A county that is home to some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery, coupled with some of the country’s finest food and drink producers, a trip to Donegal is always a journey of discovery. You can visit many times and still feel like you’re only scratching the surface of the gorgeous food and surroundings the county holds. At least that’s the way I always feel after visiting: “must go again soon!”
During the summer months, it’s a weekend well spent plotting a route and hitting the road. Here, I’ve listed just five recommendations to add to your list of must-try cafés, restaurants and food experiences in Donegal next time you’re planning a trip.
Foam Café, Bundoran
Bundoran is a great spot for so many reasons. A haven for surfers, the town itself is flooded with great eateries and places to stay. There is always a buzz about it. Foam Café is a true gem of the northwest and what I like about it most is that everything they do, they do with so much heart. It was started by three friends who had a vision for a destination celebrating what they love: the local lifestyle and landscape through great coffee and food, all wrapped up in a vibrant welcoming space.
It does just that. They serve up delicious food that is made from locally-sourced, organic and seasonal ingredients with plenty of gluten-free, plant-based options. Most of all, it tastes fantastic, as does their coffee. If you’re travelling there this August, check out their Patagonia Oceans Events: “Join us for stories of people taking matters into their own hands and showing us how we can work with, not against, our ocean.”
Lough Eske Castle, Donegal town
Meandering up from Bundoran, you’ll find yourself in Donegal town, which in itself is a brilliant place to spend a weekend, but it’s the five-star Lough Eske Castle, located just outside Donegal town, that we are stopping at next. Allowing ourselves a moment of luxury on our tour, the castle is nestled within 43ac of forest woodland hugging the shores of Lough Eske.
A massage and dip in the pool may help you work up an appetite and you’ve got a few choices with Cedars Restaurant, the Gallery Bar and Father Browne Bar. However, I’d like to highlight the Sunday lunch in Cedars Restaurant. Nothing beats a good Irish Sunday lunch and this is a great example: it’s reasonably priced for a five-star food experience at €39 per adult for three courses and €16 per child for two courses.
Olde Glen Bar & Restaurant, Carrigart
When Ciaran Sweeney was head chef in Forest & Marcy in Dublin, it was one of many Dubliners’ favourite places to eat, but the Donegal native had ambitions to move home and carry on his career there, highlighting the best produce the county has to offer with his incredible culinary skills. If you’re looking for a Michelin food experience where any pretentious pomp is replaced with charm and comfort, this is the stop you’ll want to make.
The Blue Goat, Ramelton
You know that Ramelton is a village worth stopping in when you see the giant teacup sign on the way in that says: “The best wee toon in the world”. I’ll take a drop of what they’re having! This little village has lots of character and is home to The Blue Goat, an artisan food store and deli, located at the Old Warehouses along the River Lennon. It’s a store dedicated to a delightful range of artisan food, drinks and a small range of homeware gifts. From Irish raw milk cheeses to charcuterie, fresh pastries and Cloud Picker coffee, this is a great stop to stock up your picnic basket.
Donegal Food Tours, Inishowen
I truly believe that taking a food tour is one of the best ways to get to know a place and learn what the food landscape is like firsthand from local knowledge. Even in a city, it’s something I love to do to get a sense of the locale. Donegal Food Tours runs tours in the county and there are many to experience, including Taste Inishowen, Taste the North and Border Hop Food Tour. Plus, you can book private tours. You will visit four carefully selected foodie gems, meeting passionate and innovative producers, chefs and people behind the Donegal food scene, while, of course, tasting incredible food and local drinks along the way! Cost is €95 per person and booking is essential.