If you want to see true, rural Ireland, then you need to head to the wild and rugged west coast, now popularly coined the Wild Atlantic Way. If you want to experience a true Irish character and a half, then you need to meet Gerry from Flaggy Shore Oysters! So why not combine the two, and sign up for an Oyster Tour through Traveling Spoon, an experiential travel site that connects travellers and locals through the medium of food. To read more about unique experiences with Traveling Spoon, check out my “Foraging with a Frenchman” article.
Flaggy Shore Oysters in located in New Quay, County Clare and is run by the charismatic Gerry and his daughter Ciara. What at first might look like a small, brightly painted building by the pier in New Quay is actually a masterful operation run by the pair.
Oyster Farming in New Quay
The oysters that are harvested by local fishermen and delivered to Gerry on a Monday morning are promptly purified, packaged and labeled, then put on flights around the world to be served up at high end restaurants from Dubai to China by Wednesday evening!
While many of the oysters are sold locally to nearby seafood restaurants and high end hotels such as Gregans Castle, the vast majority of Gerry’s oysters are exported around the world, with most flown out to China.
Gerry is very passionate about his oyster business, and the area, which has far more history than you can imagine. The name “New Quay”, he’ll tell you, came about after a Tsunami hit Galway Bay in 1755 and destroyed the village across the bay on what is now called Aughinish Island, separated it from mainland Clare forever more. As the old town was flattened and only ruins remain, a new village was built and was named New Quay.
Beautiful New Quay Harbour
Despite being a stone’s throw away from Aughinish Island, it now takes almost 30 minutes to drive the 17km long road that connect the two, at the northern tip of County Clare.
On a clear sunny day, the views from New Quay are spectacular. You can see Galway City across the bay to the right, beautiful Connemara across the bay to the right and a short walk down the Flaggy Shore will reward you with panoramic views of the harsh Burren landscapes.
Appreciating the breathtaking scenery and crystal clear waters of New Quay, will help you understand Gerry’s passion for his oysters and why these are some of the best in Ireland.
While he conducts an entire purification process, using sea water pumped in from the bay and UV lights to kill any bacteria, he says the water in New Quay is so clean that the purification and cleaning really isn’t needed.
If you walk down to the beach with him to pick some seaweed, which he uses to individually pack the oysters into custom made wooden boxes, you will see for yourself how clean the water is on this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way. You might even like to take a dip!
Gerry likes to “say it like it is”, and is an excellent judge of character, so you can expect his oyster tasting experiences to be nothing but memorable and far from PC depending on who’s standing in front of him! He’s a wealth of knowledge and is sure to fill you in on more than you asked for, and yet you’ll leave wishing you had asked more!
Once he has shown you the cleaning and packaging process, he will teach you how to crack open an oyster, and most importantly, how to properly eat one of the slimy things.
Cutting them open is very tricky and takes both experience and skill, while eating them is more about confidence and bravery, of which some people have neither!
Flaggy Shore Oysters
You can enjoy them with some white wine outside on the pier or take a box down to the Flaggy Shore, a stunning paved walkway that follows the coast around New Quay and is popular with locals and tourists alike. Nothing like eating oysters to the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore and enjoying one of the prettiest views in Ireland.
Once the tour is finished, you can choose to take some oysters home with you. Just be warned that you’ll be told to be careful choosing exactly when to eat them, as they’re said to be very strong aphrodisiacs. Whether the are or not, will be up to you to decide! ;-)