Skibbereen Food & Drink Guide

Venture west my friend, and you shall find such things to eat…

I’ll admit, I’m a tiny bit biased when it comes to West Cork food.  I can’t help it; it’s where I live, where I call home and, for all the allure of Big City Living, there is simply nothing better than returning to its verdant hills and calmness. 

Venture west my friend, and you shall find such things to eat…

I’ll admit, I’m a tiny bit biased when it comes to West Cork food.  I can’t help it; it’s where I live, where I call home and, for all the allure of Big City Living, there is simply nothing better than returning to its verdant hills and calmness. 

This article was originally published in August 2016. It has been updated in April 2018.

I’d sooner get stuck in a traffic jam of crossing cows, or be forced to travel all the way home from work in second gear because it’s silage time again than be forced to sit in traffic jams of cars, or standing up in stuffy train carriages.  It helps a lot that our food tastes so darn good; also why the region is the home of one of Ireland’s biggest food festivals!

Here now is my guide to indulging your inner gourmet at the region’s biggest town and vibrant foodie hub, Skibbereen.Skibbereen Farmers Market

You should know by now that I adore a good Farmers’ Market!  The Skibbereen Market is regarding by many across the region as the best and biggest in West Cork.  It helps that it’s on a Saturday, so naturally it draws a bigger crowd than some of the weekday markets, but still, us West Cork folk are very discerning.  If it wasn’t any good, it wouldn’t be there!  Here are my best picks of the stalls, but of course, all are worth a visit.

Gubbeen Farm & Smokehouse

Live in West Cork long enough and you’ll develop an obsession for anything produced by the Ferguson family on Gubbeen Farm outisde the tiny coastal village of Schulll.  The family’s commitment to doing as much as they can to live from and preserve their family farmlands has seen Gubbeen become the most recognisable farmhouse brand in Ireland today.  The quality of the pork, cheese and charcuterie is undeniable, and the innovation employed to ensure consistency of their produce includes their own on-site purpose-built smokehouse and Ireland’s first “Piggy Co-Op” for the benefit of all small pig farmers in the area.  A must-stop.

West Cork Pies

A few years ago, any English ex-pat would have said that you couldn’t get a decent pork pie or scotch egg for love nor money in Ireland.  But thanks to Paul Phillips, since 2012 this has now been not only remedied, but bettered!  A variety of pork pies and scotch eggs can be found here with all kinds of twists from their original recipe pork pies, to their Smokey Joe scotch egg made with Chorizo.  What’s more, Paul also raises his own pigs who roam freely overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Happy pigs, happy lives, happy pies.

West Cork Garlic

There’s a hum from Cool Mountain in Dunmanway of beautiful, sweet garlic.  10 different varieties of garlic are grown there, including rare Black Garlic.  They also have their own small smokery where occasionally they smoke batches of garlic for a whole two weeks.  It’s not always available, so if they have it, buy it – trust me!

Mella’s Fudge (seasonal)

Mella’s handmade fudge is an absolute delight to eat!  Spending most of her childhood finding the perfect fudge recipe together with her mother has resulted in a beautiful handmade fudge in a variety of flavours that are great any time of the year.  The good news is that, if you can’t get to Skibbereen, Mella’s fudge is actually sold nationwide under the Dunnes Simply Better range nationwide.  This is the same great vanilla fudge that won gold in the Great Taste Awards in 2012!

Jude’s Chocolates

Handmade chocolates in very small batches with a mix of delightful filling and flavours.  Not cheap, but well worth the splurge, especially the salted peanut caramel one….

Brown Envelope Seeds

If growing your own is more your thing, then head on over to Madeline McKeevers organic seed initiative.  This small, family run farm has been cultivating and harvesting organic seeds since 2004 now has in excess of 150 different seed varieties available.  All the seeds are grown on the farm and are certified by the Organic Trust.

Eat Around Skibbereen 


To say that this unassuming café is a Skibbereen institution would be a great understatement.  The Good Food Ireland award winning eatery at its original location on North Street; a street food cart at the weekly farmers’ market and now also the latest addition: the café and courtyard at the striking West Cork Arts Centre, Uillinn means that Kalbo’s is practically Skib’s middle name.   Produce is locally sourced, and Siobhan O’Callaghan (chef proprietor) has unfettered access to local organic veg thanks to her husband’s partnership in Thornhill Organic Farm.  Famed among many things for making a bowl of soup the kind of thing you fantasise about and their completely beautiful cakes, it’s the kind of place where no matter what you order from the menu you will leave happy and satisfied.

An Chistin Beag

Nestled away on Bridge Street, blink and you could be forgiven for missing this hidden gem restaurant well-loved amongst the locals, and creating fans of those visiting for the first time.  Anecdotally, the best eggs benedict to be gotten anywhere, you’ll want to make sure you can squeeze yourself into one of the tables in the cozy surrounds.  Friendly service, delicious food and great value awaits.

Glebe Cafe

Newly opened on the site of the formidable Carmel Somers Good Things Café, is the Perry Sisters new venture. Expanding out from their iconic base in Baltimore just a few minutes further west, the sisters have taken over the premises on Dillon’s Corner. At the helm is head chef Bob Cairns who has built his reputation following a successful season as gardener-cum-chef at Glensallagh Gardens.

Expect some Glebe Classics to pepper the menu which will remain true to its ethos of local and seasonal: breakfast and lunchtime menus on offer as well as a wine bar with small plates and a couple of plate du jour offerings for the evening time. Definitely worth a look in.

The Church

This restaurant in a beautifully restored church is a must-visit.  The gorgeous stained glass windows, chandeliers and solid wooden staircase will distract from the food, but welcome it and marvel at it!  For extra wow-factor, grab a table in the gallery with a birds-eye view of the exquisite architecture.  Bonus is you won’t be disappointed by the food either.  A decent, unfussy menu taking inspiration from local sources of fresh food and producers, the portions are super generous and presented with care and attention.   Any time of the week is good to eat here, but my favourite is a Sunday.  Maybe it has something to do with the surroundings…

Riverside Café

Inside this Georgian fronted building is a wonderfully bright restaurant that sits alongside the river Ilen.  Riverside is a by-word in Skib for delicious Mediterranean dishes that reflect the warm and vibrant interior.  What you will find here is a dedication to sourcing the finest of West Cork produce and putting a sunny spin on the finished dishes, whether you’re come for the breakfast or lunch.  French toast with Gubbeen smoked bacon or Dave Louks free range eggs huevos rancheros style; to Willie Walshe’s local lamb turned into yummy kofta’s or Hereford beefsteak cooked to perfection.  Check out their studio space for regular events from yoga to theatre.

Jeff’s Wood Fire Pizza

Take a walk down Vickery’s Lane and be greeted by the unmistakable aroma of an oak-smoked fire. Wafting from the very unassuming exterior of Jeff’s Wood Fire Pizza, this pizzeria loved, treasured even.   You get the sense that Jeff knows pretty much every single one of his frequent visitors: families, teens, adults looking for an indulgent night off from the kitchen; even local chefs praising his stone-baked oak-fired pizza.  “Whatever it is you’re doing, don’t ever change it” declares one fan.  For the sake of the pizza aficionados of this town I hope he heeds their warnings!

Apple Betty’s

The quintessential tea shop on The Square for a great coffee and a freshly baked cake.  One of those places where you feel instantly at home: friendly staff, hearty and comforting food.  A great outdoor space also means that it is the spot in town to grab a seat and soak up the rays.


Andy Illsley is the head chef at this boutique café tucked away inside the historic Castletownshend Castle and below the imposing Norman church of St Barrachanes. It comes with a view to die for overlooking the small harbour with iridescent blue seas. Seating options inside, or in the height of summer take the rays as you sit outside shortline. An impressive outdoor kitchen sees great use over the summer with smoking and cooking over charcoal and wood in a setting that matches luxury and grandeur with Andy’s signature laid back welcoming style and banging plates of well sourced, slow cooked rustic grub. Sunday’s are a roast day and even in low season is worthwhile booking in advance for a table.  

Afternoon Meanderings

With a full belly, you may need a wander – who knows what you may find…

The Time Travellers Bookshop

A glorious place to spend some time – whether you are bookish or not.  This second hand and rare book shop has some fascinating collections to admire and thumb a little.  Seek out the food-writers section for some bygone inspiration.

West Cork Distillery

A dream conjured in 2003 by three friends has resulted some 13 years later with a state of the art distillery in Skibbereen and a world renowned range of whiskeys, including their latest: Pogues.  Phone ahead to see if a distillery tour is running and take advantage of it if they are.  Tastings are a must!

Taste of West Cork Food Festival

Every September for two weeks Skibbereen becomes the central hub for this festival that welcomes visitors from all over the world as they spend their days visiting producers, taking classes, dining at unique events and generally letting their inner foodie go wild!  This years’ programme is available to download here – make sure you pay it a visit!

Fields of Skibbereen

It may feel odd that I am directing you to a supermarket as part of your foodie trail around Skibbereen, but trust me when I say that many of the iconic West Cork food producers that are now found the length and breadth of the country had their first foray into the retail market place thanks to Fields Supervalu.  As with all Supervalu stores, the owners have the freedom to support their local food producers.  Fields was one of the first to really champion this and indeed are now behind the team that curates the Taste of West Cork Food Festival.  Pop in and take a wander, maybe stop in their coffee shop for a fab coffee and fresh baked cake.  Guaranteed you will leave with a bag brimming with beautiful things to eat!

Outside of Skibbereen

In and around Skib are small, picturesque villages.  But as well as admiring their vista’s, how about stopping for a bite to eat?

Leap: Connolly’s of Leap

Connolly’s is the iconic music venue that recently reopened after nine years of lamentable absence.  Now, they have opened up a café during the day which almost instantaneously gained recognition from Sally & John McKenna as one of the Bridgestone Guides Best in 2016.

Union Hall:  Dinty’s

Driving away from Leap along the narrow roadway towards the impossibly beautiful village of Glandore and take a right across the bridge made famous in The War of the Buttons and on into Union Hall.  This sleepy fishing village barely looks awake for its laid back approach to life, but in the heart of it all is Dinty’s.  Don’t expect any flowery manners here, but do expect the best bowl of chowder in West Cork.  Made fresh daily with whatever gets landed into the port just a short hop and a skip away, this is the kind of food that hugs you from the inside.  Team it with a pint of the black stuff and two slices of homemade soda bread. Perfection.

Glandore: Glandore Bistro

Back across the bridge from Union Hall and down into the harbour village of Glandore and you’ll find the Glandore Bistro owned and run by a husband and wife team.  The food is best described as “modern Irish” again taking inspiration from the bountiful seas serving up excellent quality fresh seafood as well as steaks and lip-smackingly good desserts.  Wash it all down with the beautiful view.

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