Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland Takes to the Lakes

Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh

July is here and it’s holiday time for most. Which is why Northern Ireland is celebrating it’s sea, rivers and looghs as part of the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland initiative.  Here we run through some of the waterways of this diverse region, and what you can expect to find in and around them. 

Lough Neagh 

The largest freshwater lake in the British Isles. Owned by the Earl of Shaftesbury, Lough Neagh is home to the largest wild eel fishery in Europe, and famous for it’s freshwater eels, which are a sought after delicacy at home and abroad.  Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Co-op uses is made up of a group of fishermen who fish these eels in a sustainable way. Lough Neagh eels  have Protected Geographical Indication status (PGI), which means they are a speciality food peculiar to this specific region, just like Champagne in France or Parma Ham in Italy.   

Lough Neagh, Co. Armagh

These eels are renowed for their creamy delicate flesh, and can be found fresh or smoked on menus in Northern Ireland and in mainland Europe, where they are much in demand. 

Members to visit close to Lough Neagh include:

Newforge House, Co. Armagh. Owned by the Mathers family for several generations. Lough Neagh eels often appear on the menu here, where John Mathers sources the very best of local produce.  

Robert Ditty’s Bakery and Cafe at Castledawson and Magherafelt, serves the famous oatcakes of this region, and other home baked specialities.

Newforge House, Co. Armagh

Strangford Loch 

Strangford Lough is a large sea water lough in County Down. This lough is actually an inlet from the Irish Sea, almost completely enclosed by the Ards Penisula, but with a long narrow strait which opens out to the ocean near  the towns of Portaferry and Strangford. Strangford Lough  became Northern Ireland’s first designated Marine Conservation Zone in 2013. 

Strangford Lough, Co. Down

This lough is famed for native oysters, Ostrea edulis, recognised by the rounded flat shell. Wild oysters are only eaten in season, when there is an ‘r’ in the month, as a rule of thumb. If you are visiting this area from September to March, you may be lucky enough to get a plate of Strangford Lough native oysters as a very special treat! 

Members to visit near Strangford Lough include:

Balloo House and Restaurant, Co. Down. Head Chef Danny Millar is multi award winining and a meal here is an absolute treat of local specialities.

Slieve Donard Resort and Spa,  Newcastle, Co. Down. Kick off the shoes and relax in comfort at the hotel, before enjoying dinner in the formal dining room. The menu may feature Strangford Lough oysters in season, plus other local seafood specials. 

A small lake created by an inlet from the Irish Sea, Carlingford Lough is a tranquil stretch of water. This lough is fed by tidal seawater,  and freshwater from mountain streams which lie to the north and south of the lough. This unique environment provides the perfect conditions for farming oysters since 1974. Oysters were present in these waters long before that, but non invasive and sustainable farming methods have ensured a constant supply of top quality Carlingford oysters, which are famed all over the world. 

Eating Oysters

Carlingford Oysters can be enjoyed in many ways, but not much beats a platter of freshly opened oysters on the half shell, with lemon or some Tabasco sauce to serve. Absolutley yummy and you’ll be bound to find them on menus when you are in this area. 

 

There is also some good sea trout fishing in Carlingford Lough. The rivers and streams which enter this lough have good runs of sea trout during the summer. Those who love to fish this magnificent trout, which can grow to similar sizes as salmon, know that the best time to do it is at night, when the fish feed. 

Carlingford Lough, Louth

Members to visit near Carlingford Lough include:

Ghan House, Carlingford, which is on the County Louth side of the banks of Carlingford Lough. You can be sure the famous oysters will be on the menu, along with other local fresh seafood and a selection of the best meats and seasonal vegetables of the region. 

Lough Foyle borders the coastlines of County Derry and County Donegal. This lough is  the estuary to the mighty River Foyle, one of Ireland’s most famous salmon fisheries.  The Lough is tidal, influenced by the pure fresh waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This brings runs of salmon returning to their breeding grounds in the River Foyle and it’s tributaries, at certain times of year.  Those who like to chance their arm with the king of fish come to Lough Foyle and the River Foyle in their droves, to try to bag a prize catch. 

Sea angling is also popular around the Lough, as are other water based activities.

Lough Foyle, Co. Derry

Members to visit near Lough Foyle

Beech Hill Country House, Derry. A glorious country house located just outside the city. Luxuriuous rooms and a fine dining menu which features the produce of the area and  wild Foyle caught salmon season.

Everglades Hotel, Derry. Just a mile or so to the city from here, so it’s a great base to explore the city and the surrounding countryside. Part of the Hastings group of hotels in the north, which guarantees comfort and luxury at every aspect of your stay. 

 

Lough Erne is made up of two connected lakes in County Fermanagh. It’s the second largest lough system in the Northern Ireland. The historic old town of Enniskillen lies between Lower Lough Erne, the larger lake, and Upper Lough Erne. Lower Lough Erne runs almost to the Atlantic Ocean at Bundoran, Co. Donegal,  and can have ocean lilke conditions if it is windy or stormy. Upper Lough Erne has many little islands punctuating the water. 

Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh

This is an area for water activities, walking, cycling and fishing. Leisurely cruises on the lough are availabe from Enniskillen and can include stop offs on the islands. 

Members to visit in this region:

Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen. Five star luxury and a world class golf course are part of the package at Lough Erne Resort. This hotel was home to heads of state at a G8 summit a couple of years ago and they loved it! Head Chef Noel McMeel heads up the kitchens of The Catalina Restaurant and includes local seafood and Lough Erne lamb on the menu, as well as Glenarm organic salmon farmed in the fast flowing tides of the North Channel of the Irish sea. 

Frou Frou, Enniskillen. Julie Snoddy’s charming tea room features her wonderful home baking and local specialities like Fermanagh Black Bacon.

 

The Causeway Coast merges the waters of the Irish Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, as the coastline traverses around County Antrim. Plenty of sea based activites in this area,  for those who love the water. Not to mention the superb designated Causeway Coastal Route drive and the World Heritage site of the Giant’s Causeway. 

Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

Members to visit in this region include:

Culloden Estate and Spa, Co. Down. An former Bishop’s residence turned luxury five star hotel. Culloden exudes grace and charm and it’s Mitre Restaurant is the platform for delicious local produce.

Ballygally Castle, Ballygalley, Co. Antrim. If you’re into things that go bump in the night, this place is for you.  Part of the hotel is an ancient castle tower, reputed to have a resident ghost! 

The Bushmills Inn, Bushmills, Co. Antrim. Once an old inn, now a country house hotel. A short drive from here to the Giant’s Causeway, and only a hop skip and a jump to the world famous Bushmills Distillery in the same village. 

 

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