In a part of the world where the number of sheep outnumber the people, vegan cyclists might cross Ireland off of their list of dream holiday destinations. But with research, patience with restaurant chefs, a willingness to compromise and a sense of adventure, adhering to a vegan diet IS possible when you are on holiday in Ireland. Last month, Pure Adventures traveller Kitty went on a self guided cycling tour of Ireland with three of her friends, one of whom is vegan. Here are their tips for vacationing vegans.
Be prepared to compromise
We were told ahead of time that finding vegan-friendly options might be a bit of a challenge in Ireland. Their vegan cyclist was prepared to deal with whatever options provided and decided ahead of time that some compromise might be necessary, such as eating bread made with dairy products.
Have a back up plan
Knowing ahead of time that you may have to compromise on the ingredients your food is made with is great, but it's important to have a back up plan. Cycling through Ireland burns a lot of calories, so having vegan snacks to eat while riding so that your energy remains high is important to having a successful self guided cycling vacation. In the case of our vegan cyclist, her back-up plan was several packets of peanut butter, Lara Bars and Primal Strips to keep her fuelled during her days in the saddle. Her first find was some gluten free bread in the train station in Dublin (pronounced it the "best gluten-free bread she'd ever eaten" - no easy feat for bread!) She bought 4 more slices as back-up "platforms" for a later peanut butter indulgence.
Surprise! Not all beer is vegan
Did it ever occur to you that beer ingredients involve anything other than grains, yeast, hops and ever be considered non-vegan? Surprise -- not all beer is vegan! Many beer makers use isinglass (derived from swim bladders of fish) for part of the filtering process in certain breweries. Vegans should check Barnivore, a vegan guide to beer, liquor and wine before pouring a pint. According to Barnivore, Guinness, Murphy's, Smithwick, Kilkenny, and Beamish are not vegan-friendly. When vacationing in Ireland, pub-hopping vegans will want to choose Bulmers Pear or Bulmers Berry are vegan-friendly. That said, our cycling vegan chose beer as one of her diet compromises.
Irish chefs are up to the challenge
Being vegan in Ireland doesn't mean that your restaurant meals consists of a French fries and salad main course! "We think some chefs embraced the opportunity to be creative and make something different from the menu," said Kitty. In a couple cases, when asked about vegan menu options, chefs made something suitable such as sautéed veggies over rice. At a restaurant in Renvyle, the chef made her a stuffed eggplant with tofu and veggies, with that meal being a highlight for our vegan cyclist. In Clifden, she found an Indian restaurant that provided a change from the usual meals. Often it is explaining to wait staff what veganism exactly is, and our vegan cyclist found herself explaining to wait staff that vegans can't eat such as vegetable soups that had cream and or butter or dishes made with cheese. Breakfast was the easiest meal make vegan-friendly, with soy milk, fruit and nuts topping her hearty Irish oatmeal.
Are you vegan? What challenges and surprises have you experienced while travelling in other countries?