Not Just Another Roadside Attraction: Killary Fjord Shellfish

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

Killary Fjord Shellfish
Another day, another downpour on our Ireland roadtrip. Somewhat drenched from exploring Kylemore Abbey and its walled gardens, Dan and I decided to forgo additional outdoor adventures in Connemara and head back to Galway. Hugging the shore of the Killary Fjord along the N59, we marveled at Maumturk Mountains rising up from the water across the fjord.

Killary Fjord oystersOn account of the rain, our day had turned out to be somewhat of a bust, so we were looking forward drying off at the Oyster Bar at our hotel.  (That too ended up being a bust, so you won’t hear about that particular place on!)

As we approached Killary Harbour on the outskirts of Leenane, I spotted row after row of buoys strung out across the water – telltale signs of shellfish framing.  Things were looking up!

“We have to be able to stumble across someplace nearby  – a pub or restaurant – to sample some locally grown rock oysters,” I wished aloud.

(We had been doing a lot of both stumbling and wishing on our road trip.)

Killary Harbour oystersPeering through the pelting rain, Dan spotted what looked like a food truck parked along the fjord.  As this was a first for us in Ireland, we had to check it out.  That proved to be a very wise decision, as this was no ordinary food truck. The sign on the front read “Killary Fjord Shellfish”. Inside, Richard was waiting for us, oysters in hand!

“Well, you made our day,” I told him.  “So, where do you get the oysters?"
“Over there,” he said, pointing across towards the harbor.
“Over there” is always the best answer to that question.
lemon on Killary Fjord oysters

Richard started shucking, and within a minute or two, he handed over a paper plate with our first six oysters, a little seaweed, and a lemon wedge.  (€10 for a half-dozen  – roughly $US 2.25 each).

The nicely-sized, pear-shaped oysters with deep, scallop edged cups (Crassostrea gigas) are called “Gigas” by the locals and throughout Ireland.  They were brimming with liquor. Go Shuck An Oyster Ireland Without giving it a thought, I eagerly slurped the first one oyster.
The expression on my face tell is all. The liquor was fresh seawater, and I had just gulped down a lot of it, along with the oyster.

While Dan couldn’t help but laugh, Richard quickly handed me a bottle of water to help me reorient my oversalinated tastebuds.

“Try pouring out a little of the liquor next time,” Dan advised, still grinning. Richard explained that the water in his oysters had been feeding on for months needed to be properly savored.

Galway oystersPointing across the water, he explained that fresh rain water constantly flowed down the Maumturk Mountains into the fjord.  Salt water, loaded with tasty (at least if you are an oyster) phytoplankton, flowed in twice daily by the ebb and flow of the North Atlantic tides.  A perfect combination for growing his favorite oysters.

So, having poured out a little of the liquor, we sampled the remaining oysters. Richard was right. Once you get past the initial intense splash of brine, these plump buttery oysters have a lot to offer – including a refreshingly sweet seaweed flavor and a mellow mineral finish.

Sometime soon, I will return to Ireland to enjoy the native oysters in season. Maybe in late-September so I can finally attend the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, now in its 60th year.

Killary Fjord Shellfish
Killary Harbour, Leenane
County Galway, Ireland
+353 (0)87 622 7542