Head to Galway for Ireland’s original oyster festival

courtesty Clarenbridge Oyster Festival

This September sees oyster season kick off with Ireland’s oldest food festival in County Galway, says Shelley Marsden

Jonathan Swift once said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”, but many were to follow in that brave man’s footsteps – and now foodie holidaymakers can get a taste for the molluscs at the first oyster festival of its kind on a break to Ireland this September.

The Clarenbridge Oyster Festival was the first in Ireland and celebrates its 60th anniversary from September 12-14, with three days of oyster celebrations, live music and dancing. Set on the picturesque Claren River at the mouth of Dunbulcan Bay, the combination of fresh and tidal waters creates perfect conditions for delicious shellfish in 700 acres of oyster beds.

Bigger and better known is the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival (September 25-28), also claiming to be 60 years old, though it is in fact a spin-off from the original Clarenbridge event.

The centre of celebrations is the marquee next to Paddy Burke’s Oyster Inn, where a ‘Diamond and Pearls 60th Oyster Gala’ on  September  13 takes the form of a rolling feast during the afternoon and evening: the €80 ticket includes a menu, with wine, of six natural oysters, a dish of seafood chowder and a seafood salad. Other events, including an open-air craft and food market, are free.

The World Oyster Opening Championship takes place on Saturday 27, and a €70 ticket offers visitors a great view of this, along with demonstrations from guest chefs and live music.

With headline acts such as The Stunning, Amazing Apples and the Galway Bay Jazz Band, Galway city will be in full-on party mode, with a range of seafood-themed events including plenty of opportunity to sample the famous Clarenbridge Oyster across the weekend. Bon appétit.

Clarenbridge is little over two hours’ drive from Irish Ferries’ Dublin terminal. Return ferry fares for a car and two adults start at £193. Irish Ferries can also arrange accommodation at local B&Bs and hotels. Call Irish Ferries on 08717 300 400, visit www.irishferries.com and www.clarenbridge.com.




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