Ireland's best seaside eateries: Katy McGuinness on her favourite spots
There's nothing like a day at the beach for whipping up an appetite - and where better to sate it than close to the water's edge. Katy McGuinness chooses her favourite spots around the country that serve up top-class seafood (just watch out for swooping seagulls)
In no particular order, 30 of the best places in Ireland to eat fish and seafood within sight of the sea this summer; there are many more. I recommend sticking to the simple things and you won't go wrong.
1 Morton's Fish & Chips,
Ballycastle, Co Antrim.
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FB: Morton's Fish & Chips
If you're planning a Game of Thrones pilgrimage to the Causeway Coast this summer, then Morton's in Ballycastle is worthy of a detour for impeccable fish and hand-cut chips, made with Maris Piper potatoes grown down the road in Limavady. Gluten-free batter is an option too. Regulars recommend the crab cakes - and warn that customers need to remain vigilant in the presence of the local seagull population, that likes to swoop in and snaffle whatever it can. Sit at a stone picnic table and soak up the views of Fairhead, Rathlin Island and even - on a clear day - Scotland.
2 Harry's Shack,
Portstewart, Co Derry.
FB: Harry's Shack
This shack in the dunes on the beach at Portstewart is hardly a secret anymore, having enjoyed incredible success since it opened back in 2014. Harry's serves epically good fish and chips - of course - but its seafood offering goes way beyond, with a level of cooking that belies the simple premises. Harry's has become a sought-after wedding venue, even though it still doesn't have a website, but you can book tables on ResDiary.
3 The Galley,
Annalong, Kilkeel, Co Down.
The Galley started as a fish and chip shop in the little fishing village of Annalong, close to the Mourne Mountains, back in the '90s; the restaurant is more recent. The family-friendly offering focuses on sustainable fish and seafood, most of which is locally caught, with the chips cut fresh each morning. Also worth checking out in Annalong is The Harbour Bar, another popular spot for top-class fish and seafood.
4 Helen's Bar,
Killmacillogue, Co Kerry.
FB: Teddy O'Sullivan's Bar, Killmacillogue
The name over the door may be Teddy O'Sullivan's, but everyone knows this little pub by the water at Tuosist near Lauragh on the Beara Peninsula as Helen's Bar. I've been eating the crab sandwiches and mussels here since I was a child and a trip to Kerry just isn't complete without a visit. It's the perfect lunch stop if you're on the road from Castletownbere to Kenmare.
5 Eithna's by the Sea,
Mullaghmore, Co Sligo.
If you're on the hunt for casual fish and seafood dining in Mullaghmore, then Eithna's is the place to head for. Established in the early 2000s, on the shores of Donegal Bay, Eithna's serves Lissadell oysters and farmed lobsters from the Mullaghmore lobster pond, as well as plenty of options for non-fish-eaters. All the fish served is sustainably sourced.
6 East Pier,
Dunmore East, Co Waterford.
FB: East Pier - Dunmore East
If local oysters from Woodstown Bay washed down with a glass or two of prosecco is a combination that appeals, head for new food truck East Pier in Dunmore East, right by the water. Also on the menu are fish and chips and 99s, so dessert is sorted too. On a sunny summer evening, the craic is mighty. The Strand is another establishment serving fine seafood in Dunmore East.
7 The Fish Basket,
Long Strand, Castlefreke, Co Cork.
FB: The Fish Basket Longstrand
Great fish and chips on the strand between Rosscarbery and Clonakilty - either eat inside the black shack on the beach or bring a rug and sit on the sand. The sharing box of hake, lemon sole, squid, scampi and hand-cut chips comes with mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce. Be still my beating heart.
8 Fisk, Harbour Bar,
Downings, Co Donegal.
Local ingredients and well-priced wines have made Tony and Lina's Fisk, located next to the Harbour Bar, an overnight success in Downings. Visitors can enjoy views out over the beach and Rosapenna while eating squid with lemon aioli, McBride's crab claws with dulse butter, Mulroy Bay mussels and fish tacos - just some of the choices on offer, alongside seafood pâtés on Scarpello sourdough. No bookings. Nearby, the Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort serves black sole that's the best in the country, according to celebrity chef Gary O'Hanlon, who recommends asking for a table by the window.
9 Stoop Your Head,
Skerries, Co Dublin.
Located right on the harbour in the North Dublin fishing village of Skerries, Stoops - as the locals call it - doesn't take bookings but you can have a drink in the pub next door while you wait for a table. Favourite dishes include Rockabill crab open sandwiches and Dublin Bay prawns in garlic butter; Stoops' chowder is so popular that it's now available to take away.
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Fashion guru Sonya Lennon is a huge fan of Fishbone in Clontarf, citing the Korean prawn and kimchi tacos with little gem, and Cajun blackened cod and chips as just two of the dishes that bring her back time and time again. There are views out over Dublin Bay from the tables outside and in the front of the restaurant.
New Quay, Co Clare.
It just wouldn't be summer for some without a dozen Flaggy Shore oysters and a creamy pint outside Linnane's, near the Burren, which has its origins over 300 years ago in a small cottage with a pub attached. If traditional music appeals, you'll find that here too.
12 O'Grady's on the Pier,
Barna, Co Galway.
O'Grady's is a Galway institution, perched on the pier at Barna on the shores of Galway Bay. A favourite with the likes of Michelin-starred chef JP McMahon of Aniar, you'll find all the usual options - oysters, crab, lobster, mussels - as well as the signature cod and crab burger and daily fish specials that change according to what's freshest.
13 Moran's of the Weir,
The Weir, Kilcolgan, Co Galway.
A table outside Moran's on a sunny day is one of life's great pleasures - particularly if you can persuade someone else to be the designated driver - although there are some who prefer to be tucked away with a gang in the snug to the right of the front door with the rain lashing down outside, eating oysters to beat the band. Sometimes a combination of weather and tide forces the water to come up over the road, making it impossible to leave for hours. Which sounds like absolute hell.
14 O'Neill's The Point,
Renard Point, Cahersiveen, Co Kerry.
Sunset pints and seafood at O'Neill's overlooking Valentia Harbour while waiting for the ferry is a summer ritual that draws back regulars year after year. O'Neill's is a family-run bar since the 1800s, evolving from a small hotel and pub catering to sailors and fishermen on the pier at Renard Point to the seafood bar it is today. The fish and seafood are all locally sourced.
The Pier, Schull, Co Cork.
FB: L'Escale Fish'n'Chips
Great fish and chips, lobster and reasonably priced wine make this seasonal French-run restaurant on the pier a hit with locals such as food writer Trish Deseine, as well as visitors passing through. The crêpes are good too. In the village itself, Hackett's serves a mean crab sandwich.
16 The Saltee Chipper,
Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford.
FB: The Little Saltee Restaurant and Takeaway
Eating fish and chips at one of the blue tables outside the Saltee Chipper is one of those classic Irish summer experiences. That the fish is landed just yards away doesn't hurt, of course. Inside, there's a more elaborate menu but there are those who would argue that the simplest options are the best. See also And Chips, Eunice Power's new Dungarvan chipper.
17 Julia's Lobster Truck,
The Burren, Co Clare. FB: Julia's Lobster Truck
Julia Hemingway's food truck moves around, but if you're in the vicinity of The Burren you can keep an eye on her location on Instagram and Facebook. You'll sometimes find her in Kinvara, near Dunguaire Castle. Lobster rolls, mussels, Flaggy Shore oysters and excellent hand-cut chips are just some of the delights on offer, proving once again that you don't need fine dining and white tablecloths to have a memorable seafood experience. Worth a trip also is The Misunderstood Heron, another superior food truck, at Leenane, Co Galway. (See Page 17.)
18 The Bulman,
Kinsale, Co Cork.
Located in Summercove on the outskirts of Kinsale next to Charles Fort, The Bulman Bar and cosy Toddies Restaurant are located just 10 metres from the water looking out over Kinsale Harbour. Expect oysters, locally landed fish and plenty of fun. The Bloody Mary rock oyster shots have been known to cure many a holiday hangover and fortify golfers for a round at the Old Head.
19 Deasy's Harbour Bar and Seafood Restaurant,
Clonakilty, Co Cork.
FB: Deasy's Restaurant
American-born chef Caitlin Ruth's fish cookery is more sophisticated than these simple premises might suggest, and while you'll find all the usual seafood bar food - and very good it is, too - this is definitely a restaurant in which you'll also be rewarded for more adventurous choices. Open fires and candle light make this a cosy choice when the weather lets you down. Some holidaymakers have been known to pray for rain.
Roundstone, Co Galway.
Grown men and women are positively misty-eyed when they speak about the summer nights at O'Dowd's that they have enjoyed over the years. Something about the Connemara light means that darkness seems to encroach later here than it does in other places; with the smell of the sea in the air, fresh seafood on your plate and a pint in hand, there are few finer places on the island conducive to romance and good times. Galway Bay oysters, Roundstone crab and prawns from the Aran Islands all feature on the bar and restaurant menus. Booking advisable in summer.
21 Dursey Deli,
Garnish, Co Cork. FB: Murphy's Mobile Catering and Dursey Deli
You'll find the Murphy family's Dursey Deli at Garnish, where the cable car departs for Dursey Island. The combination of fresh fish caught by Mrs Murphy's husband and son, landed at the adjacent pier, cooked simply in excellent batter, and great hand-cut chips, makes this one of the best lunches you'll get for a tenner anywhere in the country. Sit on the ledge and enjoy the view for free.
22 Killybegs Seafood Shack,
Killybegs, Co Donegal.
Mairead Anderson's Killybegs Seafood Shack serves great fish and chips, scampi and calamari. Her chowder was just named the best in Ireland, and her fish cakes and handmade 'goo-johns' are a treat. Tourists from Germany have been beating a path to Killybegs just to try this food ever since it was mentioned in a German newspaper a few months ago. Not to be missed.
23 Cronin's Sheebeen,
Westport, Co Mayo.
croninssheebeen.com At Cronin's Sheebeen overlooking Clew Bay, chef Anthony Printer uses the freshest of fresh fish landed at Rossaveal and Killary Fjord to excellent effect - local ingredients, treated with respect. There's plenty for non-fish lovers, and for children, but the fish is what makes the Sheebeen special.
Fahamore, Castlegregory, Co Kerry.
Chef Gareth 'Gaz' Smith, a man who knows a thing or two about seafood (and whose own restaurants, Michael's and Little Mike's in Mount Merrion, are only not on this list because they are not by the sea), describes Spillane's as his "secret spot". "I once jumped in the car for a few hours of peace, some crab claws and smoked salmon, then on to The Chart House, Dingle, for more ace seafood," he says. "There's more great seafood in Foyle's Hotel - you can throw a ball from the garden to the water." At the family-run Spillane's, grab an outdoor table looking out over Brandon Bay.
25 The Beach,
Day's Bar, Inishbofin.
Aran Islands lobster, crab, mackerel and pollack are the core ingredients on the menu at The Beach, supplemented by sustainable fish from Connemara. Take the ferry from Cleggan and bag one of the four ensuite rooms for the full island experience.
26 Jacks' Coastguard Restaurant,
Cromane, Killorglin, Co Kerry.
As popular with visitors as it is with locals - don't go there expecting a quiet, tucked-away little spot, as this is a restaurant that's very much on the tourist radar. Great fish and seafood nonetheless, with panoramic Atlantic views to whet the appetite.
27 La CÔte,
Custom Quay, Wexford.
Paul and Edwina Hynes' contemporary seafood restaurant on Wexford's Custom Quay uses the best, freshest fish landed at Kilmore Quay for an upmarket dining experience right on the water in Wexford Town.
28 Pier 26,
Ballycotton, Co Cork.
Situated on the working pier at Ballycotton, Pier 26 is a pub, restaurant and B&B, with a reputation for fabulous seafood. Chef Colin Hennessy really delivers the goods when it comes to making the most of the fresh fish landed on his doorstep - the menu changes seasonally. (Yes, fish have seasons too.)
29 Oliver's on cleggan pier,
Cleggan Pier, Cleggan, Co Galway.
The Higgins family's traditional pub on Cleggan Pier serves "the BEST crab claws, and the views are incredible", according to one fan. The chowder is also recommended. A good venue for traditional music too.
30 Fisherman's Catch,
Clogherhead Pier, Co Louth.
It makes sense that, if you have a fresh fish shop, sooner or later you will come to the conclusion that you should start cooking the produce to add value. The Kirwan family has been fishing off Clogherhead for four generations. Their current boat is the MFV Argonaut IV, which uses the seine netting method, the oldest and most environmentally friendly way of catching fish. Now they have a fish and chip van frying up fish straight from their own boat. There are oysters and chowder too, with benches for when it's sunny and a bright blue marquee for when it isn't. You can buy fresh fish to take home too.