The festival, which runs this year from Sept. 8 to 17, is increasingly known as a must-do for foodies, yet it’s also an opportunity for any visitor to dive into local culture in a unique (and tasty) way. Events are spread out through eight islands and 33 towns and villages. They include walking tours and street fairs in the charming towns; boat trips for seafood meals on nearby islands; and cooking lessons and food tastings combined with biking, music, history and hiking. You can get your hands dirty, too: In an event called the West Cork Cast, Catch and Cook Experience, you’ll fish for pollack, cod and mackerel, then learn to fillet and prepare your catch before — the best part — savoring it. I once did a kayak tour where we picked and ate different kinds of seaweed; another time, I went to a “wild fermentation” workshop and learned how to cultivate starters for sauerkrauts and sourdough breads.
You can, of course, just eat. You’ll have endless opportunities to indulge in area specialties, including mussels and langoustines; a fantastic range of white fish (cod, hake, haddock, halibut); pork; beef from grass-fed cattle; and lamb. Then there are the puffy scones piled with jam and big dollops of scrumptious clotted cream that are served at almost every stop. The only requirement for this fun festival? An appetite.