This post requires a “wee bit” of an introduction for those not aware of Tayto. It’s a review of my tour of the Tayto crisps factory in Tandragee, Northern Ireland. First of all, I come from Northern Ireland – I grew up in Bangor and one of the joys of childhood was “getting tore intill a bega Tayto”, In proper English – eating a packet of decent Northern Irish crisps. The name of the crisp company is Tayto. Tayto is a Northern Irish institution – one of the biggest companies in the country and one of the most respected and endeared too. Northern Irish people are proud of their favourite crisps, and rightly so. It’s impossible to have ever lived in Northern Ireland and not be aware of Tayto Cheese and Onion – the most popular brand in the country, for years and years.
Having now travelled through a century of countries, the magnetic charm of the province brings me back to Northern Ireland more times than it used to. My recent trip back was my first time in Northern Ireland for Christmas in seven years. I had a few items on my “must do” list and one of them had to be a tour of Tayto Castle – the factory where these crisps are made. Tayto Castle is situated in the town of Tandragee in County Armagh so I booked the tour (for myself and Panny my travelling Hong Kong girlfriend).
How to Book a Tour of Tayto Castle
The Tayto Castle tours are busy! So my advice is to book in advance online through the Tayto Website or by phoning them. Full details can be found on the link there and you can also use it to book the tour.
When are the tours held?
Twice daily on Monday to Thursday 10.30 am & 1.30 pm
Once daily on Friday 10.30 am
No tours on Saturday or Sunday
No tours on public holidays e.g. Christmas, Easter, May Day Bank Holiday and 12th July etc. (check in advance)
What Happens on the Tour?
Visitors will get the opportunity to experience the process of how Tayto crisps are made, and maybe even meet Mr Tayto the smiling brand mascot as well as getting some crisp samples and freebies.
Tayto Castle Tour Prices
The current tour prices (as of January 2015) are:
£4 Students / Senior Citizens
£3 Children (age 5-16) (N.B. You must have 1 adult for every 15 children)
* These prices apply to all members of the tour party, including group leaders. Each person will receive a complimentary 6 pack of crisps at the end of the tour (flavours will be subject to availability on the day).
Getting to Tayto Castle in Tandragee, Northern Ireland
If you are driving to Tayto Castle, you head out of Portadown on the A27 on Mahon Road (as you pass Shamrock Park/Portadown FC on the right), take the next left and it leads straight to Tandragee. Once you get to Tandragee, take a right at the first roundabout and a left past the school down the long entrance to Tayto Castle. Here’s the address:
Telephone: 028 38 840249
What does the tour of Tayto Castle consist of?
Tours may well vary depending on time of the year and other circumstances, but our tour ran like this…
1. We meet at reception to sign in and get our visitor badges.
2. We meet our tour guides who tell us the rules (no photos, videos, nothing at all in your pockets).
3. We meet Mr. Tayto for a photo opportunity (photos can be taken up until the double door entrance into the factory).
4. We hand in all our valuables (they are locked away).
5. We are given an apron, a hair net and a beard net which must be worn at all times.
6. We go into the room where the potatoes are stored. Throughout the tour we are told facts about Tayto. There are about 10 massive storage rooms for potatoes, each with around 40,000 potatoes in them, of which 4,000 are used daily.
7. We see the process of potatoes being cleaned and peeled.
8. We head upstairs to a room where the maize and corn snacks are made. We see Bikers being cooked in ovens and then bagged and boxed. We also see multipack boxes being made up. Some is done by machine, but there are members of staff everyone overseeing everything and ensuring everything is running smoothly. Some of the boxes are done manually by people.
9. We get to try crisps directly from the friers – these crisps have no flavour to them yet. This is also the process where the bad crisps are removed.
10. We then have a few more samples of crisps and we are told about the fact that Tayto also make crisps for some other companies such as Tesco and Morrisons.
Here are a few more photos from our excellent visit to Tayto Castle. Photos can be taken in the main hallway and outside the Castle itself. There are some cool facts about Tayto on advertising boards there as well as copies of Tayto crisp packets through the years.
At the end of the tour, we are allowed to choose a 6 pack of our choice to take home with us – great bonus. There is a gift shop where you can buy some souvenirs too.
So folks, if you are ever backpacking in Northern Ireland, please please make sure you go and visit Mr. Tayto and the magnificent Tayto Castle tour. Tayto is a family run business and is one of the highlights from any visit to Northern Ireland. I also recommend the Crown Bar in Belfast, the church in Portbraddon, the town of Newtownards and the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge. There will be more to come on Northern Ireland in the upcoming months.
In the meantime, I’m off to munch a bag of Tayto Rough Cuts.
Here are some videos from the Tayto Castle Tour: