East Cork has become a powerhouse for growing, making and creating in the past decade or so.
The region has always been fantastically rich in terms of farmland and seas, but today, thanks in great part to the decades of training, innovation and fostering of food culture done by the famous Allen family at Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School & Organic Farm, East Cork has been able to take its centuries old produce & market culture and build a world-class contemporary scene.
When you add rich farmland and bountiful seas to a fiercely progressive food culture built on ancient tradition, the result is East Cork.
Just 24-hours of light travel and enthusiastic sampling will show you so much of this great region.
Start Your Morning with the short (25km) drive from the city to the old market town of Midleton. Have breakfast or brunch in the The Granary Foodstore or the The Greenroom Cafe at Sage. Both focus on locally sourced produce, with the Greenroom at the Sage Restaurant famous for its “12 Mile Rule”. Virtually all the ingredients have to come from within 12 miles of their front door. Sage is also a great option for lunch and dinner.
Then, visit The Jameson Distillery. Ireland’s best known whiskey has its home in Midleton – where 56 million bottles are produced every year. It’s a fantastic, award-winning visitor experience that draws huge numbers and explains how locally grown grains are an essential ingredient of the process.
Stay in Midleton and have lunch at the Farmgate Restaurant & Country Store – sister to the Farmgate in the English market and a hub for local produce, artisan food and healthy, wholesome lunches and dinners.
On Saturdays throughout the year – visit the oldest and one of the most varied farmer’s markets in Ireland, Midleton Farmer's Market - a must-see for those who love their food.
If you are visiting in mid-week, on Wednesdays – you will find Ballyseedy Farmer’s Market. A newcomer on the Cork scene, it takes place between 9.30 and 1pm in the grounds of Ballyseedy Garden Centre, Carrigtwohill, ten minutes’ drive from Midleton, offering a great mid-week option for the best of local and regional produce. It’s very close to the historic great country house and gardens at Fota House – one of Cork’s best-loved attractions - and combining the two would be a great morning or afternoon (especially if you want to enjoy a classic Irish Afternoon Tea in a very special setting at Fota).
To Travel On From Midleton – it’s 18kms to the fishing village of Ballycotton and the Blackbird Pub & The Field Kitchen – this old fisherman’s pub has a food shack in the back, serving up great fish n’chips that bring customers from far and wide.
Visit One of Ireland’s Most Famous Smokehouses – At Belvelly, 15kms from Midleton and close to the historic, busy port town of Cobh, you will find a warm welcome and a great introduction to the classic art of smoking fish at Hederman's Smokehouse. They have a shop which stocks all of their smoked products or you can order online. Owner Frank Hederman is one of a select group of Cork artisan smokers who have revived an ancient tradition and brought it to new heights.
Visit the world famous Ballymaloe Cookery School for a food demonstration and a walk around the gardens.
Enjoy afternoon tea at Castlemartyr Resort, themed on the classic decadence of the 1920's.
Journey on to the medieval port town of Youghal where you can soak up the history of a historic town that was home to both Viking settlers and Sir Walter Raleigh. Explore and then enjoy classic Cork seafood dishes in Aherne's Townhouse & Seafood Bar. This family run, townhouse hotel, bar and restaurant has built a strong reputation for its warm welcome, old Cork charm and great seafood.
Or for a special treat, book in for a five course meal at Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry and enjoy a menu that showcases the best of traditional country house fare (also keep an eye out for the many festivals that run here throughout the year).
Travel further into Ireland's Ancient East and as you cross over into the county of Waterford, you will find the harbour town of Dungarvan and the start of the newly opened 46km cycle and walking route, The Waterford Greenway. Dungarvan is also home to The Tannery Townhouse & Resturant, one of the stars of the gastronomic scene on the South Coast of Ireland.