People visit Ireland from all of the world, but particularly from France, Germany and the United States of America. For some it’s a short European holiday and others, an Ireland vacation is the trip of a lifetime.
The good news is, travelling gluten free in Ireland is pretty easy. There is a wide range of places to stay, a huge range of places to eat and plenty of shops with gluten free products.
So with that in mind, the first thing you want to plan is where you’re going.
There are thousands of fascinating places to visit and explore, activities to try and places to stay, so you can tailor your holiday exactly how you want it.
The first thing to know (if you didn’t already), is that Northern Ireland and Ireland are two separate countries, with different currencies, laws and languages. English is the main language of “the island of Ireland”, that’s Northern Ireland and Ireland combined, or North and South as it’s known locally. Irish is also spoken in Ireland but English is used throughout, including road signs, hotels and menus.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and follows British rules with speed limits in miles per hour and the British Pound as currency, while Ireland uses kilometres and Euros. Both countries drive on the left and use roundabouts. There are no four-way stops.
Travel between Northern Ireland and Ireland is completely open so you’re free to travel between the countries without restriction (aside from standard European flight requirements). Internal flights are available but as you can drive from the very north to the very south, geographically speaking in a few hours, driving is very popular.
Where in Northern Ireland and Ireland would you like to visit?
Now that you know you can travel around freely, where would you like to go?
In the North (Northern Ireland), there is the well known collection of tourist spots; Giants Causeway, St. Patricks’ Trail, Fermanagh Lakes, Mourne Mountains etc. Then there’s the golf, spas, cities, landmark buildings, Game of Thrones filming locations and Titanic exhibition centre.
It’s no different in the South (Ireland), with the Wild Atlantic Way, Dublin City, Donegal Coast, monasteries and many more. The activities are abundant too, from the more traditional horse riding to the exhilarating cliff running, there’s something for all ages and abilities.
This is where the local tourist information websites are really useful, for planning your trip.
Now it gets a little confusing.
Tourism NI (Northern Ireland), is the body responsible for marketing the attractions of Northern Ireland to domestic tourists, that’s us who live in Northern Ireland and Ireland. So if you’d like a peek at what the locals get, go here: tourismni.com
Discover Northern Ireland does the marketing for international tourists visiting Northern Ireland. So typically, if you’re coming from Europe, the USA, Canada etc. you would go here: www.discovernorthernireland.com
Then there’s Tourism Ireland, who market “the island of Ireland” to international visitors, that’s North and South: www.tourismireland.com, but it’s more of a trade body, attracting business and investment.
For the consumer (that’s us holiday-goers), the whole island is marketed at www.ireland.com, the “official holiday website” of Tourism Ireland.
Next we have Discover Ireland, the consumer website of Fáilte Ireland, who is the National Tourism Development Authority. The Discover Ireland website is the Ireland equivalent of Discover Northern Ireland: www.discoverireland.ie. Fáilte Ireland have their own, trade focused website at www.failteireland.ie
Congratulations, you are now as confused as a local. Here’s the simple translation.
If you don’t live in Northern Ireland or Ireland:
Go here for attractions in Northern Ireland: www.discovernorthernireland.com
Go here for attractions in Ireland: www.discoverireland.ie
For all things gluten free in Northern Ireland and Ireland, stay on this website.
What Sort of Accommodation Would You Like?
Accommodation choices are abundant throughout the island, from high class 5 Star castles and luxurious hotels to independently run B&Bs with as much attention to detail but on a much smaller scale. There’s also youth hostels and a network of public travel options around both countries. Tours are also very popular with extensive bus tour options and day trips alike, from both private operators and the public transport systems. City tour buses are also available in the hubs such as Dublin, Belfast, Londonderry and Cork.
The tourism websites will guide you on what’s available in the area you’re looking at visiting, but when it comes to gluten free, the most comprehensive database is available here.
There’s also a tremendous range of self-catering properties available which you can browse on this page.
Wherever you’re staying, you’ll probably want to eat out at least occasionally, or buy some food for catering, picnics or snacks.
Despite our reputation for potatoes and bread, we have an amazing range of seafood, home grown artisan products (which also make excellent, low cost gifts for people back home) and even lough food – our famous eels from Lough Neagh.
Shopping is a national pastime throughout the island (we use the weather as an excuse to stay indoors) so there’s a great range of shops wherever you go. Belfast and Londonderry, as the smaller of the major cities on the island have some excellent boutiques along with the major chain stores but Dublin has by far the greatest range of artisan stores with unique products.
Where the smaller cities and towns have fewer artisan shops, they more than make up for it in regular markets. Craft and food markets abound and all manner of fascinating, locally produced goods can be found. They’re also an excellent way to meet locals and spend a morning or afternoon enjoying live entertainment.
When it comes to food, there’s a great range here too.
In Northern Ireland, a selection of UK supermarkets are commonplace: Asda, Dunnes, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys and Tesco are never far away. The key thing to remember when moving from the North to the South, is these are UK based supermarkets. Once you’re into Ireland, you can find the same stores but different product ranges and same brand products with different ingredients, so always check the label. Curious tip – if you’re buying a gluten free Cadbury chocolate bar, try a UK one then one from Ireland – they look identical but taste different due to differing manufacturing processes.
For Northern Ireland, we have a gluten free food list available here.
For the whole island, there’s a new, user contributed shop directory to help each other (and especially tourists) find a shop near them.
The smaller chains keep a selection of gluten free food, such as Supervalu, Costcutter, Mace, Co-op, Spar and EuroSpar. Availability varies from store to store and Supervalu in the North is a completely different shop to Supervalu in the South. The good news is, they’re pretty much everywhere, along with health food shops so you’re unlikely to be stuck.
The larger chemists (pharmacies) also tend to carry a small range of gluten free food. Boots is the largest chain and have a range of food, particularly for young children and babies.
Local and tourist events run throughout the year, around the island. From international yacht racing to local football, festivals and markets, there’s regularly something going on. Event venues, festivals and markets can be hit and miss for gluten free food, so it’s always worth having a pre-packed snack but you wouldn’t have to travel too far for a cafe or restaurant. If you’re not travelling independently, it’s worth have a lunch box though.
We run an exclusively gluten free food market in the North, 4-5 times per year and try to hold them as widespread as possible. Our events calendar will have details of the next one.
In the South, the Coeliac Society of Ireland host in-store events around the country. You can see their events calendar here.
Help While on Holiday
If you need assistance while travelling, there are a number of groups you can contact.
If it’s an emergency, dial 999 or the European number 112 also works.
Northern Ireland has the UKs’ National Health Service, their website is http://online.hscni.net/
For local services such as a chemist, doctor, hospital or dentist go here: http://servicefinder.hscni.net/
Ireland has the Health Service Executive with a range of hospitals and private clinics: www.hse.ie
If you’re travelling from Europe with a European Health Insurance Card (formerly E111 card), you can get free treatment and reduced cost treatments: http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/schemes/EHIC/visitors/Visitors_to_Ireland.html
For medical advice relating to gluten free food, in Northern Ireland, the national association is Coeliac UK, their helpline number is 0333 332 2033
In Ireland, the Coeliac Society of Ireland don’t operate a helpline but they’re very friendly and will do their best to help with your query: 353-1-872 1471
For venue information, you can contact ourselves during office hours: In the North: 028 9263 9992, in the South: 048 9263 9992
You can also email us: [email protected]
Our Facebook and Twitter pages are also very active, with a friendly community who regularly answer each others queries about where to eat out, stay or buy food:
Some More Handy Resources
These are a few more of the gluten free resources we’ve put together which you might find useful:
- Game of Thrones Accommodation Map
- A short guide to international travel into Northern Ireland and Ireland
- Transit points offering gluten free food, e.g. airports, ports etc.
- Useful information for travellers in Ireland, including public transport links
- Gluten free pubs
- Gluten free bakeries
- Find a gluten free venue by town name
Popular searches for a holiday in Ireland: trips to Ireland, Ireland vacations, Irlande, Dublin, Irland, Irland Rundreise and Irlanda.