The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2019 in association with Failte Ireland




From 5* hotels to B&Bs and from cafés to country houses, the winners of the 2019 Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards in association with Fáilte Ireland were announced on Tuesday, February 19th.

Now in their third year, the Irish Breakfast Awards celebrate Ireland’s leading hospitality establishments and the people who strive to make the first meal of the day a particularly special experience for visitors and regulars alike. According to Georgina Campbell, one of Ireland’s foremost food and hospitality writers, the significance of the humble breakfast cannot be underestimated, and it is as important to Ireland’s reputation in food and tourism as a world-class hotel or a fine dining restaurant.

“A great Irish breakfast starts with the raw materials and as part of these awards, we identify exceptional Irish breakfast food producers who help chefs turn a good breakfast into an outstanding one,” said Georgina Campbell. “Using high quality, Irish produce is the foundation on which chefs and business owners need to build to create great and memorable breakfast experiences. However, sourcing local, seasonal and quality produce is often overlooked when it comes to the first meal of the day, and that has to change if we want to support our indigenous food industry and fly the flag for Irish producers, and the Irish breakfast, both at home and abroad.

“A recent Australian survey (concerned mainly with weight loss) may have tried to debunk the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but our bodies – and our visitors - know better. And so do our hospitality industry and quality food producers - it’s a critical component for them, and success or failure in achieving the highest possible standards can truly make or break a business,” said Georgina.

“Given the quality of our local produce and the fantastic range of establishments right across the country, we have a unique opportunity to elevate the Irish breakfast scene into something quite special that we can be proud of.”

The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards in association with Fáilte Ireland took place at the InterContinental Dublin, with special guest and previous Irish Breakfast award-winner, Neven Maguire of MacNean House and Restaurant who said, ““Get the basics right; is so important. The option of preparing a great breakfast using 100% Irish produce is available to us all, and we don’t have to look too far to find these terrific products. At MacNean House and Restaurant we put as much emphasis on giving our guests as memorable a food experience for breakfast as the dinner the night before. It is the last meal our guests have before they leave, so we want to make it special.”


Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland said, “Fáilte Ireland is delighted to partner with Georgina Campbell and the Irish Breakfast Awards to highlight the important role that breakfast plays in providing visitors with a taste of Ireland. In recent years, the reputation of our breakfast offering has advanced in terms of quality and perception. Great strides have been made and the importance of a quality food experience cannot be underestimated especially for overseas visitors. We can raise our offering to the next level and ensure that our reputation as a producer of great quality food is maintained and indeed enhanced over the coming years.”


According to Georgina, the Irish Breakfast Foods Category is central to the awards as without great Irish produce, there would be no great Irish breakfasts. “These awards are unique in that they help to connect some of our exceptional producers and their produce to the people who care passionately about the food they prepare and serve. The seven food producers we are recognising today are the hidden heroes of Ireland’s thriving breakfast scene. We want to see more and more of them featuring on Irish breakfast menus, highlighting provenance, quality and authenticity.”

Meats: Castlemine Farm, Co Roscommon
Fish: Woodcock Smokery, Co Cork
Eggs: Clonarn Clover, Co Meath
Dairy: Glenisk Organic Dairy, Co Offaly
Cereal: Paddy O’s Granola, Co Laois
Fruit: Keeling’s Juices, Co Dublin

The Irish Bread Award went to Longueville House, Mallow, Co Cork.

The push to rethink early menus in cafés and restaurants across Ireland has been helped by the rise in popularity of brunch, which is why this year, Georgina Campbell teamed up with Irish Dairy The Complete Natural to invite members of the public to nominate their favourite establishment for a Best Brunch Award. The 2019 Best Brunch in association with Irish Dairy The Complete Natural Dairy was awarded to The Fumbally, Dublin, following a public nomination process
Zoe Kavanagh, CEO of the NDC said: ‘We are proud in Ireland of our excellent dairy produce with its unique taste and the versatility which lends itself so well to breakfast and brunch dishes. Ireland has become a real destination in recent years for quality brunch venues creating innovative dishes as part of this ever-popular meal occasion. We are excited to celebrate the cream of Ireland’s brunch venues shortlisted for these awards and hopefully, it will help raise the bar for brunch venues around the country.’


Winner: Park Hotel Kenmare, Kenmare, Co Kerry
• Highly Commended: Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co Waterford
• Highly Commended: The Merchant Hotel, Belfast
• Highly Commended: The Westbury Hotel, Dublin
• Highly Commended: The Heritage Killenard, Killenard, Co Laois

Winner: Marlfield House Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford

• Highly Commended: Dunraven Arms, Adare, Co Limerick
• Highly Commended: Granville Hotel, Waterford
• Highly Commended: Bushmills Inn, Bushmills, Co Antrim
• Highly Commended: Sheedy’s Hotel, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare

Winner: Dingle Benners Hotel, Dingle, Co Kerry

• Highly Commended: The Huntsman Inn, Galway, Co Galway
• Highly Commended: Aran Islands Hotel, Inis Mór, Co Galway
• Highly Commended: Carrygerry Country House, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare
• Highly Commended: Zuni Restaurant & Boutique Hotel, Kilkenny

Winner: Virginia Park Lodge, Virginia, Cavan

• Highly Commended: Rathsallagh House, Dunlavin, Co Wicklow
• Highly Commended: Rosleague Manor, Letterfrack, Co Galway
• Highly Commended: Dunnanelly Country House, Co Down
• Highly Commended: Lodge at Ashford Castle, Co Mayo

Winner: Wineport Lodge, Glasson, Athlone, Co Westmeath

• Highly Commended: Castlewood House, Dingle, Co Kerry
• Highly Commended: Killarney Lodge, Killarney, Co Kerry
• Highly Commended: Gleesons Townhouse, Roscommon, Co Roscommon
• Highly Commended: Blackwell House, Scarva, Co Armagh

Winner: Bantry House and Garden, Bantry, Co Cork

• Highly Commended: Shelburne Lodge, Kenmare, Co Kerry
• Highly Commended: Aldridge Lodge, Duncannon, Co Wexford
• Highly Commended: Ardawn House, Galway, Co Galway
• Highly Commended: Ghan House, Carlingford, Co Louth

Winner: Hook Lighthouse - Visitor Centre Café, Hook Head, Co Wexford

• Highly Commended: The Castle Café, Blackrock Castle, Cork
• Highly Commended: Lennons@VISUAL, Carlow, Co Carlow
• Highly Commended: The Kitchen, Galway City Museum, Galway
• Highly Commended: Avoca Café, Malahide Castle, Malahide, Co Dublin


Winner: Breac.House, Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal
• Highly Commended: Ravenhill Guest House, Belfast
• Highly Commended: King Sitric Restaurant& Accommodation, Howth, Co Dublin
• Highly Commended: Coolanowle Country House & Organic Farm, Co Carlow
• Highly Commended: Viewmount House, Longford, Co Longford

Winner: The Fumbally, Fumbally Lane, Dublin City, Co Dublin

• Highly Commended: Nook Café & Restaurant, Collooney, Co Sligo
• Highly Commended: The Green Barn, Burtown House, Co Kildare
• Highly Commended: House of Plates, Castlebar, Co Mayo
• Highly Commended: Brunel’s Restaurant Newcastle Co Down

Georgina Campbell’s Ireland’s rigorous programme of anonymous assessment visits is a year-round process and, with the exception of this year’s Brunch Award, which was open to public nominations, award winners are nominated solely by an independent assessment team. Reports are fed through to the hospitality website

Findings from the second in a series of annual Irish Breakfast Surveys, conducted by Georgina Campbell in association with Fáilte Ireland, were also announced today.
As part of an effort to increase the overall quality of breakfasts nationally, a survey was conducted with accommodation providers last year, to determine a quality baseline. And the news is good, as this year’s follow-on survey indicates an increased awareness for the importance of the breakfast experience and a greater commitment to quality across a wide range of areas.
Telling the local story through name-checking producers and suppliers and staff engagement is increasingly a part of the Irish breakfast experience. And these things are working. More than half of respondents say it’s ‘a key reason for choosing us. And, like last year, the majority of responses were from the big tourism brands (Wild Atlantic Way; Ireland’s Ancient East and the new Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands), suggesting that the Fáilte Ireland food tourism strategy is growing industry awareness of the value and benefits of offering a quality, locally-focused breakfast.
The range of breakfast options offered is widening, but the traditional Irish Breakfast is certainly not in decline (respondents say it imparts ‘the holiday feeling’) and there is growing interest in sustainability, with many opting for the short food miles that come with Irish, locally produced and home grown breakfast ingredients.
“It’s good to see positive signs of improvement this year - and the survey results match our experience when travelling around doing independent assessments,” Georgina commented. “But we still need to convince decision makers across the board that ‘buying local’ is a win-win situation that will support the local economy, please visitors and be good for business.
“This survey indicates that we’re heading in the right direction - and we hope to build on that momentum and encourage others to up their game, so that there will be new names among the award winners next year”




The aim of the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards in association with Fáilte Ireland is to encourage everyone who is serving breakfast in Ireland to up their game and give visitors - both international and domestic - the best possible experience to start their day. Recognising those who are already doing a great job is a key element in that process and, in seeking out the best, we look for an all round experience and genuine hospitality, as well as authenticity - and a sense of place.
Our winners come from all around Ireland - see regional tourism brands highlighted alongside winners names, and a summary of the Fáilte Ireland regional tourism brands below.
The essence of the regional tourism brands, as defined by Fáilte Ireland:

The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland's first long-distance touring route, stretching along the Atlantic coast from Donegal to West Cork.

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands: Explore the lush green heartlands of Ireland’s natural rural beauty... where activity and relaxation are centred around rural communities and their lifestyles, that can be discovered across a lattice work of land and water trails showcased by the iconic River Shannon and the Beara Breifne Way.

Ireland's Ancient East showcases Ireland’s living culture and ancient heritage and brings it to life through stories that create unique visitor experiences, unite stakeholders and support vibrant communities.

Dublin living thrives side by side with the natural outdoors so you can constantly jump between completely unique, different and often unexpected experiences.

We all expect a stay in a five star hotel to be an all-round special experience, offering the very best of the best of everything - impressive surroundings, exceptionally spacious and luxurious accommodation, outstanding food and service, wonderful leisure amenities…. It should be a real treat and, at its best, that’s just what it is, providing superb and truly Irish experiences. Yet, even at this level, there are variations in standards. And an area where these variations are especially noticeable is in the breakfast offering, which can be genuinely memorable - but is not always as wonderful as the experiences which are such a pleasure at our winning hotels.

Winner: Park Hotel Kenmare Kenmare Co Kerry
ABOUT: Deservedly one of Ireland’s best loved leading hotels, the magnificent waterside location and mountain views of the Park Hotel Kenmare belie its convenience, right at the heart of this charming Heritage Town. Its fame dates back to Victorian times and, in the ownership of Francis “At Your Service” Brennan since 1985, it is a benchmark for exceptional standards of service, comfort and cuisine. A stay here is always a treat - luxury and hospitality are the bywords - also outstanding food, overseen by respected Head Chef, James Coffey.
Special breakfast highlights?
Where to begin…the simply worded menu doesn’t give too much away but, from the first glass of freshly squeezed fruit or vegetable juice to the final sip of coffee, everything about this table service only experience is special. Warm Macroom stoneground porridge oats, delicious breads and preserves, three fish choices, an immaculately presented Classic Irish Breakfast (featuring Sneem black pudding, of course) and much more besides…Then there is the setting - the gardens, river and mountains are simply lovely, and the classical dining room is at its brightest and best in the morning. And the warmly professional, mainly Irish, staff are simply wonderful. What’s not to love?

Highly Commended: Cliff House Hotel Ardmore Co Waterford
ABOUT: A bold modern boutique hotel overlooking Ardmore Bay, this chic bolthole draws guests as much for the culinary offerings as the setting in one of Ireland’s most delightful villages. Dutch head chef Martijn Kajuiter strives for perfection in The House Restaurant, using meticulously sourced local and seasonal produce to deliver stunning cooking that appeals to adventurous diners. This luxury hotel has earned a reputation for service too, with discreet customer care the byword. The Well spa includes an outdoor infinity pool, looking out over the bay.
Special breakfast highlights?
An excellent (and speedily served) breakfast is served in the restaurant. While at night, however, it's all about stretching the kitchen’s culinary muscles to their limits, morning brings simplicity and a short menu of good things - the freshest of juices, the welcome familiarity of a well-sourced Full Irish, freshly brewed tea and coffees, freshly baked breads and pastries, homemade preserves - and the pleasure of enjoying them in the company of a lovely view of the bay. It makes for a quietly memorable experience.

Highly Commended: The Merchant Hotel Belfast
ABOUT: The grandeur of a larger-than-life Victorian banking building is a fit setting for Belfast’s most dramatic and beautiful hotel. The lobby sets the tone for the whole hotel – warmly luxurious, but not ostentatious. The elegant, opulent bedrooms and suites are available in Victorian and Art Deco styles; everything exudes indulgence and service is impeccable. The house style in the aptly named Great Room Restaurant is upbeat classic and accomplished meals showcase local ingredients. Afternoon Tea, also served in The Great Room, is a speciality, and with vegetarian, gluten-free, and nut-free options available.
Special breakfast highlights?
A full à la carte breakfast menu is served every morning in The Great Room Restaurant and it is open to non-residents, offering an ideal venue for an early business meeting, or a treat for leisure guests to the city. Everything is as it should be. The staff bring just the right balance of friendliness and professionalism and, while the wide ranging menu doesn’t spring too many surprises, dietary requirements are willingly met, and there’s an emphasis on Irish artisan produce. Everything is beautifully cooked and presented and the magnificent setting conveys a sense of occasion - it really is the star at The Merchant.

Highly Commended: The Westbury Hotel Dublin

ABOUT: Possibly the most conveniently situated of all Dublin’s luxury hotels, The Westbury Hotel is seconds from Grafton Street (and with underground parking). Unashamedly sumptuous, the hotel’s public areas drip with chandeliers although the bedrooms are decidedly more contemporary. Fashionable for afternoon tea, the hotel is popular with business and corporate guests, but also makes a great base for a leisure break. Wilde, the beautiful Art Deco-influenced restaurant, offers delicious all-day dining and great service while there’s casual brasserie and bar fare at Balfe’s.
Special breakfast highlights?
While residents may have the option of breakfast at Wilde, for Dubliners or out-of-towners up for meetings or a day’s shopping, Balfes ticks all the boxes. There’s a great weekday breakfast menu offering a range of ‘Bodybyrne’ fitness dishes alongside more conventional favourites like organic porridge various ways, a range of egg dishes or frankly indulgent morning pastries. And then comes the weekend brunch, when the options widen to include an aperitif cocktail menu and other drinks, bigger dishes like burgers and fish & chips, or open sandwiches…Whatever the day or time, it’s one of the coolest spots in town for breakfast or brunch.

Highly Commended: The Heritage Killenard Killenard Co Laois
ABOUT: In new ownership since 2014 and operated with style, great staff and exceptional leisure facilities are the trump cards at this luxury hotel in rural Laois. Not only is there a destination spa and (next door) an 18-hole Seve Ballesteros golf course, but onsite facilities also include bowls, tennis and a floodlit jogging track. Spacious accommodation is very comfortably furnished and dining options include fine dining in the Arlington Room, Afternoon Tea in the Lobby Lounge, and informal options elsewhere in this attractive venue.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast is served in the Arlington, and a cold buffet offering a good spread of fruits, breads, and cereals, cheese and salamis is displayed in an adjoining room. Unusually, there are three milks available: full, low fat and skimmed - and there's a generous gluten free corner, with breads and cereals on offer. Hot dishes include pancakes, omelettes, smoked salmon, various eggs (Benedict, Florentine) and of course the full Irish - no surprises, perhaps, but the quality is top notch.

Usually seen as luxurious, Four Star hotels are spacious and offer suites and extensive amenities, often including a spa. They also tend to have ambitious restaurants, many with a national reputation that ensures their success as a food lovers’ destination. At their best, destinations like our winning establishments offer an outstanding guest experience and often very good value too, usually seen in special offers such as midweek and off-season breaks. But sometimes the high standards of food and service enjoyed at dinner can descend into something very different at breakfast time - and we would love to see breakfast given the same status as dinner, and be accorded the same respect.

Winner: Marlfield House Hotel Gorey Co Wexford
ABOUT: Famously quoted by an international guide as ‘the luxury country house hotel par excellence’, this impressive house was once the residence of the Earls of Courtown, and is now an elegant oasis of unashamed luxury offering outstanding hospitality and service, where guests are pampered in sumptuous surroundings. Opened as an hotel in 1978 by Mary and Ray Bowe, their daughters Margaret and Laura are now continuing - and developing - the family tradition of hospitality. As well as the main house, they now also operate a lovely informal café-restaurant, The Duck, alongside the kitchen garden - and also Duck Lodge, a contemporary self-catering cottage.
Special breakfast highlights?
This is a place where things are done correctly and the Marlfield House breakfast is a magnificent throwback to high standards now rarely seen…Tables are beautifully set with proper starched white tablecloths and napkins, silver cutlery and a white china dish displaying butter, homemade marmalade and jam. Leaf tea is served in a silver teapot, along with delectable fresh scones and croissants, while the buffet offers fresh juices, stewed rhubarb, stewed apples with cinnamon, blueberries and raspberries, Killowen yogurts… The excellent brown bread is a speciality, and a perfect match for the Full Irish, or any of the other dishes on an impressively comprehensive menu, which includes a supplier list (all in Wexford) and an invitation to ask for takeaway juice or coffee if travelling - or to purchase homemade breads, scones, marmalade, chutneys and jams at reception.

Highly Commended: Dunraven Arms Hotel Adare Co Limerick
ABOUT: Established in 1792, the Murphy family’s large hotel in Adare has retained the comfortable ambience of a country inn – albeit a very luxurious one. An unrivalled reputation for the quality and value of short breaks offered, and a dedication to giving personal service, make Dunraven Arms an outstanding example of contemporary Irish hospitality. The delightfully old-fashioned Maigue Restaurant showcases the best of local produce and is renowned for its superb beef - carved at a trolley in classic style, many repeat guests travel especially for the pleasure of enjoying this classic speciality.
Special breakfast highlights?
Dedication to quality extends to the outstaanding breakfast offered - an area where many hotels seek savings, to the detriment of the overall guest experience. Not so at the Dunraven Arms, where the dining room is set up as smartly for breakfast as it is for dinner in the evening and well-slept guests are treated to an extensive buffet display of the freshest foods and drink, including fruits and juices, yogurts, cheeses and cold meats, a range of freshly baked goods and a magnificent ham set up for carving to your liking. Cooked to order breakfasts are equally impressive, with a lovely range of dishes offered and everything served, perfectly cooked, to your table by helpful staff.

Highly Commended: Granville Hotel Waterford
ABOUT: One of the country’s oldest hotels, this much-loved quayside establishment has been owner-run since 1979 by the Cusack family, who have restored the old building to its former glory. The overall food style is proudly traditional, with some local specialities featuring, and the hotel’s Bianconi Restaurant delivers good value and excellent cooking by Executive Head Chef Stephen Hooper. As elsewhere in the hotel, it is the warm Irish hospitality and service that really make a visit here memorable.
Special breakfast highlights?
Infectious enthusiasm is the keynote here and, from an excellent buffet to the hot food cooked to order, the breakfast offering is outstanding. The famous Waterford Blaa stars in the Bakery Basket of course (and hot dishes include Blaa Eggs Benedict Waterford Style), alongside unusual preserves such as Granville Marmalade with Muldoon Whiskey. Good renditions of all the breakfast favourites are available, including delicious fresh fish, but perhaps the defining feature is ‘The Granville Hotel Organic Porridge Experience’ which elevates the local Flahavans porridge to a new level - partly by including the local Muldoon Waterford Whiskey Liqueur or Highbank Organic Apple Syrup. Magic.

Highly Commended: Bushmills Inn Hotel Bushmills Co Antrim
ABOUT: Originally a 19th century coaching inn, the traditional tone of Alan Dunlop’s famously interesting and well-run hotel is set by the turf fire and country furniture in the hall. Public rooms include an atmospheric gas-lit bar and a unique circular library, while the exceptionally well planned bedrooms are furnished in a cottagey style that suits the building. Known for its wholesome food, pride in Irish ingredients and traditions is most obvious in day menus that often include old dishes like Brotchan (‘an old name for “aitin n drinkin” soup’). A great base for playing the famous golf courses of the area, or exploring this beautiful coastline.
Special Breakfast highlights?
Atmosphere rules at the Bushmills Inn and that includes the restaurant, with its rustic booths, where breakfast is served. Simplicity suits the surroundings well, and the great Northern Ireland baking tradition is alive and well here, with the home baked breads a highlight amongst the traditional breakfast offerings - and keen, well-trained and engaging young staff leave a lasting impression.

Highly Commended: Sheedy’s Hotel Lisdoonvarna Co Clare
ABOUT: John and Martina Sheedy run one of the west of Ireland’s best-loved small hotels - it offers some of the most comfortable accommodation in the area and has been a key dining destination for many years, yet it still has the warm ambience and friendly hands-on management which make a hotel special. John showcases Irish foods, and especially local produce like Burren lamb and Atlantic seafood, with style at every meal (and makes everything from scratch - breads, biscuits, jams, preserves, ice creams...). While relaxed and informal, the sheer quality makes Sheedys a treat for food lovers.
Special breakfast highlights?

The same high standards apply at breakfast, when pride in local produce and home made food informs an extensive menu that offers many delicious choices. Service is table service only, and the meal brings a succession of good things including fresh fruit compotes and juices; an impressive selection of home-made breads and pancakes; a fresh fish dish, as well as classic smoked salmon with scrambled eggs - and a perfectly cooked Traditional Irish Breakfast of course, which brings together products from several counties.

The majority of Irish hotels fall into the Three Star category and the range is inevitably very wide. They include everything from excellent small family-run hotels to much larger properties that might score on amenities (such as the leisure facilities that are so important for family holidays), rather than hands-on hospitality or a focus on good food. Our winners represent the best at the smaller end of the spectrum, and show just how rewarding a stay at a Three Star hotel can be. This is the category where we have found the most improvement in the last year, although we would love to see more Three Star hotels up their game at meal times - and especially at breakfast, which is too often a price-led offering.

Winner: Dingle Benners Hotel Dingle Co Kerry
ABOUT: This 300-year old centrally-located hotel makes a very comfortable base within easy walking distance of the whole of Dingle town - and it is full of character. Good food with a local flavour has become a USP of the hotel in recent years, and - as well as wide-ranging day and evening menus showcasing local ingredients, notably seafood and West Kerry lamb - that includes an impressive breakfast.
Special breakfast highlights?
Served in a large, bright, dining room towards the back of the hotel, breakfast kicks off with a well-presented buffet display notable for its quality as much as the variety offered. Home baked ham, artisan cheeses and yogurts, smoked salmon, Irish cereals and freshly baked brown bread and pastries all feature, as well as a choice of fresh fruits and juices. And cooked to order dishes include a full vegetarian breakfast which is offered alongside a well-sourced 'Traditional Irish', catch of the day, kippers and other favourites like Lispole Eggs Benedict and crepes or waffles. Impressive all round, and very tasty.

Highly Commended: The Huntsman Inn Galway
ABOUT: Near the city centre and easily accessible by car, this busy spot near the G Hotel looks like a pretty row of houses and, with its colourful hanging baskets, the cottagey facade cleverly disguises a large interior. The smart, contemporary en-suite bedrooms offer great value, and it’s a relaxed, comfortable place for flavoursome food at a reasonable price. Uncomplicated menus reflect a refreshingly down to earth philosophy and everything is cooked with care and well presented.
Special breakfast highlights?
The breakfast menu reads reassuringly well, offering plenty of fresh and well sourced foods - freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly baked scones and brown bread, Collerans and Herterich’s breakfast meats, Connemera Smokehouse smoked salmon - and the promise follows through, with good cooking (scrambled eggs singled out for praise, which is unusual) and really tasty food. And excellent staff make the experience, by providing very good service.

Highly Commended: Zuni Restaurant & Boutique Hotel Kilkenny
ABOUT: Although Zuni is an hotel (‘boutique’, and with a youthful style of accommodation), the atmosphere is more restaurant with rooms: an oasis of contemporary chic in this bustling city, it has long been favoured by discerning Kilkenny diners. Well known Kilkenny chef Michael Thomas joined the team from Waterford Castle in 2018 and he enthusiastically maintains the house policy of supporting local producers and suppliers, which matches his own philosophy perfectly.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast, served in the streetside café-bar, is notable for the friendly, smartly-uniformed and well-informed staff, and the cosy café atmosphere as much as for the excellent cooking. The menu offers all the breakfast/brunch favourites, sometimes with a little twist (as in chilli scrambled eggs), but there are no gimmicks and its success is down to careful cooking, attractive presentation, attention to detail and great suppliers - Kenna's butchers are mentioned, along with Highbank Orchard Syrup (nice to see this delicious product featuring rather than the ubiquitous maple syrup), and Zuni's own home made breads.

Highly Commended: Aran Islands Hotel Inis Mór Co Galway
ABOUT: A young, very professional, team - brothers, Keith and Niall Madigan and Chef Damien Lyons, all from Ennis - took over this warmly comfortable hotel in 2015 and have made Inis Mor their home. All the island’s big events are held at the hotel, from celebrations to funeral meals, and their wedding pack would tempt anyone to have the big day here. The restaurant, Madigans @ The Hotel, has a view of the bay while An Síbín Pub, with an open fire and traditional Irish music at weekends, is the most popular spot in the hotel - and also serves good wholesome food. Five bedrooms have good views of bay and harbour and all are very comfortable.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast offers a quality buffet counter with an appealing selection of cereals and granola and a choice of yoghurts, plus fresh fruit brought in from the mainland. However it is the steaming hot fresh porridge served in large wide bowls that stands out - and so does the freshly cooked traditional Irish breakfast straight from the kitchen, with truly delicious freshly fried eggs. There is the usual sliced bread, but the defining feature is the delicious homemade brown bread. Served at table, by delightful local staff, this simple island meal can be memorable.

Highly Commended: Carrygerry Country House Newmarket-on-Fergus Co Clare
ABOUT: It’s only 10 minutes from Shannon airport, yet Niall and Gillian Ennis’s lovely 18th century residence is a world away, in a beautiful rural setting and overlooking the Shannon and Fergus estuaries. The ambience is very pleasant, with spacious, comfortable reception rooms, open fires and an hospitable atmosphere, as well as a high standard of accommodation. Niall’s menus in The Conservatory Restaurant showcase local ingredients - especially seasonal herbs and vegetables - and they produce a range of speciality food products that make perfect small gifts.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast, which is served in the conservatory, offers a great choice (perhaps more limited in winter) with provenance highlighted and it is cooked to order. Everything is very tasty and highlights include gorgeous homemade brown bread and house made preserves, which are full of flavour. The ubiquitous white sliced pan may also appear at times - underneath Poached Eggs with fresh tomatoes, for example - but most guests won't mind that at all.

While the Irish B&B and Guesthouse categories are quite clearly defined, that great gem of Irish hospitality, the Irish Country House, will generally be found tucked in somewhere among the B&Bs, listed as an Historic House. There is a logic to this as, although large properties, they rarely have more than half a dozen guest rooms. However, it would be lovely to see these wonderful places - and the extraordinary families who run them - given the starring role that they deserve, in a special category. As is self-evident from the range of winners representing them here, they are the beating heart of Irish rural tourism - and especially rewarding to seek out.

Winner: Virginia Park Lodge Virginia Co Cavan
ABOUT: Beautifully located overlooking Lough Ramor, this eighteenth century sporting lodge charmingly combines informality and grandeur. In 2013 a famous local man, the chef Richard Corrigan, bought the property and lost no time in renovating the house and establishing productive gardens, which now also supply his London restaurants in season. A desirable private venue for weddings, corporate events and sporting weekends, it also opens as a pop up (book online) and makes an elegant and atmospheric setting for Richard Corrigan’s famously direct seasonal, ingredients-led cooking.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast for overnight guests at Virginia Park Lodge is an exceptional experience. A long fireside table is set up atmospherically with candles and decorative foliage and, even in summer, a welcoming log fire is lit in the huge fireplace. Rustic charm is the order of the day and the foods displayed on a nearby sideboard have all the Corrigan trademarks of simplicity, quality and irresistibility. Big jugs of freshly squeezed juice, poached garden fruits, wonderful home bakes and buttery pastries - even if you don't like croissants, you must try these. Hot dishes range from a simple, extremely tasty rendition of the traditional Irish (with fresh tomatoes from the garden, in summer) to house-smoked salmon and more contemporary favourites like a Breakfast Burrito. Terrific coffee, gorgeous breads, butter and home made preserves too - everything is perfect.

Highly Commended: Rathsallagh House Dunlavin Co Wicklow
ABOUT: The O’Flynn family’s large, rambling country house on the Wicklow-Kildare border is just an hour from Dublin, but it could be in a different world. Insistent that it is ‘not an hotel’, it has a classic country house atmosphere - but it’s very professionally run and has all of the expected amenities. Rooms range from spacious ones with great views in the old house to cottagey rooms in the stable yard, all very comfortable. Good food is central to Rathsallagh - starting with seasonal produce from the farm and beautiful walled garden, you will eat well here.
Special breakfast highlights?
Rathsallagh is renowned for its magnificent Edwardian breakfast buffet, which offers every conceivable good thing, including silver chafing dishes, full of reminders of yesteryear. A large sideboard display offers an array of temptations - fresh juices, fruits and home-bakes, local honey and home-made jams and chutneys... Irish farmhouse cheeses, whole ham on the bone, salamis and smoked salmon... then there are the hot dishes, including their own free range eggs, the full Irish, and some less usual dishes like smoked salmon kedgeree, too.

Highly Commended: Rosleague Manor Letterfrack Co Galway
ABOUT: A member of the legendary Connemara hospitality family, the Foyles of Clifden, the energetic young owner-manager, Mark Foyle, is gradually working his way through a major renovation programme at this lovely, graciously proportioned, pink-washed Regency house. It looks out over Ballinakill Bay through gardens planted with rare shrubs and plants and, although the area also offers plenty of active pursuits, there is a deep sense of peace at Rosleague and it’s hard to imagine any better place to recharge the soul. Interestingly furnished in an upbeat traditional style, accommodation is luxurious and it also offers relaxed fine dining with specialities including local Leenane lamb and Killary lobster.
Special breakfast highlights?
While the focus at Rosleague is on dinner (which is open to non-residents by reservation) overnight guests are invariably delighted with the breakfast. From the lovely fresh flowers (a special feature throughout the house) and discreetly helpful staff, to the interesting menu with its emphasis on fish and less usual dishes (devilled kidneys with poached egg, for example) and details on the table like the bowl of freshly cubed butter and homemade preserves, everything is a real pleasure. And you can even call by to see the happy pigs, when out for your morning walk.

Highly Commended: Dunnanelly Country House Downpatrick Co Down
ABOUT: Although it is just three miles from Downpatrick, Sally King’s gorgeous Georgian-style house lies secluded in gardens, fields and woodland, with views of the Mourne Mountains to the south. Offering all the benefits of a Georgian house with the comfort of mod cons too, it would make a wonderful base for experiencing the St Patrick Story and exploring this beautiful county. The six bedrooms are beautifully furnished with great attention to detail and every comfort you could wish for - and the Kings also take pride in sourcing the best local products for breakfast, with Sally’s jams among the treats, made with home-grown fruit. An absolute gem.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast is served in the elegant dining room and an attractive card showing the provenance of all the food served sits proudly on the table. Sausages, bacon, eggs and smoked salmon all come from within a few miles, the honey is home-produced, and free-range, organic or Fair Trade products are used whenever possible. Sally’s jams are made with their own home grown fruit – and she even uses home grown lemons in her marmalade.

Highly Commended: The Lodge at Ashford Castle Cong Co Mayo
ABOUT: In common ownership with neighbouring Ashford Castle, the heart of this boutique destination is a fine period house with views down Lough Corrib from the bar, restaurant and the best rooms. Newer accommodation - including suites - is comfortable and stylish, and at Wilde’s Restaurant head chef Jonathan Keane serves wonderfully imaginative cuisine based on the best seasonal local produce. In a lovely first floor space with lough views from window tables, you can expect an unusual dining experience backed up by an interesting wine list.
Special breakfast highlights?
An excellent breakfast is served in Wilde’s - allow time to enjoy this feast as it makes a great start to the day and provides a wonderful introduction to some of the best local producers and suppliers. While the short menu doesn’t give too much away, staff are more than helpful and the display of juices, fruits, baked goods, hot and cold meats and much more is seriously impressive. Set up over a number of tables, each item is carefully labelled - and there’s even a bottle of Jameson to hand beside the porridge, for you to help yourself!

So what exactly is a guesthouse? In the AirBnB era, this question is being asked more and more often. Bigger than a B&B (2-6 rooms) and smaller than most hotels, a guesthouse has 7 to 30 en-suite bedrooms and must be registered with Fáilte Ireland in order to use the term. Breakfast must be provided and, in the Guide’s experience of this somewhat misunderstood and underrated category, the best Irish guesthouses provide some of the finest accommodation, food and hospitality in the country - as our winners demonstrate.

Winner: Wineport Lodge Glasson Athlone Co Westmeath
ABOUT: Ray Byrne and Jane English’s unique shoreside lodge overlooking Lough Ree started life in 1993 as a restaurant and - although it now has thirty beautiful rooms (all with private balconies overlooking the lake), a hot tub and treatment rooms - the lovely contemporary restaurant remains its heart, serving fine meals with warmth and professionalism. The food experience has always been about seasonal local produce and a formal meal in this stunning venue is a special outing - but it’s also ideal for Afternoon Tea or a casual daytime bite in the bar, and it makes a perfect journey break.
Special breakfast highlights?
A softly gleaming jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, Wineport is a wonderful place at any time, and there is something very special about beginning the day enjoying wholesome local food from the likes of Kilbeggan Organic Oats (porridge or granola) and Horan’s pork butchers in Athlone, while taking in the constantly changing light and wildlife on the lough just a few feet away from your table. And it’s especially wonderful at weekends when a superb brunch menu comes into play, offering everything from the super healthy to the frankly indulgent. Tasty dishes like Croque Monsieur, Steak’n’Eggs or Smashed Avocado leap off the page, while Superfood Salad is a longstanding favourite and the gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options are very appealing - but the Traditional Irish Brunch (aka the Full Irish) is still hard to beat! All round, it’s a winner.

Highly Commended: Castlewood House Dingle Co Kerry
ABOUT: Just five minutes’ walk west of Dingle Town, this luxurious purpose-built guesthouse is a younger sister of Heatons House and, although they are independent businesses, the gardens are linked and it’s a close family unit. It’s run by Brian and Helen Heaton - who have both worked in some of Ireland’s finest hotels, and for whom nothing is too much trouble to ensure that their guests enjoy the very best of Irish hospitality. Attention to detail is seen in everything they do, from the outstanding in-room facilities provided to the delicious breakfasts freshly cooked to order from a wide-ranging menu and served in the sea view dining room.
Special breakfast highlights?
The daily buffet offers an impressive range of fruit dishes along with charcuterie and cheese (the lovely Little Cheese Shop in Dingle is a supplier). Very community focused, they buy as many products locally as possible - O’Connors Maherees fruit and veg, Mannings Eggs, Iasc Ui Mhathuna and Ted Brownes fish - and all baked goods are made in-house Brian’s breakfast brings many guests (new and repeat) to Castlewood House and it’s easy to see why- and, unusually for a guesthouse, they also welcome non residents by reservation.

Highly Commended: Killarney Lodge Killarney Co Kerry
ABOUT: Set in private walled gardens just a couple of minutes walk from the town centre, this is one of the most conveniently located places to stay in Killarney. Run with warm professionalism by a member of one of the area’s most respected hotelier families, Catherine Treacy, it is also one of the best. It’s a fine, very comfortable purpose-built guesthouse: the spacious rooms have all the amenities expected of an hotel, plus the care that only hands-on owner management can give. All that, and private parking too.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast at Killarney Lodge is excellent, including home-baked breads and scones and a tempting array of juices, fruit, cheeses and so on - all displayed in their own chill cabinet, which is highly unusual. Cooked to order dishes include everything from from porridge to the Full Irish and, in between, there are pancakes (served with stewed apple and cinnamon, perhaps - very enjoyable), waffles, cinnamon toast with bananas, mushrooms on toast, and, of course, all kinds of eggs, including scrambled, poached and boiled...Lovely service too, from Catherine and her staff.

Highly Commended: Blackwell House Scarva Co Armagh
ABOUT: Complimentary cream tea for guests arriving between 3 and 4pm is just one of the nice little extras offered by Stephen and Joyce Brownless at their splendid guesthouse near Banbridge. Open since 2014, it is set in lovely rolling drumlin country on the Armagh-Down border, and makes a great base for exploring a wide area - including Belfast and Dublin which are both easily accessible for day visits. Local and homemade food is central to life at Blackwell and dinner is available, enjoyed communally around a fine big table.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast is a reflection of the best of Ulster’s traditional fare, with a nod to current trends thrown in. Cooked to order dishes include their own eggs any way, a fine local rendition of the Ulster Fry (of course), Griddle pancakes, smoked Ardglass haddock, porridge, and avocado on soda bread with salted poached eggs - and attention to detail is seen everywhere, in small items like leaf tea and homemade marmalade and jams. And, true to the great Ulster baking tradition, Great Aunt Maggie’s 100 year old black griddle pan and her hand written recipe books live on at Blackwell House - and Joyce even offers a griddle bread baking class to interested guests.

Highly Commended: Gleesons Townhouse Roscommon Co Roscommon                                                                                                                                                                    IRELAND’S HIDDEN HEARTLANDS
ABOUT: Overlooking the square, Mary and Eamonn Gleeson’s townhouse and restaurant provides just what every visitor hopes to find: a warm welcome, comfortable rooms and good food. The Gleesons place great emphasis on food, offering wholesome fare in their popular coffee shop and extensive all day menus in the Manse Restaurant. They buy local where possible, including produce from the weekly farmers’ market (which takes place just a few yards from their door), and take pride in offering the region’s great meats in house specialities such as their renowned version of the classic Irish Stew.
Special breakfast highlights?
With all the (mainly local) suppliers credited, the tempting breakfast menu reflects the ethos of this business. A well stocked buffet includes a great selection of freshly baked breads and scones (some of which are available to buy), and many of the hot dishes feature Roscommon producer Ray Gannon’s wholesome free range eggs. They provide the key ingredient in the Free Range Omelette, for example, and they star on the Vegetarian Breakfast plate, also in the popular toasted sourdough with avocado, spinach and poached eggs - or with Kelly’s of Newport’s famous black and white puddings and other meats from local supplier Lundy Foods. All very tasty - and, importantly, very pleasant and helpful staff ensure a happy experience.

The family run B&B is our most familiar accommodation across Ireland and, whether rural or urban, it’s especially popular with overseas visitors. So what makes a great B&B? They can be anything from a roadside bungalow to a historic house or a restaurant with rooms, but all of the best are lovely, friendly places to stay, offering comfort at a reasonable price, great breakfasts and interested hosts who anticipate their guests’ needs yet give them space – and who enjoy nothing better than introducing people to their area. We have some superb B&B stays on offer in Ireland - but there is room for many more, and we’d like to see more B&B, including farms, upping their game to make this a more obvious choice for discerning visitors.

Winner: Bantry House and Garden, Bantry Co Cork
ABOUT: Whether as a destination stay in their beautiful rooms, or for refreshment when visiting the house and garden at the Shelswell-White family’s famous 18th century mansion overlooking Bantry Bay, (both open to the public), a visit to their Tearoom is highly recommended. Once you have seen the mouth-watering food laid out for display, you will be very glad you chose to come here - and the elegant surroundings and wooded walks are wonderful. Afternoon Tea (pre-booked) is also available, in The Library
Special breakfast highlights?
The breakfast offered to B&B guests at Bantry House is a delight – freshly squeezed orange juice, proper leaf tea, plunger coffee, and two sideboard buffets offering delicious fruits, yogurts, homemade granola, Irish cheeses and charcuterie, brown bread, scones … and that’s before you look at the menu! The menu then tempts you further with what’s in the kitchen; traditional porridge, pancakes, the full Irish (featuring Clonakilty black & white pudding), scrambled eggs with Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon, and Sally Barnes’ kippers. An experience to cherish.

Highly Commended: Ardawn House Galway
ABOUT: Mike and Breda Guilfoyle’s hospitable guesthouse is convenient to the university and just a few minutes walk from Eyre Square. Accommodation is very comfortable, with good amenities and Mike and Breda take great pride in every aspect of the business, (including an extensive breakfast) and help guests to get the very best out of their visit to Galway
Special breakfast highlights?

The breakfast menu is mainly the Full Irish and variations thereof - eggs feature throughout, with bacon, with sausages, or with smoked salmon - but the secret is in the careful cooking. And then there’s that other hard to measuree component, which is special about everything at Ardawn House: the exceptional hospitality. Food tastes so much better when there is real warmth and shared pleasure in its service.

Highly Commended: Ghan House Carlingford Co Louth
ABOUT: One of Carlingford’s most interesting houses, the Carroll family’s 18th century property is attractively situated in its own walled grounds on the edge of the medieval village. Atmospheric rooms in the main house have sea or mountain views and an adjacent building offers newer accommodation. Residents and other guests in for dinner can mingle and relax in the bar, or beside the fire in the drawing room.
Special breakfast highlights?
Recalling a more leisurely age when this lovely property was a private home, breakfast is served in a first floor ‘ballroom’. It provides a scenic start to the day, with views across Carlingford Lough to the Mountains of Mourne in County Down - an atmospheric spot to enjoy a meal that reflects another side of Ghan House, which also acts as a bespoke cookery school that has always championed local produce. Home made treats like breads, scones and preserves feature, also cooked to order dishes including fresh and smoked fish - and, of course, the ever-popular Ghan House Fry.

Highly Commended: Shelburne Lodge Kenmare Co Kerry
ABOUT: The oldest house in Kenmare, Tom and Maura Foley’s house is a fine stone building with lovely gardens, and they have run it with great style and attention to detail for nearly a quarter of a century. Elegant and extremely comfortable, with an inviting log fire and interesting books to read, the feeling is of being a guest in a private country house. Their breakfasts set a benchmark standard in the area from the outset and, at night, guests are directed to the family’s restaurant, Packie’s, where Maura was the owner-chef for many years before opening Shelburne Lodge.
Special breakfast highlights?
Maura Foley was way ahead of the posse in recognising the value of quality local ingredients and her hand written ‘Produce & Suppliers’ list covers everything on the menu from the full Irish (four esteemed suppliers in Cork and Kerry for the main ingredients alone), to Sean O’Leary’s Kenmare honey. The daily menus - which are surprisingly extensive for a small establishment - include variations on key elements (pancakes, fish, fruit compotes…), also based on hand written notes. The cooking is simple, the service warm - the experience always memorable.

Highly Commended: Aldridge Lodge Duncannon Co Wexford
ABOUT: Billy Whitty and Joanne Harding have a well-earned following for the excellent food and warm hospitality at their restaurant with rooms overlooking the picturesque fishing village of Duncannon. Billy’s fine modern Irish cooking showcases superb local produce, including some supplied by family members. A super destination, offering outstanding food and lovely accommodation.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breakfast includes an excellent Full Irish (in two sizes) and some brunchy dishes that are lifted by special details as well as quality ingredients - the beans offered on toast with poached egg are homemade, for example, and so is the brown sauce served with a Crowe's Farm bacon sandwich - and, of course, there’s fresh fish. It would be hard to beat a magnificent plate of plaice that comes with a poached egg (choice of hen or duck), tomatoes and a Portobello mushroom. Some terrific starters too, including pear poached in red wine - a great way to start the day.

Our Visitor Attractions are not generally known for their food - and, all too often, can be downright disappointing. This is letting everyone down, and it’s a missed opportunity to enhance the experience. But it doesn’t have to be like that - and it is improving. Our winners this year offer very different experiences, focusing on interests as diverse as the arts, gardens, our maritime heritage and science, yet they all have one thing in common: a memorable food experience. All are food destinations in their own right and - crucially - they’re accessible to all, as you don't have to pay the entrance fee to the attraction in order to eat there. Each offer a great example for our visitor centres to aspire to.

Winner: The Lightkeeper’s House Café Hook Lighthouse Visitor Centre Co Wexford
ABOUT: The pride of Ireland's Ancient East, the magnificent Hook Head Lighthouse dates back 800 years and is the oldest working lighthouse in the world. Tours - including the climb up '115 well worn steps' - are available all year round, and the stunning 360 degree views repay the effort many times over. It's a fascinating and atmospheric place for a day out and very popular with families, with regular fun activities offered and also an annual calendar of special events and late opening occasions for all ages. And, with a good café and bakery on site, it has become a favourite destination for a bite to eat too.
Special breakfast highlights?
You’ll hardly find a more spectacular location for a café and an excellent weekend Brunch Menu is available all day Saturday and Sunday. Expect morning mainstays such as Eggs Benedict and Ballyhack Smokehouse Salmon, also Protein Packed Avocado Toast and local mushrooms with toasted sourdough. A favourite is the Hook Lighthouse Home-made Pancakes (beer and cardamon sugar pancakes), with various toppings: banana, crispy bacon, Ballyhack Smokehouse salmon, cream cheese and, of course, maple syrup. A good hot cuppa is the drink of choice here - but local Ballycross apple juice is a delicious alternative.

Highly Commended: The Castle Café Blackrock Castle Cork
ABOUT: Judy Howard, Tracy Corbett and Conrad Howard (of Market Lane, ORSO Kitchen Bar, and Elbow Lane in Cork city), own this bright modern Leeside restaurant at the Blackrock Castle and Observatory. It is a friendly and welcoming place with riverside walks nearby, plenty of outside seating for fine weather, and a lively atmosphere. Great service and fresh and flavoursome local ingredients come first here - and they offer real value for money too.
Special breakfast highlights?
The Castle Café offers a terrific morning menu, with plenty of light options and brunch classics - including some especially gorgeous egg dishes and excellent vegetarian and vegan options - but it’s the Cork producers’ breakfast with delicious Rosscarbery bacon, black pudding and sausage that steals the show.

Highly Commended: Lennons@VISUAL Carlow Co Carlow
ABOUT: Well known restaurateur Sinead Byrne and her son Ross run the restaurant at this stunning cultural amenity in the heart of Carlow Town. There’s a spacious terrace and floor to ceiling windows allow views of Carlow Cathedral and Carlow College across the grass. Local artists’ paintings are displayed for sale and there’s great pride of place - a perfect spot to enjoy simple, homely food with a real local flavour. A super spot.
Special breakfast highlights?
The long established Lennons philosophy is to use the best local and regional artisan produce (most of the suppliers detailed are in Carlow and the South-East) and the appealingly simple food is cooked to order. Many people come for the leisurely Sunday brunch when the speciality is Poached eggs various way - Benedict (with back bacon) Florentine (with creamed spinach), Royale (with Meyler’s oak smoked salmon), all served with double cooked chips…

Highly Commended: The Kitchen Galway City Museum Galway
ABOUT: Well placed near the Spanish Arch, Galway City Museum The Kitchen at the Galway Museum is a highly popular attraction, engaging visitors interested in the archaeology, history and sea science of Galway. It also has a well established, friendly café where head chef and proprietor Michelle Kavanagh’s extensive travels bring an eclectic mix of flavours to the table. This is 'good for you' food where there is a respect for ingredients and pride in the carefully sourced product.
Special breakfast highlights?
Great coffee, freshly squeezed juices to order (apple & celery; orange, carrot & ginger; or watermelon & orange, for example) and a menu offering fresh and exciting options, including a Mexicana brekkie. Mini scones are made with Cuinneog natural buttermilk from Mayo, and Gannet fishmongers supplies the smoked salmon (served with horseradish sour cream on their own treacle bread. The long-established all-day weekend brunch has a following - and there's always a warm 'Kitchen' welcome for the vegans of the city too, with menu items like 'hummus, quinoa and roasted flatcap mushroom wrap'.

Highly Commended: Avoca Café Malahide Castle Malahide Co Dublin
ABOUT: North County Dublin is generously supplied with lovely places to visit, and the 12th century Malahide Castle and its extensive grounds would be high on any list of favourites. Surrounding the castle, there are woodland walks, sports grounds, a children’s playground and botanical gardens, including a Secret Walled Garden with Ireland’s only Butterfly house. Atmospherically situated in an old stone courtyard, the Avoca Café is a great asset to the castle demesne offering great baking and the famously home cooked fare based as much as possible on local and artisan produce.
Special brunch highlights?
They think of everything at Avoca and the range of breakfast and brunch dishes is just what you want before or after an hour or two exploring the grounds. The full breakfast is predictably different (it comes with salad) and there are variations of all the classic morning treats including the humble scone. But get there early - although large, it’s always busy.

Irish Dairy The Complete Natural Brunch Award 2019
Sponsored by Irish Dairy The Complete Natural

Marking the first time that a Georgina Campbell award has been open to public participation, public nominations were invited this year for the Irish Dairy The Complete Natural Brunch Award 2019. Nominations came from all over the country and, like brunch itself, were fascinating in their diversity. Of all meals, this is the one that reflects modern Ireland the best and its flexible timing, relaxed approach and wide-ranging menu base give brunch a unique multi-generational appeal. The high calibre of nominations made the choices very difficult but, from a long list of over 20, we finally selected the five that we felt best convey the essence of the ideal brunch in both urban and rural areas. And the nominations also introduced us to a lot of promising places that are new to us, so we look forward to visiting them during the coming year.

Winner: The Fumbally Dublin
ABOUT: The Fumbally is as much a community as it is a café. Created by Luca D’Alfonso and Aisling Rogerson, good food, coffee and people are at the heart of its ethos. Simple organic food promoting provenance is key to its menus, with a focus on creating rustic, fresh, healthy and seasonal dishes for breakfast and lunch. The open-plan café space is a communal one, where tables are shared for meals, chats and meetings. It makes for a spirited, friendly atmosphere often with a soundtrack of live music and an aroma of spices. Sharing the site is The Fumbally Stables, an atmospheric venue used for workshops and events, recipe development and more.
Special brunch highlights?
The Fumbally is nothing less than an institution, and sustainabiliity is key - they champion local producers on their menu, and try to use organic foods as much as possible. This strong ethical foundation means customers are served quality food with heart and inspiration - and at great value. Breakfast time is always buzzing and The Fumbally's famous egg dishes are hard to say no to; lightly scrambled free range eggs with olive oil, garlic and tomatoes served on toasted sourdough are simply delicious - and Gubbeen hot smoked ham makes an irresistible tasty little extra!

Highly Commended: Nook Café & Restaurant Collooney Co Sligo
ABOUT: Open since 2016, the colourful Ethna Reynolds has created a seriously impressive menu in this little gem of a café in Collooney, which has become a popular spot for breakfast and lunch. The first thing you’ll notice about the menu – besides how tempting every dish sounds – is the focus on fresh, local artisan ingredients, from the meat to the cheese and right down to the beautiful salad leaves. It’s an absolutely delightful and well worth a stop en route to Sligo town, or as a destination in its own right.
Special brunch highlights?
Praise from Nook’s regular customers is nothing if not consistent. Everybody loves the menu (‘innovative, unique and fun’), there’s high praise for innovative use of local produce such as Velvet Cloud yoghurt, Andarl Farm pudding (must-try: Andarl farm black pudding Benedict) and Dozios swiss-style cheese from Carracastle; also for the ‘best vegan and vegetarian breakfast options in Ireland’ - and the brilliant service. A one-off.

Highly Commended: The Green Barn Burtown House Athy Co Kildare

ABOUT: A visit to the Fennell family’s early Georgian property is one of the most rewarding days out to be found anywhere in Ireland; the beautiful gardens, woodland and artworks feed the soul - and, although the previous small café had a special charm that some regular customers still miss, The Green Barn (restaurant, exhibition space, artisan foods and retail) continues to offer very seasonal food (much of it home produced, alongside favourites like Burtown organic Dexter beef burgers. It has developed wonderfully well of late and there’s a sense of growing confidence as the productive gardens around it mature, and the ‘grand plan’ emerges for all to enjoy.
Special brunch highlights?
The Green Barn café is an atmospheric place by any standards but, now that the gardens are settling in around it, you can see the season’s ingredients from your table - and that’s especially satisfying at brunch time, when healthy deliciousness is what’s needed most. Honest, unfussy, unpretentious food is the promise and that means the likes of freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, classic egg dishes with homemade sourdough toast, the house variation on the Irish breakfast, smashed avocado with Mausu peanut butter rayu, and more. Deelish.

Highly Commended: House of Plates Castlebar Co Mayo
ABOUT: The name House of Plates refers to Barry and Helen Ralph's dining style of offering a number of small dishes, perhaps for sharing, rather than the traditional menu. A bit like tapas but, being big-hearted Mayo, the portions are more generous than that implies…either way, Barry's philosophy of working with the region's terrific producers (their 'food partners') will make sure that what you get on your plate in this friendly 'rustic industrial' restaurant is a real taste of the best of Mayo.
Special brunch highlights?
A delicious small dish like Galway Goats Farm Cheese with Beetroot, honeycomb, pine nuts and pear will start off the day on a high with its punchy flavours, or - heading towards the lunch end of brunch perhaps - some Clew Bay Oysters with lemon and tabasco, seaweed and lemon. It's the fresh textures and big tastes that stand out - and the super friendly and very well informed staff who know their menus back to front. There's no show-off cooking, but everything is just right including the price - and vegetarians and vegans will do very well here, thanks to the great flavours.

Highly Commended: Brunel’s Restaurant Newcastle Co Down
ABOUT: Having moved from their original small but cosy home above The Anchor Bar to a much better location near the Slieve Donard Hotel, Brunel's may no longer be hidden but it is still a real gem in this famous seaside town. Friendly staff greet new arrivals to a delightful restaurant that's named (and themed) to honour the pioneering Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel's connections with the town, and is full of quirky charm. And the food is terrific. Head Chef Paul Cunningham has earned a following for creative, ingredients-led cooking and those in the know travel from a wide area to enjoy his flavoursome food. The cooking is terrific - every dish looks great and, more importantly, is bursting with flavour - and the excellent service and pleasing surroundings create a sense of occasion, so even the lightest meal here will feel like a treat.
Special brunch highlights?
Brunch is available every day at Brunel’s, which is a USP in itself, and the mouthwatering menu is perfectly balanced to bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch; showcasing mainly local produce (egg and dairy producers just 10 minutes away, meats 20 minutes), there’s a brilliant range of dishes and virtually everything is made in-house. From the egg dishes, scrambled eggs with Jameson cured sea trout is something a bit different, and steak and eggs (6oz sirloin, fried eggs, béarnaise sauce, watercress - served with parmesan soda or treacle soda…) is increasingly popular. But nothing can compete with Brunel’s Fry Up (Carnbrooke Meats sausages, smoked bacon, fried egg, Clonakilty black pudding, tomato, seasonal mushrooms and treacle soda) which is available as a small or large plate and tops the bill every time.

A new category introduced for 2019 - recognising the importance of the Irish Breakfast Menu is providing a tangible link between the wonderful Irish produce that is available to kitchens all over the country and the visitors - both international and domestic - who will benefit from the sense of place that a meaningful menu can create. The winners were chosen from the dozens of excellent menus that were submitted by establishments responding to the Irish Breakfast Survey recently completes by Georgina Campbell’s Guides on behalf of Fáilte Ireland.

Winner: Breac.House Dunfanaghy Co Donegal
ABOUT: Heaven for design lovers is to be found at this beautifully located south-facing boutique B&B on Horn Head, just a short distance from Dunfanagahy. Opened in 2017 by former Dublin accountants Cathrine Burke and Niall Campbell (and ten years in the planning), Breac.House is an ode to the rugged beauty of North-West Ireland and everything about this modern retreat is a celebration of the region's talents, craftsmanship, materials and produce. Although it is a large house there are just three guest rooms, each with its own private terrace or balcony, a custom-made super king oak bed and many bespoke details including a specially designed hatch that allows your breakfast tray of local treats to arrive silently "as if by magic", to be enjoyed at leisure.
Special breakfast highlights?
Breac.House offers one of Ireland’s most holistic hospitality experiences - maybe because it was a long time in the making, the philosophy is so well thought through that every element complements the whole. This includes a daily-changing seasonal breakfast menu, which is very personal (‘Good morning Anne & Paddy, We hope you had a lovely sleep…’) and, like everything else at this exceptional destination, is a celebration of the locality. Many of the items on the tray are homemade - bread and pastries, butter and preserves, seasonal fruit compote, granola and yogurt - and 'main course' dishes tend to be based on local salmon (eg “The Haven” turf smoked Donegal salmon, Boiled Horn Head hens egg) or local pork (‘Terrine of Donegal Ham Hock with prune compote, Boiled Horn Head Duck egg’, perhaps) with vegan/vegetarian options available and any allergies/preferences expressed by guests taken into account. And they finish off with bite size sweet cake or little treats such as ‘Mini Horn Head damson tarts’ - just like dinner!

Highly Commended: Coolanowle Country House & Organic Farm Ballickmoyler Co Carlow
ABOUT: Set on three acres of natural woodland with three lakes and lots for children to do, Bernadine and Jimmy Mulhall’s organic farm is perfect for people of any age who enjoy rural life. They offer lovely homely B&B with an open fire to relax beside, home cooking featuring their own meats, fruit and vegetables, and self-catering accommodation too. There’s a farm shop selling their organic meats (also available online and from farmers’ markets), and they also host weddings and events and offer holistic treatments (nearby).
Special breakfast menu highlights?
The standout feature of the Coolanowle breakfast menu is its immediacy - so much of it is the produce of their own organic farm that just reading it makes you feel as if you’re standing in the yard in well worn wellies. It includes their own delicious home-cured bacon and home-made sausages and newly-laid eggs among the treats - a breakfast to remember. If every visitor to Ireland could experience this kind of hospitality, we’d be beating them from the door.

Highly Commended: King Sitric Restaurant & Accommodation Howth Co Dublin
ABOUT: Established in 1971, Aidan and Joan MacManus’s elegant sea-view restaurant with rooms is one of Dublin’s original fine dining establishments. Aidan’s famous commitment to the best of seasonal, local produce is seen on menus that offer outstanding, mainly seafood, dishes for every budget - treats matched by one of the country’s finest wine lists. Their son Declan MacManus, and his wife Susan, are also closely involved with managing the business, which includes the affordable and hugely popular contemporary East Café Bar, on the ground floor, and the rooms, which have recently been refurbished in a smart nautical style.
Special breakfast menu highlights?
Where to begin...The buffet offers all the quality that King Sitric fans would expect, including Glenisk Organic Yoghurt, Irish farmhouse cheese, James McGeough air-dried meats from Connemara and Aidan’s modestly-entitled ‘house-made jams and marmalades’ - including Jameson Whiskey marmalade, and also half a dozen less usual combos such as plum & vanilla (all a match for their lovely brown bread, a 2017 winner in the Irish Bread category). The main menu is equally impressive (Flahavans porridge, Clonarn eggs…) but it’s the fish that really blows everyone away - simply cooked fresh fish of the day from the harbour is superb, of course, but there’s also a mini-menu (salmon, haddock, kippers) ‘from our own little smoke house’. Magic!

Highly Commended: Viewmount House Longford Co Longford
ABOUT: Surrounded by beautiful gardens created over two decades, the heart of James and Beryl Kearney’s lovely Georgian property is its famous VM Restaurant, which has taken the midlands by storm since opening in 2008, making Longford a must-visit destination for food lovers. The cooking is grounded in the familiar products of the region, and not overly cheffy - well worth a journey.
Special breakfast menu highlights?
Quite an extensive (and very delicious) breakfast menu is served in the unusual vaulted dining room. In its quiet way it's very evocative - how many breakfast menus lead off with a local poem of times almost forgotten, written by a blind fiddler ('Raftery')? And each item offered speaks of the philosophy of this lovely house and its relationships with a network of special producers and suppliers in the surrounding area. Every detail of this unshowy meal is just right - it's an experience that lingers in the mind.

Highly Commended: Ravenhill Guest House Belfast
ABOUT: Roger and Olive Nicholson’s late-Victorian redbrick house has a sense of seclusion despite being on a busy road. It’s a very welcoming house and the bedrooms are comfortable and stylishly furnished, with lots of little extras such as fresh milk kept handy in a fridge for guests’ use. An excellent base for a stay in Belfast - and breakfast is sure to be the highlight of a stay here.
Special breakfast menu highlights?
The Nicholsons buy all their fresh goods from local farmers and producers at the weekly St George’s Market, and they love nothing better than to share that information through their menu and website. They make everything possible on the premises, including muesli, fruit compotes, shortbread and preserves like fruit syrups and jellies. And, not only do they make both wheaten bread and sourdough breads with organic wheat and rye grain from Dunany Farm, Co Louth - but they even grind the flour themselves, just before the daily baking. Beat that!

The Irish Breakfast can be a wonderful experience - but it’s only as good as its ingredients. All cooking depends on the quality of ingredients for success and the simpler the meal the more obvious that is - and breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day, but it is also the simplest. On the upside, that offers a unique opportunity to showcase the excellent Irish produce that is central to a memorable breakfast experience, and especially the traditional breakfast plate - the crispy rashers, the succulent sausages, the beautiful free range egg - but, on the downside for those who are running price-led food operations, any shortcuts taken are glaringly obvious. We aim to encourage everyone who offers an Irish breakfast to make it a really good one. To that end, we have selected some of the key elements of a good breakfast - Meats, Fish, Cereals, Eggs, Fruit and Dairy - and heartily commend a producer in each that is notable for consistent excellence. Most are also medium sized business that have the scale of production needed for consistent supply to hotels. Source authentic ingredients and the difference will show on the plate.

Castlemine Farm Roscommon Co Roscommon
Brothers Derek and Brendan are the current generation of Allens to run the family farm near the exceptionally tidy town of Keadue (several times a winner in the annual Tidy Towns competition) and, as they say tellingly, to care for the land. This likeable and innovative family produce pasture fed beef (Aberdeen Angus, Limousin, Charolais and Hereford), lamb, rare breed pork (Saddlebacks, Gloucester Old Spots, Tamworths and crosses), poultry and vegetables; while not organic, it is a traditional farm run on extensive principles and with animal welfare at its heart. The stock is all free range, fed mainly on home grown fodder when grass on the farm's limestone pastures is unavailable, and allowed to grow at nature's slow pace - and they then hang beef for at least 21 days and lamb for 7 to 10 days before butchering. All this care is reflected in the quality and flavour of the produce sold in their smart farm shop and production unit in Roscommon town, at markets, and online. All of their core products are highly relevant in the hospitality industry and any quality-led establishments serving breakfast should consider investing in their dry-cured bacon and free range sausages, especially - happy customers will tell the tale.

Woodcock Smokery Castletownshend Co Cork

Ireland has many excellent smokehouses, and some outstanding ones, but few would disagree that the benchmark has been set by Sally Barnes whose iconic Woodcock Smokery dates back to 1981. Her philosophy closely matches that of the Slow Food movement, which she enthusiastically supports, and her traditionally smoked range of ‘Wild and Sustainable Fish Products’, notably smoked salmon, has earned every conceivable accolade. No artificial chemicals or dyes are used, only traditional smoking methods over native hardwoods, and she deals exclusively with fresh wild fish caught by sustainable methods. And, although her superb matured wild smoked salmon and wild smoked salmon have deservedly attracted international praise at the highest level, the range of fish currently offered also includes cold smoked haddock, hot smoked mackerel, hot smoked tuna and kippers - all or any of which it would be good to see featuring more often on Ireland’s breakfast menus.

Clonarn Clover Kells Co Meath

Established by Margaret and Leo Farrelly in 1983, this family business on the Meath-Cavan border is now Ireland’s leading producer of Bord Bia approved free-range eggs and Ireland's only producer of pasteurised free-range eggs. Using traditional farming methods and always determined to pursue free range and organic egg production, the Farrelly's Clonarn Clover range includes O’Egg branded organic eggs (supplied to Clonarn Clover by a certified organic egg farmer), brown and white shell eggs and - exclusively - pasteurised liquid free range eggs (whole egg and whites only), which are a godsend to bakers and the quality-led end of the catering industry. The story is inspiring and the product - also sold as Margaret's Free Range Eggs - is terrific. It’s always good to see quality eggs like these named-checked on breakfast menus.

Keeling Juices Ballyboughal Co Dublin

Fred Keeling's family has a very long association with fruit farming in North Dublin, and his business Keeling Juices has a well-earned reputation for the quality of the natural juices and related products they’ve been making since 2004. Their varied range of cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices includes terrific orange juices and the popular Pure Green health drinks like 'Beet Up', 'Liquid Lunch' and Ginger Tonic' - and what these 'free-from' products all have in common is a remarkable freshness of flavour. Made from 100% pure juice and without preservatives, their secret weapon is a natural preservation method known as HPP (High-Pressure-Processing) which keeps juices fresh longer without heating (pasteurisation) or additives, so the natural flavours are retained. The Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice with Bits, especially, tastes and smells as if it has just been squeezed and has a really refreshing, zesty flavour - and plenty of tasty bits in. It deserves a place on any breakfast menu where squeezing fruit daily on site is not a viable option - and hosts should be proud to credit in on the menu.


Paddy O’s Granola Cullahill Co Laois                                                                                                                                                                                                                               IRELAND’S ANCIENT EAST
As one of the famed O'Connells of Cullahill (relatives who have made their mark in Irish food include Darina Allen, Rory O'Connell and Tom O'Connell), Paddy O'Connell has a love of good Irish food and the entrepreneurial spirit in his genes. So it was no surprise when he came up with a brilliantly simple product based on local ingredients - in this case a delicious crunchy and sustainable anytime treat made from Irish grains. He tells the story of how he started making granola above his parents’ pub in Cullahill, trying and testing it on friends and family until it was just right… And now there’s a range of super granolas - with berries, fruit & seeds, strawberry & apple - and speciality items too, including a gluten-free option, a high protein granola, and even a grain-free version (nuts and seeds). They're available in 5kg and 10kg tubs - perfect for hotels and restaurants.

IRISH BREAKFAST FOODS - DAIRY:                                                                                                                                                                 Glenisk Organic Dairy Killeigh Co Offaly
Situated beside the Cleary family’s farm at Killeigh, Glenisk is Ireland’s largest organic dairy producer. Working with about 50 organic farmers, they produce cows’ milk and yogurt, a children’s range – yogurt and fromage frais – and also goats’ milk and yogurt. The scale of the operation means that their products can compete effectively with mainstream dairy foods, bringing organic production to a widely accessible level. This makes their excellent range - and particularly the versatile Glenisk Organic Bio Wholemilk Natural Yogurt - ideal for use in the hospitality sector and it is always a pleasure to see it name checked on menus.

If ever there was a perfect example that the little things matter, it’s bread. Every self-respecting hotel, B&B and restaurant makes their own special bread, and this simple gesture sets the tone for many a memorable experience. It’s one of the great strengths of Irish cooking, which makes it especially disappointing when tasteless commercial baking is offered instead of the real thing - and, in recent years, ‘new’ breads have joined our traditional soda breads which has enriched the range. This year’s winner is an interesting and particularly delicious example of Irish bread making at its best.

Longueville House Mallow Co Cork
ABOUT: Well located for exploring an exceptionally rewarding area including Cork city, the O’Callaghan family’s beautiful yet relaxed 18th century house is a luxurious and interesting place to stay. The river, farm and garden supply virtually all the fresh produce for chef-proprietor William O’Callaghan’s kitchen and their artisan products, including Longueville House Cider and Irish Apple Brandy. Country pursuits, including falconry, are available or you can just visit the walled garden (a productive working garden rather than a show piece), pigs and orchards. Dining here is special - and their Longueville House Cider & Walnut Bread is just one of the many details that ensure that their breakfasts are a particular treat.


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