Galway’s best of the best

Back by popular demand, the new edition of Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Guide - The Best of the Best, the famous “glovebox bible”, is a highly selective, independently assessed guide to the very best of Irish food and hospitality.

Designed as a handy reference, to accompany the more extensive recommendations on the award winning website ireland-guide.com, its wide range of categories — hotels, restaurants, cafés, pubs, country houses, guesthouses, and farmhouses — ensures the best choices for the discerning traveller in all regions, at all times, and in all price ranges. A personal selection of the very best places to eat, drink, and stay, hand picked from the new, comprehensive, guide to Ireland’s best — there are many wonderful places to delight the most discerning traveller. It is the perfect digital detox.

Galway, for example, is strongly represented, with more than 60 entries illustrating the diversity of the county and the quality that is to be found here, including famous restaurants such as Aniar, Kai, and Loam; the Hotel of the Year, The Twelve at Barna, where local food has always been so proudly showcased; the world class Inis Meain Restaurant and suites on the Aran Islands; and many wonderful destinations in Connemara.

Special small places that lift the visitor’s spirits during the day play a special part. The pretty Teach nan Phaidi on Inis Mór, for example, or classic pubs such as Moran's Oyster Cottage and Paddy Coyne's, all give a true taste of place and creating indelible memories.

So what a fitting tribute it is to this stunning region that the City of the Tribes and the west of Ireland have been designated European Region of Gastronomy (www.galwaygastronomy.ie ) for 2018. The designation celebrates the area’s rich landscape, food heritage, innovative and creative people, and multi-cultural communities. The festivities from 2018 onwards will in turn generate strong roots for a developing strategy around food in the west, gaining momentum for the Capital of Culture celebration in 2020. The emphasis in this collection is on the all-round experience, especially for the ‘culturally curious’, and hosts who will engage enthusiastically with guests regarding places of local interest and artisan foods in the area, many of which feature on the website.

Explaining the rationale behind this new selection, Georgina Campbell said: “Exploring Ireland has always been a great experience and this book is testament to the enormous changes for the better that have recently been taking place in Irish food and tourism.

"It is over a decade since we published a new edition of The Best of the Best and it has been an interesting journey. I have no recollection of it being especially difficult to make our selections for the last Best guide — there were far less outstanding establishments to choose from, and the best choices seemed relatively obvious. 'Best' was generally seen as high-end and — although with honourable exceptions — the majority of our (much smaller ) selection tended to be well-established, and often famous, places in the upper price bracket.

"But now that has all changed. Disappointing experiences are still a real possibility of course, in all price ranges, but, in general, standards have been raised throughout the country and across the board," she added. "There’s now a special brand of excellence that covers a much broader spectrum and includes many very casual places to eat, drink, and stay, so this selection reflects that changing perception, and the fact that ‘best’ experiences are accessible to all, regardless of taste or budget.

"A stay at a simple island B&B or a converted horse truck, for example, can be at least as memorable as a break in a top hotel, and a casual meal in a beach shack might be the highlight of a holiday or business visit that also includes plenty of fine dining. Due to these very welcome improvements, making Best selections from our much bigger, but also excellent, broad-based main collection of recommendations in ‘the Guide’ has been challenging, but we have endeavoured to pick the very best of their type — often because they give visitors a special opportunity to experience Irish culture (including food culture ) and history — as much as for the world-renowned hospitality of the people and outstanding food and drink.”

The ideal reference for times when you are away from your desk and mobile coverage is infuriatingly absent, to keep in the car and beside the phone — and as a valued small gift — this quality production is supported by Hertz Ireland and a number of public bodies. It will be welcomed by fans of Georgina Campbell’s down-to-earth guides — and is sure to earn many new ones.

On sale now in bookshops and online from Ireland-guide.com (€20, p&p free in Ireland ).

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