From dinning on fresh lobster by the Flaggy Shore to tucking into a Middle Eastern feast in a Waterford cove, Aoife Carrigy has paired the best gourmet takeaways with the perfect picnic spot
The chew: Choose from Castle Leslie’s Traditional Picnic, featuring all sorts of afternoon tea-style treats (including smoked salmon blinis with trout caviar, homemade lemonade with elderflower and raspberry, potted prawn cocktail with traditional wheaten loaf, glazed fruit tart with vanilla crème patisserie) or its Champagne Indulgence picnic.
The view: Many of the country’s luxury hotels offer pre-ordered picnics to residents. At Castle Leslie, it’s a chance to settle into one of several idyllic spots that have been specially chosen for the perfect picnic in their magnificent 1,000-acre Monaghan estate.
The chew: Between The Bridges deli sells ready-packed picnics, including its Irish Cheeseboard for One (with Corndale charcuterie), a Picnic Box for One with traybakes, sandwiches, scones and sausage rolls, and its Picnic Family Grazing Box, with fresh quiche, sarnies, pastries, Shindigs crisps and more.
The view: Bring a blanket to an outdoor play at Enniskillen Castle (Pride and Prejudice on June 21, Cinderella on July 1), or head to one of Fermanagh’s many beauty spots, such as Castle Archdale on Lough Erne or Lough Navar Forest Park in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
The chew: There are many reasons to visit Ballycastle’s Ursa Minor Bakehouse, a member of Real Bread Ireland and the Economusée network of craft food businesses with an educational element (check out its sourdough classes and Inquisitive Evenings supper series), but paramount is stocking up on brilliant breads and sweet and savoury pastries, such as the ‘pain au savoury’ croissant with Templegall cheese, Ispíní salami, and Greenhouse Brothers micro herbs.
The view: Ballycastle boasts one of Antrim’s best-loved beaches, with views to Rathlin Island, a promenade and marina nearby, and Causeway highlights like Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge a short spin away.
The chew: Dunfanaghy has plenty of smart food offers, but for picnic fare, bring your basket to Tara Alcorn and Anderson Rodrigues’s Casa Café Deli to fill up with freshly prepared treats, veggie rolls and gourmet sandwiches, plus homemade pastel de nata custard tarts that draw on Anderson’s Brazilian background.
The view: You’d be hard pressed to find another town with such diverse, world-class beaches on its doorstep. Personal favourites include Ards Friary for forest walks and hidden coves, or Trá Mór for an idyllic, hidden, dune-surrounded strand — though Marble Hill is pretty special, too!
The chew: Killybegs Seafood Shack is the must-stop food truck that this fishing port was overdue, and Mairéad Anderson was the woman to deliver it. Grab a seafood box selection of locally landed calamari, scampi, haddock, cod and chips doused in Killybegs Catch Chip Mate malt vinegar from the Shine family of Irish albacore tuna fame.
The view: Enjoy a harbourside picnic on the old pier, or bring an insulated bag and hightail it to Fintra Beach or further on to Largy Viewpoint for picnic tables with multi-county views, a coffee van, and a nearby secret waterfall walk at low tide.
The chew: Doolin Inn offers packed lunches for pre-order, or, even better, a very reasonably priced Hiker’s Picnic in a returnable rucksack packed with fleece blanket and flask plus cold cut meats, local cheeses, salads and pickle, and homemade treacle bread.
The view: Yes, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most heavily visited sites, and driving there requires navigating narrow roads busy with tour buses, but hiking from Doolin doesn’t, and you can have your pick of clifftop views at which you can set up a picnic.
The chew: Julia’s Lobster Truck gets around, but if you catch it at Bell Harbour, then you’re in business. Bring two insulated bags — one to keep the barbecued lobster with chilli and lime butter hot, the other for a bottle of crisp Vermentino grabbed from the fridge at New Quay’s Russell Gallery and produced at its own organic vineyards in Tuscany. (Check Instagram for the truck’s locations and order your lobster in advance to guarantee availability.)
The view: Seamus Heaney’s Postscript poem captures the magic of the Flaggy Shore beautifully, with limestone flags situated on the northern coastal fringes of the Burren, views out to the Aran Islands, and swans cruising the small lake behind you.
The chew: Peter and Mary Ward’s Country Choice in the traditional market town of Nenagh is a national treasure of an indie grocer-deli-café with a long-held commitment to Slow Food principles. Stock up on pâtés and pies, dips and chips, and lots more made in-house daily or impeccably sourced.
The view: A 20-minute drive west from Nenagh brings you to the magnificence of Lough Derg. Head to Castlelough public park for family-friendly picnic spots, where small feet can paddle, or seek out The Lookout for a hilltop picnic with panoramic views to get a sense of the scale of this spectacular midlands lake.
The chew: Catch Colm McCan’s pop-up wine shop every Saturday at The Grainstore on the grounds of Ballymaloe House in east Cork, then spin down to Ballymaloe Cookery School, where the farm shop sells its own breads, salads, pâtés and water kefir, as well as a great selection of Irish cheeses.
The view: Choose from one of three gorgeous sandy beaches on Ballycotton Bay, or take the high road with the cliff walk between Ballyandreen beach and Ballycotton village, flanked by meadows on one side and ocean views on the other, and find your own bespoke picnic spot.
The chew: The Fish Basket draws the crowds — first to Clonakilty for its original beachside food truck and now to its permanent restaurant at Owenahincha. Tuck into crispy hake tacos or a sharing box of battered and breaded hake, lemon sole, scampi and squid (with mushy peas, homemade tartar sauce and freshly cut chips) at its outdoor tables, or slip away to a sheltered spot in the nearby dunes.
The view: Fifteen minutes from Clonakilty, the Long Strand delivers on its promise, with two kilometres of sandy beach and golden dunes, with bonus views to the Galley Head Lighthouse to boot.
Dodge the crowds at Tramore’s hidden coves
The chew: Mezze on Main Street sells superb Middle Eastern-style picnic boxes (think baked vegetarian savouries, seaweed flatbreads and vibrant dips). Order in-store and give them 15 minutes to prep the fresh stuff, which gives you time to pop into Seagull Bakery for some of the best breads and pastries in Ireland.
The view: Besides its old-school arcades and fairground attractions, Tramore has another side to its beach life. Seek out Ladies’ Slip for great rock-pool action at low tide, or follow the locals to Newtown Cove for picnics and paddles, with nearby Guillamene Cove a mecca for confident swimmers.
The chew: Stop off in Tralee for The Cheese Shop, Maya Binder’s shop and café, to stock up on picnic treats made in-house or sourced from the likes of Oliver Beaujouan’s On The Wild Side range of handmade salamis and smoked fish. You’ll find the man himself at Castlegregory farmers’ market (Sunday mornings in summertime) and at Limerick’s all-weather Milk Market.
The view: Many visitors to Dingle Peninsula forget to look inland, and miss hidden treasures like Coillte’s Glanteenassig Forest Park, a remote but rewarding day-out destination complete with various trails through mountains, woodlands and peatlands, plus a lakeside boardwalk and picnic tables.
The chew: Oughterard has great food outlets, including the charming Powers Thatch Bar and Restaurant for sit-in dining and McGeough’s butchers for fresh and air-dried local meats, but for picnic pickings, don’t miss Sullivan’s Country Grocer for in-house salads, freshly baked breads and cinnamon swirls, and well-sourced goodies like Uncle Matt’s leaves and Toons Bridge cheese, hummus and olives.
The view: The N59 to Connemara passes the most picturesque riverside park known as Oughterard Shrubbery — the perfect place to pause for a picnic, kick off those driving shoes and slide into holiday mode.
The chew: Stupendous views of Killary Fjord and local food rendered creatively combine to make Connemara’s Misunderstood Heron one of the country’s best-loved and best-known food trucks. It gets busy, but arrive mid-morning to beat the crowds, enjoy the views over coffee and carrot cake, and get your lunch to go. Think Connemara lamb samosas, smoked haddock and parsley pasties, or veggie-tastic flatbreads.
The view: Park up for the day at nearby Glassilaun Beach, a dreamy little spot/cove with white sand, safe swimming and great snorkelling.
The chew: Organising your dream picnic basket can be as easy as a click on Pudding Row the Grocer’s online store, where you can rent a basket for an afternoon of bliss and have Dervla James fill it with freshly baked goodies (including her exceptional homemade bagels) and brilliantly curated treats of her choice or yours, ready for collection in Easkey at noon the next day in a picture-perfect (returnable) basket.
The view: Head to Poll Gorm, just outside the pretty seaside village, for low tide to swim in the natural saltwater pool and picnic on the sun-warmed rocks.
The chew: What started out as Benny’s Bakehouse in 1981 — selling just apple tarts and brown soda bread for the good people of this Roscommon market town — has morphed into Benny’s Deli, a family-run bakery, restaurant and delicatessen. Stock up on mustard-glazed spiral-sliced ham cooked on the bone, rotisserie cooked chickens, potato cakes and pies, quiches and salads.
The view: For young families who need a little fairy dust to keep their day out running smoothly, Castlerea Demesne offers all sorts of magic, including an acoustic playground, fairy garden, and plenty of riverside spots for a blanket (see magnumlady.com for more info).
The chew: Pick up a hamper from Wild Rose Bakery in Manorhamilton to feast in traditional fashion, with baked ham and cheddar on fresh soda farls, perhaps, scones with homemade jam, and lemon drizzle cake with a selection of seasonal fruit.
The view: Discover one of Leitrim’s best-kept secrets: a dedicated picnic area overlooking the Glenaniff River as it tumbles down a series of cascades known as Fowley’s Falls through a steep blue limestone valley toward Lough Melvin, with riverside walks through an unspoilt oasis of hedgerows and wildflowers. A charming alternative to the single-drop drama of nearby Glencar Waterfalls.
The chew: Grab a pulled-pork brioche, barista coffee and sweet baked treat from the friendly crew at the Delphi Silver Food Truck (from the team at the long beloved Delphi Lodge) and cool your tootsies in Doo Lough as you paddle while you picnic.
The view: Tucked between Louisburgh and Leenane, Delphi Valley is one of Mayo’s most spectacular stretches (and that’s saying something), and Doo Lough a bit of wilderness magic no matter what the sky is doing.
The chew: Eithna’s By The Sea is where Neven Maguire goes to eat lobster supplied by Mullaghmore Sea Farm — but if the sun is shining, it’s hard to beat a take-away box of freshly fried Mullaghmore pollock in a crisp coating of polenta, seaweed and rice flour served with organic salad leaves, homemade tartare sauce and chunky homemade chips.
The view: Mullaghmore’s old harbour in north Sligo offers plenty of pier leaping to get an appetite going. The water is as pristine as the setting is idyllic, so throw a blanket over the warm pier stones and settle in.
The chew: On Port Beach, just north of the fishing village of Clogherhead, local Ciara Mack serves up sourdough toasties, homemade baked treats (think gluten-free white chocolate raspberry macaroons, or a coconut and mango slice with mascarpone frosting) and Red Rooster coffee at Chinwagon, her upcycled pig trailer, where great chats and positive vibes are guaranteed.
The view: If a remote but well-serviced rural beach with vast expanses of unspoilt sandy strand fringed with local flora like the Marsh-orchid sounds inviting, then consider yourself a guest of honour at Port Beach.
The chew: Sheridan’s Cheesemongers need little introduction, but its Co Meath HQ at the Old Forge next to Virginia Road Station would be easy to miss if you didn’t think to seek it out. Hit it up on a Saturday morning and you can stock up outside at the weekly farmers’ market as well as at the cheese counter, deli shelves and café indoors.
The view: Head to Lough Crew with a picnic blanket and settle into a sheltered spot for the day, or hunt down the picnic benches at the pier on Lough Sheelin.
The chew: While the Cliff at Lyons’s Picnic and a Paddle package is an overnight offer (featuring a tandem paddleboard session and a gourmet picnic), this luxury Kildare destination also provides impromptu picnic fare to takeaway from The Pantry at Trellis, including house-made empanadas and sourdough sandwiches, jammy dodgers and rice crispy cakes.
The view: Once stocked up, stroll to the neighbouring Royal Canal to find a pretty picnic spot, or head to the 240-hectare grounds of Donadea Forest Park to explore its mixed woodlands, walled gardens and lime tree avenue, and ruins of the old castle, church, tower, ice-house and lakeside boat house.
The chew: A business park off the N11 is an unlikely gastro destination, but Kitchen 28 is a solid go-to for quality food. Pre-order a brunch box or afternoon tea to go, or choose your own all-day bites (think spinach strudels, or smoked ham, leek and Gruyère cheese jambons) and enjoy a pitstop coffee at its picnic tables.
The view: Pay to access Powerscourt Waterfall with its picnic tables plus drinks kiosk, or the Vale of Clara church near Rathdrum, Trooperstown Woods near Laragh and the National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh all offer free-access picnic settings with forest trails and garden tours.
The chew: Fethard-on-Sea’s neighbourhood café Grálinn is particularly beloved for its sensational doughnuts (think roast white chocolate custard with macerated strawberries), but with savoury specials like lemony Macroom buffalo ricotta on toasted sourdough with sweet fresh figs, grated pecorino and honey also available to go, that’s your picnic lunch sorted.
The view: Head two kilometres south to the clifftop Martello tower which overlooks both the secluded Baginbun beach and the long, sandy Carnivan Bay beach, a favourite for surfers but with rock pools to explore at low tide.
The chew: In the idyllic Barrow-side setting of St Mullin’s, a historic ecclesiastical village on the Kilkenny-Carlow border, a converted mill is home to The Mullichain Café, where light bites like cheeseboards or sweet prawns, homemade waffles or rhubarb tarts can be picked up. From July, there will be bike hire and full picnics available.
The view: Eat at Mullichain’s picnic tables or on a blanket outside, wander the winding river, or explore one of several trails highlighted on the café’s website — or head to the little island at the first locks for a peaceful picnic by the weir with a little pool for paddling.
The chew: Bring your own blanket and swing into Margadh first to pick up all sorts of deliciousness. We’re talking Waldorf salad, buttermilk chicken sandwiches with garlic aioli, and pistachio and raspberry baklava washed down with a bottle of well-crafted wine.
The view: Insider locals know the primo picnic spot in Howth is on the grassy hillside next to the Martello Tower (where you can also tour the fascinating Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio), with dreamy views of the piers and harbour below and out to Ireland’s Eye and the north county Dublin beaches beyond.
The chew: There are lots of great take-out choices close to south Co Dublin’s two best-loved swim spots.
Try Michie Sushi in Dún Laoghaire for bento-box heaven, or Thyme Out in Dalkey for everything from its Kids’ Afternoon Tea, to Luxury Picnic Boxes, to an elaborate feast of an Antipasti Box.
The view: Vico Bathing Place in Dalkey and the Forty Foot in Sandycove both have sweet spots nearby to laze away a few hours. The Vico boasts several picnic tables beside the World War II Éire sign (created to let wartime pilots know they were flying over neutral territory), while the Forty Foot is flanked either side by grassy, seafront stretches that are calling out for a blanket.
The chew: Pre-order a picnic box from Olive Deli Café — it offers them with or without Prosecco or rosé wine, cured meats and cheese, and there is a particularly colourful vegan picnic — or just pop in and stock up on brunch or lunch to go, complete with coffee and smoothies.
The view: If you want a day trip from the big smoke without having to travel too far, Skerries is your fast-track to that holiday feeling. Take your pick of picnic spots by the harbour or boardwalk on one of two great beaches, or at Red Island, the sea swimmers’ choice.
The chew: Zaytoon started life as Dublin’s favourite late-night kebab shop, but its focus on quality produce has seen it expand its locations and menu offering. Its Modern Persian Kitchen now serves vegetarian fare as delicious as it is wholesome and colourful, and a family-style sharing platter complete with fresh taftun bread, Persian salad and signature sauces. Pre-order for collection from Sandyford, just off the M50, pop it into an insulated cool bag, and head for the hills.
The view: Take the 15-minute drive to Carrickgollogan Wood, where a short walk brings you to the old lead mines chimney and panoromic views of Dublin Bay below.
The chew: The salad plate at Dawson Street’s Tang is both beautiful and brilliantly balanced, with a trio of imaginative daily specials that always feature one fresh salad (McNally’s organic leaves, perhaps, with radish, pickled grape and sumac dressing), one grain-based salad for sustenance, and a third of roast root veg, served with house hummus and optional tzatziki, pickles and salsa, Moroccan lamb or Lebanese bean — all available to go.
The view: Cross the tram line to St Stephen’s Green or skip on up to Harcourt Street to the Iveagh Gardens’ no-longer-secret (but no less lovely) haven.