Home Culture Taking the Exceptional Doolin Food Tour with Ollie’s Tours

Taking the Exceptional Doolin Food Tour with Ollie’s Tours

by Roberto
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On the west coast of County Clare lies the attractive little village of Doolin. It is defined by its colourful thatched houses and those epic cliffs that start and extend south. Yes I’m talking about the world famous Cliffs of Moher. Well the village just got a little better. It is now the location of one of the best food tours in Ireland, in the Doolin Food Tour. The tours are run by local company, Ollie’s Tours and bring the best of local food and drink to the attention of the visitor.

The quaint Doolin village

Who is Ollie?

Ollie’s Tours are not surprisingly run by a local lad called Ollie. He hails from Ennis, the county town of Clare (which incidentaly he gives guided tours of also). He didn’t learn the art of guided touring in this somewhat remote county though; that he learned in Germany, after spending all his backpacking money on a week of partying at Octoberfest in Munich. Or rather he learned it subsequently, after becoming a tour guide of some of Bavaria’s best known tourist attractions such as Neuschwanstein Castle.

After some years of “learning from the best” as he puts it, Ollie returned home to his beloved Clare, to put his craft to work. He set up Ollie’s Tours, and since then the tour offerings have expanded from that original tour of Ennis. More on those other tours later.

*We were invited by Ollie’s Tours to take a complimentary tour of our choice. Ollie’s most popular tour is certainly the walking tour of the Cliffs of Moher, but we opted for the Doolin food tour, a lively village that we were keen to spend more time in and get to know. While this was a colloboration, all opinions expressed here are my own.*

Ollie from Ollie's Tours
This is Ollie

Small Group Doolin Food Tour – The best tour in County Clare

Food tours are built on the concept of showcasing good food from multiple outlets. However the Doolin Food Tour goes one step further, by introducing some of the good local characters into the mix. Carefully chosen not only for their quality local food offerings but also for their personality, Ollie is on to a winner here. So not only do we get the light-hearted and witty Ollie, we also have the pleasure of meeting some engaging business owners and managers en route. With Doolin being a coastal village, it will come as no surprise that the food tour pays homage to the fruits of the sea, and is heavily sea food based. Being Irish there’s a few tipples had too.

It's important to note that the food tour does take you away from Doolin for part of the tour, to the nearby town of Lisdoonvarna. There is a beer tasting at this stop, and you will need your own transport to get there. Alternatively you can get in touch with Ollie in advance, and he can help you with the hire of a mini bus. 

We meet Ollie at the Fiddle and Bow Hotel in Doolin. There’s plenty of parking here, and it’s cool to leave the car here for the afternoon if you are carpooling or have arranged transport. You’ll be back before the end of the tour.

Smoked Salmon at the Burren Smokehouse

Our first stop on the Doolin food tour is in fact Lisdoonvarna. Perhaps you are familiar with the place for the catchy song by Irish artist Christy Moore. It’s going through my head right now as I write this. Lisdoonvarna is also famous for its long running matchmaking festival, though we can’t guarantee that’s going to happen on this tour. What is definitely guaranteed is you’ll try some of the best smoked salmon going. Ireland is well known for having some of the finest organic smoked salmon found anywhere, and in the Burren Smokehouse, Ollie has found possibly Ireland’s best on his doorstep.

This wouldn’t be my first time visiting the Burren Smokehouse (or eating their salmon). The visit begins in the Salmon experience, a multimedia exhibition on how salmon is farmed in Ireland, and on the ancient tale of the salmon of knowledge. I’ll let Ireland’s Myths and Legends tell those interested that story.

We then meet Birgitta Curtin, who set up the smokehouse with her husband peter Curtin come 32 years ago. Taking her knowledge of smoking salmon in Sweden and combining it with the Irish craft, the Burren Smokehouse produces two different types, a cold smoked salmon, and a hot smoked salmon.

After a talk on how its done, we finally get to the eating part. Both types are sampled on Irish soda bread, and yes both are really delicious. Birgitta is particularly proud of what they have done here, and having fed the Queen of England, and a whole host of other royalty and celebrities over the years, rightly so. They ship both nationally and internationally too, so you can have a try before Ollie’s Tours take you here.

Smoked salmon tasting at the Burren Smokehouse

Burren Brewery

Our next stop is a whole 100 metres away, and it’s here we meet Peter Curtin. the husband of Brigitta. He’s a real larger-than-life character, full of stories. As a third generation owner of the The Roadside Tavern, its obviously in his blood. This kind of hospitality can’t be taught, it’s inherited. As well as challenging Ollie’s game plan to get you to the next tasting (via his tales), Peter introduces us to his brewery.

It’s the smallest microbrewery in Europe and it’s amazing that he’s able to produce 4 different beers, all from a room no bigger than a studio apartment. After a talk on the processes involved in brewing beer, we taste the fruits of the Burren Brewery.

The first three are the main staples of any beer tasting, a lager (Burren Gold), a red ale (Burren Red) and a stout (Burren Black). As a Guinness drinker I was particularly impressed by the Burren Black. Many have tried , and failed, to produce a stout that lives up the famous Irish product. Not here. Perhaps this is why Lonely Planet have taken notice, and deem the brewery one of three you simply must visit in Ireland.

But there’s a fourth beer in the tasting, known as Euphoria. It is a real curiosity, completely created from wild herbs and wild yeast from the Burren which surrounds the brewery. Even more unusual is it doesn’t contain hops, like essentially every other beer I can think of. Peter, a keen historian, has created a gruit beer, a type of beer which was common around the 14th century. The beer is completely unique in this world, so its something not to be missed. It tastes something like a spirit, but with the low alcohol content of a beer. It’s definitely different.

The Roadside Tavern and the Burren Brewery
The extremely entertaining Peter Curtin
The extremely entertaining Peter Curtin
Beer tasting at the Burren Brewery
From left to right the lager (Burren Gold), the red ale (Burren Red) and the stout (Burren Black)

Cheese Press

Ollie wrestles back control of the tour from Peter (a hard task, the man is captivating), and we are bundled back into the car with the promise of a cheese tasting. Arriving back in Doolin the Cheese Press beckons. It’s a community hub, artisan and local produce shop, cheesemonger, deli and café. Of all that, we are here to try their excellent Irish cheeses. There are four cheeses on the slab today, two from Cashel in Tipperary (Ireland’s cheese capital), one from Armagh, and one locally produced.

The Cheese press is owned and run by Sinéad Ní Gháirbhith, who also shares her knowledge of cheese on tours during the tasting. As a former cheesemaker at local company St Tola, she knows her stuff. The company ethos is to only serve quality Irish cheeses made from Irish milk. I can vouch for that. We might not get everything right here in Ireland, but our dairy is hard beaten.

First u on the tasting was the Cashel Shepherds’ Store Cheese, a sheep cheese. It reminded me of Pecorino Romano, hard and flavourful. Would be amazing in a carbonara. Next was Cashel Blue Cheese, one of Ireland’s most famed varieties. It’s soft, tangy, made from cows milk, and delicious.

Then The Triple Rose from Ballylisk of Armagh, a soft cream cheese said to be lemony. Personally it wouldn’t be what I’m looking for in a cheese. Finally we got to try one, that Sinead the owner knows well, from St Tola. Their ash crotin cheese is coated in food grade ash, and this slows down the cheeses development, and enrichens the flavour. After getting over the black ash exterior, it reminded me of feta without the salt notes.

Cheese Press in Doolin
Our tasting experience at the Cheese Press in Doolin

Russell’s fish shop

Our tour finally brings us back to our first stop, The Fiddle and Bow Hotel. It being a pleasant June day, it was perfect to head out into the Meadow. The Meadow is a coffee shop at the back of the hotel, with a seating area quaintly laid out on hay bales. It’s all under canopy cover too, a fine response to Ireland’s summer of outdoor dining. Here we meet Steph the manager, who has a strong appreciation for the coffee she sells.

The coffee is from Anam, a small roastery located in the nearby Burren. Today we tried an espresso from organic Guatemala Quetzalito beans, said to have notes of cherry and plum, with a buttery taste. I enjoy my coffee, but I don’t pick up notes like I do in wine. Buttery- perhaps. It did make for a good espresso.

This being Ireland, near the sea, and the final course on our food tour, we were always going to finish with fish and chips. Happily so might I add. We walked a grand total of ten metres to Russell’s Fish Shop, also located within the hotel. One stop shop for sure. It’s a relatively new addition to the village of Doolin, and takes its name from the Russell Brothers, famous musicians from Doolin. Perhaps one day their fish will be as famous as the musicians, and they are on the right track to get there. Their offering is faultless from their chunky chips to battered cod. Definitely no better way to round off one of the best food tours around.

The Meadow at the Fiddle and Bow Hotel
The Meadow at the Fiddle and Bow
Gish and Chips at Russell's Fish Shop Doolin
Fish and chips- no better way to finish

JJ Corry Whiskey

Since my tour, I have learned from Ollie, that in his continued efforts to better the food tour, a visit to J.J. Corry whiskey bonders has been added to the itinerary. It’s great news for both whiskey lovers and designated drivers who missed out on the beer tasting fun at the Burren Brewery. The bonders have a stall in… yes you guessed it, The Fiddle and Bow Hotel.

Whiskey bonding in Ireland is an old craft, that sadly died out after the crash in the Irish whiskey market due to prohibition in America. Prior to that Irish Whiskey was more popular than Scotch, but I guess the bootleggers favoured their peat and single malt. Whiskey bonding is the practice of sourcing new and mature Irish whiskey, and blending it to create a new product. Back in the day this was done by publicans who bought the whiskey from the several hundred distillers on the island.

JJ Corry offer their own bonded whiskey now to the lucky people on Ollie’s Tours. It’s a great opportuinity for water of life lovers to try something new and exclusive, not seen on shelves or behind bars. Another feather in the hat of Ollie’s tour.

The Doolin Food Tour – Ireland’s best food tour

The food tour is a great way to sample some of Doolin’s and Lisdoonvarna’s best establishments. It is available from below for €60 per person, with a discounted rate of €55 for students. The tour takes about 3 hours to complete, and start daily at 2pm. Should you be vegetarian there are options available, and you can enquire about this at the time of booking.

Other tours from Ollie’s Tours

The Doolin Food Tour is only one of a host of tours available from Ollie’s Tours. The most popular is the Cliffs of Moher walking tour from Doolin, that follows an 8km route along one of the most spectacular cliff paths in the world. Also on offer is a walking tour of Ennis, and an Ennis food tour. Finally Ollie gives tours of Bunratty Castle. He’s a busy man. Some of these tours are restricted by 2021’s shenanigans so its best to check the website for what’s available at the time you travel.

Cliffs of Moher Tour with Ollie's Tours
The stunning Cliffs of Moher, one of Ollie’s other tours.

While our tour with Ollie was sponsored we thoroughly enjoyed every second. It is equal parts educational, fun, and great food. An unmissable experience on the Wild Atlantic Way and in Clare.

Where to next?

To the north of Clare is Galway, a cultural and fun city. West of that is Connemara, the best of which you will find on a road trip. South is Kerry and Killarney and the Ring of Kerry, and Dingle.

FYI: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may subsequently receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any money, it will help keep this site going and me travelling. Thank you for your support. 

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