Oyster shuckers at the ready, Galway is a haven for lovers of this most exclusive of molluscs. Known the world over for its fantastic local oysters, this particular stretch of Irish coastline is home to some of the best seafood you’re ever likely to sample. Situated on the shores of Lough Corrib, Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle offer the ideal base camp for culinary adventurers, with many of Galway’s top seafood restaurants and gastropubs on the doorstep. Take a look at our guide to the best oysters in Galway below.
A Quick Oyster Guide
Native to Irish shores and only in season from September–April, the local Galway Oyster is large and flat; a favourite amongst seafood gourmands due to its relative rarity, meaty texture and notes of seaweed and grass. More common, and available year-around, Gigas (or rock oysters) are also cultivated around the Irish coast – those with a fine-tuned palate will appreciate their subtle notes of melon and cucumber.
Run by brothers Michael and Diarmuid Kelly, Kelly Oysters sells some of the most sought-after oysters in Galway and supplies both Irish and international restaurants and fish wholesalers with the coveted native Galway oysters as well as rock oysters, mussels and clams. Fusing the salty waves of the Atlantic Ocean with fresh water from the surrounding rivers, Kelly Oysters enjoys ideal conditions for oyster farming at the peaceful inlet of Killeenara in Galway Bay – which in turn produces some of tastiest oysters in the world.
Where to Sample the Best Oysters in Galway
With its thatched roof and rustic wooden interiors, stepping into Moran’s Oyster Cottage is like being transported back in time. Dating back over 250 years, this popular restaurant is run by the Moran family (currently the seventh generation) and serves a magnificent selection of both native and rock oysters as well as other seafood delicacies like Irish lobster.
Another great place to try native oysters in Galway is at Martine’s Restaurant on bustling Quay Street. During the oyster festival season in September they open a dedicated pop-up oyster bar, complete with wine pairings and, of course, plenty of Guinness.
Half chippie, half seafood restaurant, McDonagh’s is a Galway classic – the local oysters on offer here are spoken of lyrically the world over – while over in the village of Barna (just a short drive from Galway city centre) and with views out over Galway Bay, O’Grady’s on the Pier is also a great place to sample native oysters alongside stunning local scenery.
Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
Over 20,000 seafood enthusiasts from all over the world arrive annually in Ireland for the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, traditionally held on the last weekend of September. A frenzy of oyster fans, Guinness, marching bands and vintage cars, this four-day seafood extravaganza is opened by the city major shucking an oyster (in one go, obviously) at midday on Eyre Square. With over 30 pubs and restaurants participating, this festival is considered one of the very best places to sample oysters in Galway.
Header Image: Diarmuid and Michael Kelly © Kelly Oysters