Taste the Island: The Causeway Coastal Route is one of the most scenic routes in the world but it is just as impressive for lovers of great food and drink.
Taste the Island is celebrating the very best of Ireland’s food and drink culture, North and South. While you will find great food and drink in every part of Northern Ireland, here we take a closer look at what’s happening along the towns, villages and cities of the Causeway Coastal Route.
Northern Ireland was awarded the Best Food Destination at the International Travel and Tourism Awards 2018, and the Causeway Coastal Route, which stretches from vibrant Belfast to the historic walled city of Derry, is one of the finest ways to enjoy its fantastic food produce and restaurants.
This route takes in the awesome beauty of the Atlantic coastline with picturesque villages, lush glens, sparkling waters and dreamy beaches. You can choose to start in Derry and make your way to Belfast, or vice versa, or just take in a few of its pretty towns or villages for a few nights. It is an ideal gourmet destination for a short break this autumn and winter, with superb food markets, food tours, restaurants and bars.
Belfast is a charming, warm city brimming with excellent restaurants. They have a fantastic selection of fine dining at Ox and Eipic (both Michelin star restaurants), or Muddler’s Club and Shu restaurants, and incredible Italian food and cocktails in Coppi.
Leave the car behind and head ‘off the eaten track’ with Taste & Tour’s award winning Belfast Food Tour, a four hour food-filled guided walk to the top food and drink spots around Belfast City Centre. Enthusiastic local foodie guides ensure guests get a flavour for the Old Smoke, with a tour of the historic St George’s Market (pictured above), where you will see some of the finest of Northern Ireland’s producers under one roof. The tour continues to a host of Belfast’s best traditional bars and world class shops, topped off with a meal in a top restaurant in the city’s lively Cathedral Quarter.
There is delicious coffee and brunch in Curated Kitchen, Panama or Root and Branch, and excellent seafood at Mourne Seafood Bar. There is plenty to do, including a must-see tour of Titanic Belfast which is situated within the heart of the Titanic Quarter. Belfast’s tourist scene is thriving, packed as it is with great attractions, shopping opportunities, world-class museums and historic landmarks. It’s a city that has completely reinvented the tourism experience and puts food and drink at the top of the agenda.
Venture onwards from Belfast through the spectacular north coast and stop into Carrickfergus Castle, a marvellously preserved medieval structure which began construction in 1177 by Anglo-Norman conqueror John DeCourcy. Next along the way is The Gobbins on the Islandmagee peninsula, which is the perfect place to build up an appetite for this spectacular walk along the cliffs.
Just 30 minutes from here, further north, is the gorgeous Ballygally Castle Hotel. Their afternoon tea is inspired by Game of Thrones, which was filmed in a number of locations nearby. They’ve used brilliant names from locations and characters to bring their menu to life, such as Winterfell jaffa cake and Lannister Egg. Their breakfasts are worth travelling for alone with a keen focus on the best of local produce, like Bushmills Whiskey porridge, Thompson’s tea, Clandeboye Estate yohurt, Grant’s dry-cured bacon and Clements eggs on the menu.
The famous Glens of Antrim are well worth exploring, each of the nine glens having their own beautiful drives
The famous Glens of Antrim are well worth exploring, each of the nine glens having their own beautiful drives. The Glenariff Forest Park is situated at its heart and worth a stop all of its own. The pretty coastal village of Cushendun sits at the foot of one of the nine glens and when visiting be sure to call into Mary McBride’s bar. One of Ireland’s smallest pubs, it manages to pack a whiskey bar, frequent music sessions and great pub grub into its premises, while its Little Black Door restaurant is a great place to try local seafood, among lots of other seasonal fare.
Venture on and stop in Ballycastle’s Ursa Minor Bakery. This is a fantastic independent real bread bakehouse and cafe. The sweet treats are superb, and they truly care about making great coffee and tea to accompany them. Their menu changes every week to reflect the best of what is good, in season and local. You can also book in for a tour or a fun workshop in their bakehouse.
While you’re in Ballycastle, it’s worth a visit to the family farm of Broughgammon Farm which specialises in Cabrito (which is kid goat meat), free range rose veal and seasonal wild game. Call ahead to arrange to visit the farm, their café and shop. They also run foraging and butchery classes.
A trip along the north coast would not be complete without a visit to the world famous geological gem the Giant’s Causeway, which gives this route its name. It is located in an Area of Outstanding natural beauty and is a World Heritage site. Another must visit site is the rope bridge which goes across toCarrick-a-Rede island for a thrilling walk if you’re brave enough.
A great place to base yourself to take in the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is Bushmills, where the Bushmills Inn is a traditional, yet elegant haven with excellent food and superb Guinness which you can enjoy by a roaring turf fires. Make sure to order the full Ulster breakfast to get you off to the best start before a guided tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery, Ireland’s oldest working distillery. Excellent Irish whiskeys have been produced here for over 400 years and they still use the water from their own stream and the same traditional methods. Enjoy their distinctive single malt whiskey at the end of your tour in the 1608 bar.
For dinner, try Tartine in Bushmills where you can enjoy Strangford Lough oysters or the Causeway sharing plate which features a local charcuterie platter with bread, oils, olives, pickles and Irish soft cheese.
An unforgettable sight on the Causeway Coastal Route is that of the iconic ruins of the 4th century Dunluce Castle which sits precariously 100 feet above the water. The nearby Wee Cottage cafe serves up delicious tray bakes, scones and sweet treats.
Derry is the perfect way to round off a tour of the Causeway Coastal Route. Explore the best of what the Walled City of Derry has to offer with incredible dining at both Browns in Town or Browns Bond Hill. If you want to work up an appetite, Boomboard Tours offer a so-called “slow adventure” experience on skateboards, weaving their way around the city on a two-hour route that unlocks the walls, the streets and the history of the city in a truly exciting way.
Primrose on Strand Road and Primrose on the Quay are also excellent food destinations. Dishes like Donegal fish cake, curry mayonnaise and raw slaw, or the truffled local ham and Coleraine cheddar bonbons, tomato jam and parmesan. Then try the Silverhill roast duck breast and leg with Lyonnaise potatoes, buttered french beans and finish off with award-wining Dart Mountain cheeses, homemade wheaten, biscuits and local honey in the Strand restaurant. Their brunch and lunch dishes in Primrose on the Quay include their own Donegal fisherman’s chowder, fresh herbs and lemon with house wheaten.
Also, just 10 minutes from the city centre is Beech Hill Country House hotel in stunning surroundings, which offers great options for dining or an afternoon tea in their beautiful drawing room.