Discover some of Ireland’s remotest shops

Best Shops: Take a detour to visit some hidden gems

 

We are coming into the final stretch of The Irish Times Best Shops 2016 competition and it’s time to set the sat nav and discover some of the gems that have been nominated in this year’s contest.

Starting in Co Donegal, The Shack, Marble Hill, Dunfanaghy, overlooks the sandy beach and Sheephaven Bay. “It is a beautiful spot to enjoy a cup of well-made coffee,” says Niamh Dempsey. “The owners Tom Lee and Min Mullen make you feel welcome and have a laugh with you while sitting on rustic seats and benches covered with cosy blankets and cushions surrounded by beautiful flowers and the best view. It doesn’t try too hard. It just is which means its customers can do the same.”

Wild Atlantic Food is in Yeats country, about 7km from Sligo town and a similar distance to the seaside village of Strandhill. Lucy Robue loves its kid-friendly pet farm and fantastic the food with loads of veggie options and not just salad.”

On the south-west shore of Lough Melvin in Co Leitrim, Aisling Stone is plying her trade cooking fantastic food at The Grassroots Café at The Organic Centre, near Sraud, Rossinver. With ingredients from the gardens outside the café and local and organic producers, her “menu is based on what’s in season and she also ferments, smokes and pickles”, writes Hans Wieland.

Heading west and south from Leitrim will bring you to McAndrews Drapery in Belmullet, gateway to the Erris Peninsula in north Mayo, a favourite of Mary Mhic Suibhne. Situated on the edges of Ballycroy National Park “it is an old style shop, with a long mahogany counter and loads of shelves where you never know what you might find. My late mother used to shop there for presents for her grandchildren. The shop would post the gifts for her – personal service at its best. Long may it continue.”

Further west is Gielty’s Last Drop, on Achill island in the village of Dooagh, the last bit of land before New York. “Gielty’s Last Drop, is the last stop on the island of Achill and serves the best cappuccino – just what is needed after a day after Keem beach,” says Cathy Kavanagh. The café adjoins a pub that is run by Alan Gielty, who swopped his €50,000 fancy jeep for a minibus and will pick up visitors and bring them to the pub and café and when they want to leave bring them home again, all for free.

An Builín Blasta in An Ceardlann, Spiddal, Co Galway, is in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht. A firm favourite with locals, cyclists and tourists, the menu ranges from tasty brunches, healthy salads and soups to more filling main courses, says Tara Breathneach. “And as for desserts – many good intentions have gone by the wayside for her Baileys chocolate cups, carrot cake while also offering saintlier choices such as paleo truffles and vegan fudge. Whether I need to work online, linger over a book or break bread with friends the Buílin is my top choice.”

Kilbaha is the very last village on the Loop Head peninsula. “The minute you walk through the door of Kilbaha Gallery and Crafts shop, situated beside the lighthouse, you feel welcome,” writes Mary Redmond. “Owners Liz Greehy and Ailish Connolly are so enthusiastic about their shop, the local area and all the other local businesses that it would be hard not to share in it. You go for a quick visit and end up staying hours.”

The Heron Gallery in Ahakista, about halfway along the Sheep’s Head peninsula in Co Cork, serves “gorgeous fresh, oh so tasty cakes in a great setting,” says Ian Collins. “The garden makes a wonderful backdrop and gives you a chance to rest before the next treat.”

Heading east from Sheep’s Head, Toons Bridge Dairy is in a small village in the Lee Valley that comprises just a pub and a garage-cum shop-cum-petrol station. Located about 17 miles from the source of the River Lee in Gougane Barra and five miles west of Macroom, it was set up by Toby Simmonds and Jenny-Rose Clarke of the Real Olive Company in a disused dairy. Mary Cronin says the shop has an “excellent choice of cheese, olives, salads and meats served by highly personable, helpful staff. A fantastic cafe with a small, lovely garden adjoins the shop”.

Have you nominated your favourite shop? Go to irishtimes.com/bestshops

The closing date for entries to Best Shops 2016, which is backed by AIB, is Wednesday, August 3rd, at midnight.

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