Best cafe/teashop: The Cottage, Loughmore
Eddie Shanahan was about to give up before he finally found his way to The Cottage, Loughmore in Co Tipperary, which is so far off the beaten track that even the Sat-Nav had trouble finding it
Mary Fogarty and Maeve O'Hair in the Cottage shop and Tea Room, Loughmore, Templemore, Co Tipperary. Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22
Jane and Myles Lamberth at Shells Cafe and Little Shop, Strandhill, Co Sligo. Photograph: James Connolly/Picsell8
Best cafe / teashop
WINNER:The Cottage, Loughmore
At one point, Eddie Shanahan was about to give up before he finally found his way to The Cottage, Loughmore in Co Tipperary, which is so far off the beaten track that even the Sat-Nav had trouble finding it. A shop and teashop, it’s actually a co-operative run by Maeve O’Hair and Mary Fogarty. The women met at the kitchen sink, while helping with the washing up at a local funeral. O’Hair is a native of the village. Fogarty’s parents ran a shop in the village, but it closed years ago. While elbow deep in Fairy Liquid, the pair lamented the fact that the village no longer had a local shop. For eight years, if you wanted to buy a pint of milk or a newspaper, you had to make the three-mile journey “into town” to Templemore, best known for its Garda College.
“A shop is a very important part of village life,” says O’Hair. By the time they’d finished the drying up, they’d decided to set up a co-operative shop and tearoom, following in the footsteps of Sir Horace Plunkett, the English-born son of Lord Donsany.
O’Hair suggested they use an ancient cottage belonging to her sister. The 900-strong community backed the proposal by buying shares in the venture. The pair also got funding from the Co Council on condition that they raised 20 per cent of the money themselves. Both women took out loans to get the idea off the ground.
The set-up is a million miles from hipsterville – a hark back to a simple old-fashioned Irish offer where the fáilte is a big part of the allure, and groceries are for sale in what was once a bedroom.
“If I was travelling to Cork tomorrow with friends I would happily go out of my way to bring them here,” says Shanahan, who travels an estimated 20,000 kilometres per annum, visiting retailers in his consultancy business. “There are very few places I would go off the motorway or off the national roads to visit. This is an establishment in the middle of nowhere where there is no competition to raise the bar yet the whole atmosphere says you hope it is home cooking, and it is.”
The Cottage, Loughmore, Co Tipperary, tel: 0504-35846, no website but you can find them on Facebook
Shells Cafe, Strandhill, Co Sligo, tel: 091-22938, shellscafe.com
Once you discover Shells Cafe and Little Shop on the seafront in Strandhill, Co Sligo, where surfers congregate all year round, you will want to return again and again.
The welcome is warm and the eggs Benedict have been voted the best in Ireland.
It’s a place where you seriously start to consider the idea of setting up home here permanently.