September is oyster season here in Ireland, and you know we couldn’t let that go by without a festival… or three.
Yep, no less than three festivals will be celebrating the moreish molluscs next month, with tastings, music, parades and some competitions to break a world record or two. It’s the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea we have to thank for such delish festival-worthy seafood – there’s definitely something special in the seawater.
Cracking open the season is County Down’s twentieth , from 6-9 September. Swallowing the little critters is serious, record-breaking business here: the Guinness World Record for eating the most oysters was made at the 2005 festival, at a whopping 233 in three minutes by Co. Down’s very own Colin Shirlow. The search for the new record breaker is on, but challengers will have to bring their mollusc-slurping A-game in order to beat Shirlow. As if the stunning scenery isn’t enough, the Miss Oyster Pearl competition will see local beauties, dripping in pearls no doubt, vie for a the title and a modeling contract.
The next oyster hot spot is Clarenbridge, south of , where a sheltered bay and delicate ratio of fresh and salt water means oyster perfection. Come September 15 the oysters will be shucked and the slurping will begin. The soundtrack to this three day festival of munching will be live music, including bands Top of the PopZ and the Jim McKee Band, and hip-shaking tunes at the Gala ball. If there’s not a ‘funky oyster’ dance move yet, you can expect it to be invented here.
Bringing up the rear is the 58th at the end of September. Galway is renowned for a good party, and it hosts the oysters in its usual cozy revelry style. The headline event is the nimble-fingered knife-play of expert shuckers at the World Oyster Opening Championships. Watch, gasp and let your appetite lead you to a Seafood Dinearound for dinner. Also on the bill of what the Sunday Times called “one of the 12 greatest shows on earth” – is a parade, oyster tasting, live music, Gala Dinner, dancing and all manner of family fun.
If you don’t manage to catch any of the festivals, there’s still a recipe you can try anywhere in Ireland for a similar, micro-festival experience. Take a fresh Irish oyster, a pint of local stout, follow the oyster with a good slurp of the dark stuff and voilá: a party in your mouth.
The Hillsborough Oyster Festival takes place from 6-9 September
The Clarenbridge Oyster Festival takes place from 14-16 September
While the Galway International Oyster Festival takes place from 28-30 September
Northern Ireland is a foodie haven as well, our blog will give you food for thought.