photographer and co-owner James Fennel, eat some mind-blowingly delicious fresh food at The Green Barn, the onsite restaurant run by his wife Joanna, or rent the Airbnb for a relaxing “rural” getaway just outside of Dublin.
As a city girl through and through, it was refreshing to walk through the gardens and witness how so many of my favorite fresh foods are grown. Plus, I can attest that the food at The Green Barn is SO good. Knowing exactly where your food is harvested definitely makes it taste better.
Other attractions nearby:
You can easily spend a leisurely afternoon here, but if you’re looking to do a bit more exploring in Kildare, check out The Quaker Museum, Moone High Cross, St. Brigid’s Cathedral, or the town of Kildare itself.
Where to stay in Kildare:
Although you can stay at Burtown House itself, we stayed at the Killashee Hotel, which I highly recommend. I also suggest eating dinner at the hotel restaurant like we did; it was delicious!
Day 4: Kilkenny
Kilkenny City Tour:
On the fourth day of your foodie road trip, it’s back to city life and your destination is Kilkenny. Although it’s tempting to call Kilkenny a town, we were told that it is most definitely a city and to not offend anyone by calling it otherwise. One of the best ways to get a feel for the city is by doing a Kilkenny City Tour – and why wouldn’t you when you get to ride around in style on a road train? Our group actually did the walking tour, which was fun and insightful. But look at how cute that train is!
If you opt for the walking tour, you’ll get historical knowledge straight from a local historian and even hear the tale of the witch who murdered her four husbands. Definitely not one to be reckoned with!
Once you’re done with the tour, the day is yours to do as you please, and there’s no shortage of things to do in and around Kilkenny.
Kilkenny’s top attraction by far is the Kilkenny Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and was inhabited for centuries, until it was eventually gifted to the city in 1967 for just £50. Talk about a bargain!
The Smithwick’s Experience:
While Ireland is famously associated with Guinness, it’s actually a producer of an astonishing variety of alcoholic drinks that get exported worldwide. One of those drinks is Smithwick’s Irish Ale. The brewery-turned-museum is actually really fun and hands on, complete with talking holograms and functioning machinery. Since I don’t drink, I wasn’t especially interested in how pale ale is made. However, it was a fun experience and is probably even more enjoyable for those partaking in the final ale tasting.
Where to eat in Kilkenny:
We were on a roll with fine dining at hotels on this trip and we ate at The Pembroke Hotel, where we stayed for the night. Hotel restaurants in Ireland have some serious game! However, if you feel like venturing out on the town, here are a few additional recommendations.
Where to stay in Kilkenny:
As part of this trip, we stayed at The Pembroke Hotel. The location of the Pembroke can’t be beat, and with stunning castle views and spacious rooms, it’s a pretty easy decision. The below are other great options (for every budget) as well!
- Backpack: Macgabhainns Backpackers Kilkenny | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Save: Kilkenny Inn | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Splurge: Butler House | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
Day 5: Kilkenny
Although you’ll still technically be in Kilkenny on day five of the foodie road trip, this day really focuses on the Kilkenny surrounds. Highbank Orchard is one of two apple orchards that we visited on this trip, though both were distinctly different. Once we parked at Highbank, we boarded a tractor train to start our tour. With the tagline “from pip to sip,” owners Rod and Julie concoct an impressive array of drinkable and edible apple products. The apples are totally chemical free, resulting in some scrumptious products such as treacle, syrup, vinegar, and more. Contact them to schedule a tour.
Mount Juliet Estate:
For your next stop, head over to Mount Juliet Estate, home to Food & Wine’s Destination Restaurant of the Year in 2017. This hotel is rich with history and is a popular spot for weddings, but also offers unique local activities such as falconry (!!!) and archery. Plus, they have a to-die-for afternoon tea and lunch at The Hound Hunter’s Yard, if you’re looking for a light meal. If you’re on the hungrier side, do the short drive to Basset’s Restaurant for favorites like braised beef cheeks, oven-fired pizza, or the catch of the day.
The Truffle Fairy:
Of all the foodie stops we made on this trip, this was by far one of my favorites. I mean, the name alone conjures up images of dainty little creatures flying around and delivering chocolate. NOM. This chocolate shop has won countless awards for its truffles, so you really shouldn’t need much convincing to make a pit stop here.
I’m all about a few treat yourself experiences while on the road, and if you are too, then dinner at Yew Restaurant at the Lyrath Estate is where you should do it. If you’re feeling a bit more budget conscious, Tupper’s Bar is a great option. No matter which restaurant you choose to eat at, be sure not to miss a walk around the grounds and the hotel itself. It’s the perfect place for a photo or ten.
Where to Stay in Kilkenny:
The Pembroke Hotel. Yes, you should definitely stay here a second night. Besides, now that you’re back in the center of town, you can partake in some of Kilkenny’s nightlife, go for a nighttime stroll, or just be a grandma like me and have a one woman pajama party.
Day 5: Tipperary
Galtee Honey Farm:
Honey is harvested by bees in hives. That was the extent of my knowledge about honey prior to visiting Galtee Honey Farm, run by the Mac Giolla Codas, a well-known beekeeping family in Ireland. By the time I left Galtee, I was filled with new knowledge about honey (and also filled with honey because I had to taste everything, duh). For example, did you know that the flavor of honey changes based on the flowers that bees pollinate? Or that bee pollen has a ton of health benefits? Needless to stay, I really enjoyed sampling the honey variety (and learning about it as well) and went home with quite a few foodie souvenirs for my family.
Mikey Ryan’s Bar and Kitchen is a newer restaurant in downtown Cashel, conveniently located a five minute walk away from the famous Rock of Cashel. (I recommend visiting the Rock after lunch, as you’ll want a bit of a walk to digest all the delicious food you’ll consume). Inside, Chef Liam serves up traditional Irish favorites with a modern twist such as his spin on shepherd’s pie, beef wellington, and steamed mussels. Yum!
The Apple Farm Tour:
Yes, I’m really recommending a second apple farm tour. Why? Because unlike Highbank Orchard, The Apple Farm focuses primarily on selling apples in their original form, producing far fewer ancillary apple products on-site. Of course, they also have other delicious goods at their shop, including my personal favorite, sparkling apple cider. Plus, if you’re into the great outdoors, you can also camp here. How cool is that?
Hotel Minella (for dinner):
Hotel Minella prides itself on offering a wide variety of menus for dining, but the best thing about our meal was knowing that the majority of our ingredients were locally sourced. We were fortunate to be able to meet some of the producers right before the meal as well, including but not limited to: Cashel Blue Cheese, Galtee Irish Honey, Emerald Rapeseed Oil and more. I loved seeing the community support and passion for farm to table food amongst the Tipperary producers.
Where to Stay:
Although the Hotel Minella is just a short drive from Clonmel city center, it’s just secluded enough to be peaceful and homey. It has been a hotel since the early 50’s and is “run” with great enthusiasm by two lovely dogs, Mop and Bobo (accompanied by two human siblings). Plus, there’s a huge variety of room options, catering to everyone from couples to families. What’s not to love?
And there you have it, the ultimate foodie road trip on the Ireland’s Ancient East route! There’s so much to do, see, and eat along this route that you could easily spend another week exploring this region alone. Alternatively, from Tipperary, you can continue onto Limerick, head south to Cork, or head back to Dublin. I’ve written a full-blown Ireland road trip guide here, for further trip inspiration.
More Ireland ResourcesPlanning a trip to Ireland soon? Check out ALL my posts on Ireland below:
- Ireland Travel Guide
- The Perfect Ireland Road Trip Itinerary: 10 Days in Ireland
- 20 Reasons You Need to Visit Ireland (Right Now)
- Ireland’s Ancient East Road Trip: An Itinerary for Foodies
Tell me: Have you ever taken a trip solely to sample the country’s cuisine? Share where in the comments below!
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