Galway is Ireland’s alternative city – more boho and leftfield than Dublin and Cork, a place that draws buskers and artists, dreamers and schemers like a magnetic force.
It’s the home of Macnas, the country’s most spectacular street-theatre company, and an arts festival that has featured Marina Abramovic´ and Philip Glass. Lately, it has also become a fizzing foodie hub, with a community as tight-knit as a village, so that finding one person who’s doing something interesting will lead you, as if following a trail of breadcrumbs, to someone else equally fascinating.
The most high-profile is chef JP McMahon, who earned the city’s first Michelin star and is behind the Food on the Edge gathering, which brings big names such as Albert Adrià and Skye Gyngell to Galway every year. He sees no reason why this town can’t emulate the restaurant revolution ignited in Copenhagen some 15 years ago. This fervour for catching, growing and cooking the West of Ireland’s outstanding produce has spilled out into the hinterland.
Less than an hour’s drive south of Galway is the Burren in County Clare, a crazy-paving, karst-limestone landscape that changes colour from shell pink to silvery grey, depending on the clouds that roll overhead. Foragers, cheesemakers, brewers and fish-smokers form a network that makes a big deal about small batch. Combining city and country, this is one of the most exciting places in Ireland for the food-obsessed right now.