Among the rolling hills, quiet waters and bustling towns and villages along the Shannon-Erne Waterway, you’ll find a food scene that’s quietly turning the area into one of the island’s gourmet destinations…
Great local food is the order of the day in Ballyconnell and along the Shannon-Erne Waterway, with everything from fine-dining gems to classic pub grub. And after a day exploring the water or wandering the area’s great walking routes, it’s a real treat to retire to a great little restaurant or cosy bar where the focus is on great flavours and excellent local ingredients. The food scene in Cavan in particular is buzzing right now, with renowned cheesemakers Corleggy; critically acclaimed chefs, such as Neven Maguire at McNean House, Gearoid Lynch at The Old Poste Inn, and Richard Corrigan at Virginia Park Lodge, a popular wedding venue; and a cracking Taste of Cavan food festival every August. And it doesn’t stop there. Leitrim and Fermanagh are fast becoming food destinations in their own right, too, and punch well above their weight with lots of little surprises, from an artisan gin distillery in a disused shed in Drumshanbo to afternoon tea with views of the water at the scenic café in Crom Estate.
The Angler's Rest, Ballyconnell
If it's a warm welcome, a relaxing atmosphere and great pub grub you're after, then the family-run Angler's Rest in Ballyconnell certainly delivers with crowd-pleasing classics at good prices. The small intimate pub space at the front is perfect for a post-walk drink, but if you're after something to eat, head to the larger area at the rear, with chunky tables, flickering candles and friendly staff. With a focus on hearty dishes from steaks to fish and chips, you're guaranteed not to leave hungry.
Café Realta, Ballyconnell
This is the very definition of a great local café – a place where locals head for hearty all-day breakfasts, burgers, salad platters and sandwiches. Menu-wise, the focus is on die-hard favourites: burgers, southern fried chicken, homecooked lasagne, quiche and club sandwiches, making it a great option if you're eating out with hard-to-please kids and teens. And with dishes coming in at under €10, it's a budget-friendly option, too.
MacNean House, Blacklion
Just a short drive from the Shannon-Erne Waterway, you'll find one of the island of Ireland's most enjoyable dining experiences. Neven and Amelda Maguire opened MacNean House in 2001 and the restaurant has won countless awards and critical acclaim ever since. Using local ingredients and with menus that cover everything from vegetarian options to Sunday lunch, it's a delightful place that puts the emphasis firmly on fine dining. The prestige tasting menu is a pricey one at €89, but you'll be rewarded with dishes such as seared partridge breast with toasted brioche; game and foie gras terrine; sea bass with crab fregola and herb velouté; and tart tatin with panna cotta and apple sorbet.
Watermill Lodge, Lisnaskea
When it comes to stunning locations, it's hard to beat the Watermill Lodge. Perched right at the edge of Upper Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, it has a unique setting and a beautiful exterior with its thatched roof and mill wheels. Inside, the lounge offers glorious views out over the water and is a perfect spot to enjoy a pre-dinner drink. With a focus on French-influenced cuisine, the menu is delicate and creative and features dishes such as chicken cassoulet.
The Seven Horseshoes, Belturbet
This friendly hotel in the heart of Belturbet boasts a bar that's popular with locals and tourists alike. The original wattle wood ceiling gives an immediate sense of history as soon as you walk through the door, and a cosy traditional feeling comes thanks to the huge blazing fire and hand-cut stone walls. One of the oldest pubs in Cavan, it's a great spot for a relaxed pint, lunch or dinner.
Smyths Siopa Ol, Ballinamore
For those who prefer the traditional side of things when it comes to pubs, this place is a winner. Step through the front door and you're into an old-school atmosphere with crackling fires, trinkets, stone floors and great pints of Guinness. On quiet afternoons, you can almost hear the sound of the porter settling. Best pub on the Shannon-Erne Waterway? It could well be.
The Olde Poste Inn, Cloverhill
There's a real charm to Tara and Geroid Lynch's Olde Post Inn in the genteel village of Cloverhill, County Cavan. Set within the old post office dating from the 1800s, the surroundings are almost as delightful as the food, which is crafted using the finest ingredients from local suppliers.
The Barge, Leitrim Village
Drop in during the cooler months to the Barge Restaurant and Steakhouse in Leitrim Village, and you can enjoy dishes beside the open fire, while in summer the beer garden opens up for relaxed dining alfresco.