Co. Sligo: A Haven for the New Food Traveller
Co. Sligo is a relatively small county tucked away on the north west of Ireland. Since this piece is about The Sligo Food Trail, and how it tempts and what it offers to the hungry and thirsty visitor, you might think that a county being “tucked away” is a shortcoming.
Actually, this is one of Sligo’s strengths, because nowadays, all the serious action is not from the food tourist but rather from the “new food traveller”. While the food tourist is a passive recipient of food and drink experiences, the new food traveller goes out of his or her way, goes off the beaten track, to find immersive and authentic culinary and cultural experiences. If this is what you’re looking for, Co. Sligo is the place for you.
Co. Sligo has authenticity and immersive possibilities in spades.
The Sligo Coast, the Food, the Drink and the Poetry: A Magical Mix
Sligo is on the Atlantic coast, a wild, pristine coast, which means that there are abundant opportunities for pleasure such as (guided, if you like) invigorating coastal walks, seaweed baths, water sports, fishing and savouring the produce of the sea: top class fish, shellfish and seaweed.
Sligo boasts an embarrassment of artisan — real — food and drink pros who have come together to promote their county’s food and drink offerings, which is embodied in The Sligo Food Trail.
Sligo is also home to a world expert on edible seaweeds, Dr. Prannie Rhatigan. You want immersion? Take a seaweed foraging walk on the foreshore with the brilliant Prannie and you’ll be metaphorically immersed up to your ears.
That’s a magical mix: excellent food and drink and excellent people to promote it.
And there’s the palpable presence — especially around Sligo town and its hinterland — of the mighty W.B. Yeats. Lissadell House, so deeply associated with Yeats, is a short drive from Sligo town. It’s also a venue on The Sligo Food Trail.
So, yes, small county, yet big heritage and lots going on in the food and drink scene.
From Craft Brewery Floor, to Traditional Pub Snug to the Wild Atlantic Itself: My Own Mini Journey Through The Sligo Food Trail
En route from Co. Mayo to the Harvest Feast launch in Sligo, which took place on the 4th and 5th of October, 2016, I pretty much ended up doing my own mini journey through the Sligo Food Trail and got to do audio interviews with some of the food and drink businesses who are members of the trail.
I did interviews in a wonderful miscellany of places: on the large floor of a craft brewery, in the back office of a chic all-day eatery, in a relatively quiet car park, where I spoke to the founder of a plant-based food and drink business, in a bustling gastropub, in the charming snug of a traditional Irish pub, in a restaurant store room, in a plush executive suite of a well-heeled river-side hotel and in a car, with a marine archaeologist and her beautiful pooch, Zara, a Kerry Blue, in the back, overlooking the wild Atlantic itself. What a treasure trove of experiences it was.
I was so happy to be invited to the two-day launch of the Sligo Food Trail Harvest Feast, and thank you to Maria Brouder, the mover and shaker behind the scenes of The Sligo Food Trail, for that. Thank you, too, to Failte Ireland and to Sligo Tourism for organising such a wonderful event. I couldn’t possibly not mention the charismatic Anthony Gray, Chair of The Sligo Food Trail, for his welcome and for always making the dots of the Harvest Feast join up. Anthony’s rendition of The Fields of Athenry in Connolly’s pub in the small hours of Tuesday morning was a version that, once heard, you could never unhear. And all the better for that. Thanks Anthony!
Who I Interviewed on the Sligo Food Trail
These are the Sligo Food Trail food and drink companies who generously did an interview with me and told me their story during my visit to Co. Sligo:
- The White Hag Brewery, a craft brewery based close to Sligo town that incorporates local ingredients and ancient Irish brewing techniques in its beers.
- Knox, an all-day eatery serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, treats and tapas, Sligo-style.
- Sweet Beat Cafe, which specialises in inordinately delicious plant-based and raw foods and excellent, in-house fermented drinks.
- Laura’s of Carney, a pub and eating house that specialises in genuine Italian food.
- Thomas Connolly’s Bar, Sligo’s oldest traditional Irish pub, awash with honed wooden fixtures, including gorgeous snugs and long bar counters.
I was also delighted to have the opportunity to interview:
- Anthony Gray, the just-mentioned Chair of The Sligo Food Trail, President of the Restaurant Association of Ireland and owner of two of Sligo’s finest restaurants, Eala Bhán in Sligo town, and Trá Bán in Strandhill, which is just a little outside Sligo, on the coast.
- Dr. Prannie Rhatigan, Sligo’s own edible seaweed guru.
- Auriel Robinson, marine archaeologist and owner of Sea Trails, which offers fascinating — can I just say “immersive” one more time — guided heritage walks on the coast of Co. Sligo.
Let’s Get on With the Show: Hear Voices from The Sligo Food Trail
I am working on a podcast episode (or probably two) of the launch of the Harvest Feast of The Sligo Food Trail. So, please bear with me while that’s taking shape.
In the meantime, I’ll publish here the interviews with the people/companies mentioned above.
First up, enjoy this wonderful interview with Dr. Prannie Rhatigan, one of the most inspirational people you will ever meet. She’s also a renowned seaweed expert and author of The Irish Seaweed Kitchen and Guide to Edible Seaweeds: Companion to Irish Seaweed Kitchen. Prannie is currently writing her third book on edible seaweeds, which features food and drinks made from seaweeds that are available on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Prannie is speaking at Food on the Edge next week, on Tuesday, 25th of October, between 3.30pm and 4.00pm. So get yourself to Galway!
Interview with Dr. Prannie Rhatigan (9 mins, 51 sec)
A Recipe Book for Cooking with Seaweeds and a Guide for Identifying and Harvesting Seaweeds Sustainably
Interviews with Anthony Gray, Chairman of The Sligo Food Trail, President of The Restaurants Association of Ireland and Sligo Restaurateur
What follows are two interviews in which Anthony Gray speaks with two distinct, but related hats on: firstly, as Chairman of The Sligo Food Trail, and secondly, as President of The Restaurants Association of Ireland.
Anthony Gray Speaks about The Sligo Food Trail (11 mins)
In this interview, Anthony talks about how The Sligo Food Trail is establishing Co. Sligo and the culinary-adventure capital of the North West of Ireland, as well as ambitions plans for the future development of the Trail.
Anthony Gray Speaks about the current state of the Irish Restaurant Industry (3 mins, 54 sec)
In this interview Anthony, as President of The Restaurants Association of Ireland, describes his current focus areas, including the chef crisis in Ireland and the Government’s proposal that all eating venus must declare calories on their menus.
To be continued…