Rathlin Island’s landscapes hide a long history filled with special places and stories handed down through the years. For visitors keen to find out more, an Irish Feast Food Tour translates heritage and place through taste for a truly unique visitor experience.
From now and throughout the summer there are a range of dates to choose from or for something extra special, set sail on the Around Rathlin Island Boat Food Tour which takes place on Sunday 26th May as part of Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival.
Led by island resident Ksenia Zywczuk, participants on the walk and talk tour can look forward to an insightful three-hour journey which will engage all the senses to bring the island’s past to life. Explaining more, Caroline Redmond from Irish Feast said: “Everything served on the tour is generally available day-to-day on the island and allows us to chart its history through the food that we eat. In the Manor House, our breakfast stop features local ingredients made in the Causeway Coast and Glens which helps to showcase our thriving artisan producers.
They have developed a unique recipe for us which gives us a great start for what lies ahead on our journey of discovery.”
The island’s Museum and old Kelp Store are among the tour’s notable locations, both of which bring Rathlin’s history into focus while a Viking grave marker is thought to be the only one of its kind outside Dublin. Over 1000 years ago, Rathlin was first site in Ireland to be attacked by these Norse invaders and this ancient standing stone is a lasting reminder of their impact on the local area.
“Ksenia will delve into these snippets of history and it really is fantastic to be able to look around and see these sort of monuments for yourself. You can’t help but be transported back to a bygone age in island history and imagine what life was like right where you are standing hundreds of years ago,” said Caroline.
As Church Bay stretches out before you, picnic time on the food tour promises to be a memorable experience made using ingredients like foraged flora and fresh crab or lobster in season . At McCuaig’s pub, vegetable soup and wheaten bread are on the menu – traditional comfort food and a meal which has sustained islanders for generations.
With a growing population and burgeoning visitor numbers, a visit to the Rathlin Co-operative, a small shop which aims to support local artisans gives a nod to the island’s promising future. This forward-thinking enterprise run by a small team of staff and volunteers symbolises the next chapter in the island’s history.
Depending on availability, shelves are filled with an array of products from fresh shellfish, wild herbs, dried seaweed and kelp pesto to a gourmet selection of wraps or sandwiches for tourists and islanders to eat on the go. For food tour participants, there’s a warming Causeway Coffee to enjoy before reaching The Watershed Cafe. This cottage building near the harbour hides a delicious array of homemade products including its popular range of crepes which are the final course of the tour.
Caroline said: “We end just in time for participants to catch the bus to the RSPB lighthouse which allows them to enjoy a whole day trip or ideally they can choose to stay overnight and really experience island life. We have taken a truly collaborative approach to the Food Tour which is beneficial to participants and those on the island as well.”
Caroline is hugely enthusiastic about the upcoming Boat Food Tour, which follows on from its inaugural introduction during Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival last year. Climb on board the Hirta motor cruiser and see the island from a whole new perspective. The tasting menu includes goat bacon, whiskey, seaweeds, crab and lobster with six different stops around the coastline to savour and enjoy.
“Food and history will be served up together with Ksenia providing some background to the different dishes on offer and their connection to island life through generations. The views of the island are simply spectacular and allow you to really appreciate the geography and nature of the area. The puffins will be almost within touching distance and hopefully we’ll get a glimpse of a dolphin or two as well. It’s the best picnic you will ever have,” Caroline said.