Pól Ó Conghaile: Scotland ditches deep-fried Mars Bars for a Year of Food and Drink
A taste of Scotland
I'm writing this week from Glasgow.
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When I told people I was visiting the city, there were puzzled looks. When I said I was looking forward to the food, let's just say the reaction was underwhelming. Deep-fried Mars Bars were mentioned.
The truth is Glasgow's restaurateurs and chefs have improved just as much as Dublin's over the past decade. I ate myself silly (all in the name of research, of course), from 35-day-old rib-eye in Alston Bar & Beef (alstonglasgow.co.uk), to velvety smooth gravadlax at Ox & Finch (oxandfinch.com), and a stonking great spiced egg bap at Babu Bombay Street Kitchen (babu-kitchen.com).
It's not just Glasgow that's on the boil. This is the Year of Food & Drink in Scotland, with Visit Scotland (visitscotland.com) throwing a spotlight on its "natural larder", hoping to dispel our stereotypes and cook up a profitable food tourism sector in the process.
Options? The Irish rugby team concludes this year's Six Nations in Edinburgh (March 21), so that could be a tasty excuse for a flying foodie visit.
From there, Scotland is your oyster. You could do dinner on the Royal Yacht Britannia or grab fish 'n' chips in Fife at the awesome Anstruther Fish Bar (anstruther.co.uk). You could sup craft beers in the Scottish Borders, get to grips with the country's gin scene, and discover - as I did - that there's great coffee in Glasgow too.
Who needs deep-fried Mars Bars?
Glasgow: A Year of Food & Drink
It's relatively easy and cheap to get from Ireland to Scotland. Both Ryanair (ryanair.com) and Aer Lingus Regional (aerlingus.com) fly direct from Dublin to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Aer Lingus Regional flights also include both cities from Cork, as well as Donegal to Glasgow, with prices starting from €24.99 each way. Flybe (flybe.com) operates direct routes from Dublin to Inverness - going to press, I could see flights from €30 each way. For places to stay, check visitscotland.com/accommodation - it's a good starting point for trip research.
Park Hotel, Kenmare
Meanwhile, back in Ireland, Francis and John Brennan have been at your service at Kenmare's Park Hotel for years. This year is the first time the pair has ended the hotel's annual hibernation in March, however.
They're hitting the ground running too, with a new General Manager in Patrick Hanley (a native of Kenmare) and a special offer bundling two nights' B&B, one dinner and activities ranging from walks to yoga from €240pp. There's a special €180 room rate for B&B in March and April too, available all days except Easter. See parkkenmare.com.
To book the best value holiday package anywhere, see travel.independent.ie