June 11, 2016
We have just returned from a bus tour through Ireland and Scotland. This type of trip is highly organized and most of the meals are provided as part of the package. As my first bus tour, I had no idea how they would be able to accommodate our dietary needs. In our group of 36 travellers, we started with 2 plant-based (my husband and myself), 1 vegetarian, 1 celiac and 1 dairy free. By the end of the tour, we were 3 plant-based, so I guess the plant-based meals were appealing.
The tour was arranged through Transat Holidays and they took care of the dietary restrictions. Since traditional Irish and Scottish food is animal protein heavy, I was expecting to eat more than a fair share of ‘chips’ (French Fries). I was pleasantly surprised with the variety and tastiness of the meals. Every pre-organized meal had a vegan option for us.
A full Irish breakfast was included in the package. A full Irish breakfast was generally eggs, several breakfast meats (included blood sausage, or black pudding, in Northern Ireland), grilled tomatoes, cereals, breads, and fruit. The vegan option were great; usually baked beans, potatoes, grilled tomatoes, toast, fresh and dried fruit. Never a problem leaving full after breakfast.
Lunch was generally on our own. Sometimes they were at a pre-organized venue specially designed to cater to bus groups. And they always had a vegan option, though often not noted on their menu, you had to ask for it. But at least they were all familiar with the request and were able to accommodate. These venues were well organized to get large groups in, fed and back out touring in short order. Their menus were generally simple with few options but the food was always very tasty and hot. I am not sure how they do it but the food was always served very hot. We never had a luke warm meal.
Arranged dinners were quite elaborate three-course affairs. A starter, a main and dessert. Since our dinners were often later in the evening, these were heavy meals to consume. I appreciated that the vegan options were lighter; a fruit plate or salad for a starter, rice or couscous and veggies for the main and another fruit plate for dessert.
About half of the dinners were on our own, which gave us the opportunity to search out a pub meal or local vegetarian restaurant.
We were really grateful for the wonderful meals. Sometimes we ended up eating a bit of dairy (Irish Soda Bread is usually made with buttermilk) and the meals were not whole food (white rice, oils). But we were able to get a goodly amount of fruit and veggies so we were happy.
So it is totally possible to travel plant based, and you don’t have to live on salads to do it. The important thing to remember is that if there are no options on the menu, ask. We would just ask for a plant based option and took whatever they offered. You might be surprised at the tasty meals you will get.
Some of my favorite meals included:
Johnnie Foxs Tavern in Dublin – the veggie option was Colcannon Soup and a delicious bean stew. They even made a special vegan and gluten free birthday cake for the group so that everyone could enjoy it.
Mushy Peas and Chips – my favorite pub food.
Galloway Street Market – Whole wheat samosa, curry and fresh squeezed carrot, ginger and apple juice. This was our first indication of a growing plant-based community in Ireland and I enjoyed chatting with the vendors.
Connaght Hotel in Galloway – Detox Salad with tofu and edamame beans
Jacksons Hotel in Ballybofey – I had a delicious roasted veg with baked potato. I got the meal by mistake as it was intended for the gluten free person; however, they quickly made her another and I enjoyed this simple tasty meal.
Green Smoothie – I was ecstatic to find a green smoothie on the menu at the little deli in Derry just outside the entrance to the old walled city. I was definitely missing my daily green smoothie and the glass of kale, cucumber, celery and pineapple goodness went down real well.
Raw Food Rebellion in Belfast – this was our first long stretch of free time during the trip. Tired of souvenir shops and site seeing, we hopped a local bus in search of this gem we found on the internet. Our efforts were well rewarded as we found our best meal of the trip.
The chef indulged us by offering a tasting of each of the menu items – Roasted Tomato Soup, Malaysian Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Curry, Raw Pad Thai, Roasted Chickpea Caesar Salad, Mighty Mexican Sandwich and Rebel Tacos. Combined with fresh made Kombucha and an Orange Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake and we were in heaven. If ever you find yourself in Belfast, be sure to check this place out.
Slums in Belfast – after our large lunch at Raw Food Rebellion we had not planned on having dinner; however, we ran into the new vegan on the trip and decided to join her. We opted for a simple Indian restaurant, with vegetarian options, close to the Europa Hotel called Slums. You get a bowl meal with your choice of rice, protein and veggies. Loved the eclectic décor – corrugated metal sheeting, chip board and funky benches. I opted for pampodums and chutney.
Luna Rosa in Glasgow – Not a vegetarian restaurant but they served a delicious risotto.
Taco Manzama in Glasgow – Located in the train station in downtown Glasgow close to The Jury hotel, they offer vegan options. Ken had a Tofu burrito bowl and I had a Mushroom and Eggplant Taco Salad. Very tasty and we enjoyed people watching in the station as we enjoyed our dinner.
The Baked Potato in Edinburgh – Another vegetarian gem we found on the internet. Located just spitting distance off the Royal Mile is was super convenient while sightseeing. It was just a little hole in the wall that served Jacket Potatoes (baked potatoes) with a variety of toppings. They have only one table with bench seating, but it was great for mixing with other tourists. We met a nice couple from Portland who were celebrating their 10th anniversary.
Ken opted for Vegan Haggis Samosas and I had a Jacket Potato with Haggis topping. I think if the rest of the group could have tried this haggis they would have loved it as the meat version was not a hit with anyone. This haggis was a combination of veggies, oatmeal and nuts (maybe lentils too but not sure). Will be trying to replicate this one as it was a great topping for a baked potato. They even had a Cherry Tiffan for dessert. Delicious.