Members of the Burren Food Trail. Photograph by Yvonne Vaughan
Members of the Burren Food Trail.
Photograph by Yvonne Vaughan

Fáilte Ireland has announced The Burren Food Trail as the Irish winner of this year’s European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) award.

The prestigious EU-wide competition is designed to encourage and promote a more sustainable form of tourism development and The Burren Food Trail was one of four destinations shortlisted earlier this month. The Trail now joins other Irish destinations such as Loop Head, Mulranny and Cavan Town in demonstrating best practice in various aspects of sustainable destination development.

Launched by the Burren Ecotourism Network and the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark and as the Mid West’s first food trail in 2013, the Burren Food Trail is supported by an innovative schedule of food events taking place every Monday from May to October.

The events showcase the region’s cuisine and provide a unique food experience in the amazing landscape that is the Burren. Members of the Food Trail place an emphasis on the use of local ingredients and are committed to building a sustainable future for the region through food.

The theme of the 2015 EDEN competition was ‘Tourism and Local Gastronomy’ and the winning destination was chosen following on-site assessments by a panel of expert adjudicators. Following this year’s theme the panel of adjudicators were looking for a destination that could provide examples of good practice, opportunities to improve the visitor food experience, a platform for the development and promotion of food tourism, an understanding of the challenges faced in the development of food tourism and a forum for networks to share knowledge.

The Burren Food Trail project will now receive free marketing supports from Fáilte Ireland including a professional photo shoot for the destination to be used for promotional purposes, and a grant of €5,000 for business development support initiatives.

A formal EDEN award ceremony will take place in the Burren in July and the Burren Food Trail will also represent Ireland at a ceremony/exhibition in Brussels later this year.

Tina O’Dwyer, Burren Food Trail Co-ordinator outlined that a feature of the Burren Food Trail is the “genuine links” that the judges experienced between farmers, producers, retailers and restaurateurs.

“What really distinguishes this destination however, is the relationship between the Burren Food Trail and the wider tourism offering in the Geopark region. Through the Burren Ecotourism Network, food is integrated with outdoor activity and adventure, visitor centres and accommodation. It’s a truly integrated local gastronomy experience,” she added.

“We are delighted and honoured to be presented with this award. Businesses in the Burren have invested significantly in elevating their standards of sustainable tourism practice. We are particularly gratified that the Code of Practice adopted by the Burren Food Trail members was a key factor in creating an award-winning local tourism gastronomy initiative,” she commented.

Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith-St. Tola's Goats Cheese, Eva Hegarty, Burren Free Range Pork and Brid Fahy-Linalla Ice Cream. Photograph by Yvonne Vaughan
Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith-St. Tola’s Goats Cheese, Eva Hegarty, Burren Free Range Pork and Brid Fahy-Linalla Ice Cream.
Photograph by Yvonne Vaughan

Welcoming today’s accolade, John Mulcahy, Head of Food, Hospitality and Standards with Fáilte Ireland said: “The standard of finalists this year was exceptionally high. During their onsite assessment The Burren Food Trail clearly demonstrated that their local gastronomy has taken a central role in their tourism offering while concurrently sustaining their local environment.

“This year’s competition focused on small, emerging, non-traditional destinations located off the beaten track that offered an authentic food experience. Only in its third year the Burren Food Trail is still relatively new and we were impressed with the importance they placed on making The Burren region synonymous with great food and great food experiences for visitors and the local community.

“The connection between growers, producers, retailers and chefs working together to promote their destination as a whole was very much evident, the importance of the environs and their environmental management policy and the code of practice for their destination was also very much a high point,” he added.

Speaking about competition, EDEN adjudicator Úna Fitzgibbon, Bord Bia said: “These groups really appreciate the powerful association between taste and place, that sees visitors drawn back to their regions not just by memories of people and landscapes but also by the food and drink that added to the pleasure of their stay.”

The three runner-up destinations are Cong Food Village, Mayo, West Waterford and The Wild Atlantic Way So Sligo Food Trail.