A Baker’s Dozen from Ireland the Best

A Baker’s Dozen from Ireland the Best


In the digital age, writing guide books can be regarded as an anachronism: if everything is on line, then why carry a book?

You need a guide book, we would argue, because we all need a companion, and we all want company on our journey, whether we want to walk to a coffee shop or traverse a Pilgrim Path.

Our work over 35 years has taken us to pretty much everywhere in Ireland, and we can only hope that our experience allows us to put things in proper context.

Library St in Dublin is a vitally important restaurant destination, of course, but so are the Ceide Fields in County Mayo, and so is the Kindred Spirits monument in Midleton. Life is made richer if you know to turn off the N22 at Farran to experience the magical Wunderkaffee, and a swim at the Diving Tower in Salthill should precede every visit to Blackrock Cottage to enjoy Martin O’Donnell’s cooking.

The meticulous potters Rosemary Durr and Andrew Luddick are as integral to the Kilkenny experience as Campagne and Cakeface and Kilkenny Castle, so wherever we went we have tried to join the daisy-chain that unites creative people, and then present it as concisely as possible.

It goes without saying that it is humbling to write a book entitled Ireland the Best: so much beauty, so much talent, so much community wherever you go. Safe journey.

P.28 The Wilder

A classy, colourful destination in Dublin 2, and the staff always go the extra mile. Turn up early and you get to park for free. In Dublin? Yep.

Afternoon tea

P.196 Sunflower Public House

It may be the coolest bar in Belfast city. What’s for sure is that when you see the Sunflower’s signature slogan on the wall – “No topless sunbathing. Ulster has suffered enough” you will laugh every single time.

 P.243 Murphy’s Ice Cream

The Emperors of Ice Cream achieved the impossible: they got the Irish to eat something freezing cold, irrespective of the time of year. Eating your cone on Strand Street is an act of passage for all children.

Ice cream

P.248 Derrygimlagh Bog

Just outside Clifden, this resplendent prairie of bogland is doubly historic – Marconi; Alcock & Brown – and the most fun you can possibly have whilst traversing a 5km boardwalk. Best enjoyed when it is drizzling.

P.207 The Sooty Olive

Derry city has lots of smart places to eat, and Sean Harrigan’s modest Sooty Olive has offered lovely, understated cooking for ten years now. A quiet little star in a wild city.

P.74 The Carlingford Oyster Company

The oysters are beyond good, and nearly as amazing as the views across Carlingford Bay from Kian and Mary Louet-Feisser’s panoramic tasting room.

P.114 L’Atitude 51

Beverley Matthew’s must-visit Cork city wine bar has it all; lovely cooking; stunning wines; and an ambience that you will only find on the banks of the River Lee.

P.65 The Hugh Lane

Everyone raves about the Francis Bacon room, but for us you go to The Hugh Lane to pore over the mastery of Harry Clarke, the greatest stained-glass master of them all.

P.77 Sheridan’s Cheesemongers

Several great things happen at Sheridan’s headquarters, at the old station house in Pottleragh. Firstly, they host one of the great annual food festivals. Secondly, they age their cheeses here with rare expertise and understanding. Thirdly, their farm shop is a beauty. Finally, their Saturday morning farmers’s market is one of the country’s best.

P.80 Woodfield Garden Centre

County Offaly’s great destination for gardeners, and for food lovers, thanks to Hannah Ward’s smart-as-a-whip cooking. Great sweet baking, pizzas on Friday evening, and the star of Birr.

Cake and tea

P.170 The Misunderstood Heron

Yes, it’s pictured on the cover of Ireland the Best, which is no more than Kim and Reynaldo deserve for their thunderous food, cooked and served from a food cart poised at the edge of Killary Fjord.


P.58 The International

Indulge us whilst we head back to our youth and the days and evenings when all the hacks from Hot Press magazine used to pack this lovely piece of Victoriana. We have aged: The International hasn’t.

A stew and a Guinness

P.229 The Apple Farm

You can bring your caravan to The Apple Farm, or pitch your tent, here on the road between Cahir and Clonmel. But the reason to visit is because Con Traas is Ireland’s smartest farmer, which makes The Apple Farm Ireland’s smartest farm. You’ll be amazed.


This article was written by John and Sally McKenna, who have more than 30 years’ experience writing and talking about Ireland’s amazing food, drink and hospitality.

Ireland the Best by John and Sally McKenna is the true insider's guide to the very best Ireland has to offer. This fully comprehensive guide includes over 2000 recommendations to fit any budget.

Eat and drink at the best local pubs, cafes and restaurants; spend the night at the best locations, from wild camping to boutique hotels; discover stunning scenery, landscapes and find the best walks and sightseeing spots.

Ireland the Best is out now!