The west of Ireland has a lot to offer – not only to tourists, but those that wish to escape the hustle and bustle of larger cities in Ireland. Sligo, in particular, is a county that has perhaps been underestimated as a destination, which is why couple Hans and Gaby Wieland have created the Sligo Food Tours venture.
Launched on Friday 12th April 2019, the initiative aims to put Sligo on the map of food tourism and bring repeat business to local establishments.
The couple believe that Sligo has a lot to offer with innovative and exciting small, independent and family run food businesses. “Having been food producers for over 25 years ourselves and having worked with restaurants and cafes and mentored many chefs in Sligo, we feel the strength of Sligo’s food scene is in being often a step ahead,” they said.
It is worth remembering that Sligo had one of the first health food stores in Ireland in Tir na Nog, back in 1980; and has promoted seaweed with numerous local producers long before it became the actual Seaweed Capital of Ireland. The couple organised the first Irish Fermentation Festival in 2015, and fermented foods and drinks are now on the menu of some Sligo cafés and restaurants. Sligo now even has an award winning plant based café in town.
Sligo also has the first Irish Oyster Experience, two microbreweries and a newly established coffee roastery. Co. Sligo has four established markets, and hosts the Strandhill Food Festival, giving it a modern and cutting edge take for international food lovers.
Plenty of research and planning went into setting the tours up in the six months prior to its launch, as tasting options, including vegetarian options, were discussed with chefs and producers alike. The couple also organised a trial tour in order to get feedback. The participating chefs and producers are “Super excited,” said the couple, and they have received support from Sligo Tourism and Failte Ireland.
Ireland West Airport in Knock is also offering a food tour in German to visitors on the new flight route from Cologne. “Hopefully the tour will attract national and international visitors and also local people,” said the couple. “It is a tour for people interested in the local and Irish food culture, but we hope it can also attract people with an open mind to food and drink.”
“In essence, we want to offer a leisurely culinary tour where the food does the talking and we as guides are the presenters and interpreters, who connect the audience to the creators of the dish,” said Hans.
The tour visits seven to eight food businesses. “These are places where we love to eat, with chefs we have known and worked with for many years, new and exciting places that offer genuine local dishes, that are seasonal, using local ingredients if possible,” said Gaby.
The tours feature seaweed and seafood, fermented foods and vegan treats as well as local beef and vegetables, local breweries and coffee roasters, real gelato and a surprise at the end.
The biggest challenge in terms of logistics for the couple to date has been the creation of a natural flow to the tour, as well as selecting the best stops to showcase the food in the area, which they believe after time will evolve.
There is a very personal nature to the tour as those featured on it are the choices of Hans and Gaby. Having been part of Sligo’s food revolution for more than 30 years since their arrival here in 1985, the couple down the years has been cheesemakers, bakers, food production instructors, and vegetable growers. They want to bring this experience and insight to the tours and give visitors a deeper understanding as to what has happened and continues to happen in the Sligo food scene.
“We hope people will have a good time in good company, but most of all we hope the food does all the talking and our guests will remember their favourite Sligo dishes and drinks long after they have departed,” Hans said. “We recommend taking the tour at the beginning of a visit to Sligo so visitors can go back to their favourite places for more.”
The business has a brand new website – www.sligofoodtours.ie – which features information on the tour and a blog, where they write about Sligo’s food scene. They are also members of Sligo Food Trail.
The tour can be pre-booked either through Sligo Food Tours or in Tourist Offices in Sligo and the north west region. Tours will run until October on Fridays from 2-5.30pm, beginning at the Sligo Tourist Office, with other dates and tours to be offered in the future.