Pitstops worth a detour

Having a great lunch or a sumptuous afternoon tea on the road can make you feel like you’re on holidays already, writes CATHERINE…

Having a great lunch or a sumptuous afternoon tea on the road can make you feel like you're on holidays already, writes CATHERINE CLEARY

THE CAR IS packed to bursting. Everyone is ready to go, and with a sigh of relief you’re finally off on the journey to your holiday destination. The organised staycationer will make sure the last thing to go into the car is a picnic of fresh bread, cheeses, some home-made pesto maybe, and chilled fresh juices. If you’ve just spent the previous 24 hours trying to finish work, clean the house, mow the lawn, and make sure everyone has clean underwear, then maybe the picnic slipped off the to-do list.

Great on-the-road or near-the-road pitstops are the answer. Plan them well enough and they make you feel like you’re already on holiday. In ideal places they will also have a stock of delicious things that you can buy to fill the empty cupboards of a holiday house. These pots of jam or pickled relishes or cakes or bread make food memories from the trip as lasting as any photograph or postcard.

Hunter’s Hotel is perfect for anyone on their way south to Rosslare for the ferry. At Newrath Bridge in Rathnew, it’s a short skip off the M11. Those who take the time will be rewarded with an old-world garden in full summer glory and the chintzy charms of a 19th-century inn. You may feel like you should be wearing a silk scarf and driving a vintage convertible car. And don’t expect any cutting-edge cooking. The afternoon tea of scones, cream and raspberries is a speciality.


Hunter’s Hotel, Newrath Bridge, Rathnew, Co Wicklow, tel: 0404-40106

In Wicklow town Donnelli’s in the Market Square is a friendly neighbourhood cafe serving good lunch staples of soups, salads, pastas and home-made burgers. They also stock a small selection of tasty foods, oils and wines. And if the weather is good you can sit at the tables outside in the Market Square.

Donnelli’s Market Square, Wicklow, Co Wicklow, tel: 0404-61333

The Wicklow Wine Company is a short stroll down the main street and has a fantastic array of wines. They’ve recently started stocking Sheridans Cheesemongers’ cheeses.

Wicklow Wine Company, Main Street, Wicklow, tel: 0404-66767

Anyone heading to Cork could take a detour off the M8 at Cashel and try the Cashel Palace Hotel which has a beautiful and enormous garden that will give tired passengers a place to stretch their legs. The mature trees in this place are worth a visit alone. The Bishop’s Buttery Restaurant does formal meals, or an afternoon tea menu more suitable for a pitstop that has the usual sandwiches, scones, teas and coffee.

Cashel Palace Hotel, Main Street, Cashel, Co Tipperary, Ireland, tel: 062-62707

You’ll have to leave the smooth conveyor belt that is the new Galway motorway to try a new venue in Athenry which sounds promising. The Old Barracks Pantry, Bakery and Restaurant is in a lovely old building in the town. The owner’s father bought the building with the winnings from a horse race in 1988 and Fiona King has opened a restaurant there with her husband Cathal. Some of the produce comes from the couple’s farm at Craughwell and the menu has free-range saddleback pork, home-made sausages and home-reared Angus beef. They also sell breads, pies and cakes to take away.

The Old Barracks Pantry and Bakery, Athenry, tel: 091-877406

If you’re heading to deepest Connemara the Builín Blasta cafe in Spiddal does home-made scones and pastries with coffee or loose-leaf tea and also pizza, fishcakes and seafood chowder. The have a wonderful-sounding chocolate and beetroot brownie on the menu, too, and plenty of chutneys and salad dressings to pack into the car. The cafe is at the Spiddal Craft and Design Studios, which offers plenty of scope for shopping for souvenirs or presents.

Spiddal Craft and Design Studios, Co Galway, tel: 091-558559

Peter Ward’s Country Choice deli and coffee bar in Nenagh is worth a diversion off the M7. It’s packed with delicious things such as home-made soups, breads, pates and pies and desserts. Ingredients from the garden feature on the plate, and Irish and Italian cheeses are a speciality. Ward, one of Ireland’s most persuasive food enthusiasts, will tell you chapter and verse on the food producers and stories behind the wonderful food available in his shop. It takes an iron-discipline to leave empty-handed.

Country Choice, 25 Kenyon Street, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, tel: 067-32596

In Clarinbridge there’s a sister restaurant of Galway city’s Providence Market Kitchen. On the main street, it’s a lovely spot for brunch. We visited last year on the way to a wedding and found it a bright friendly space with good food. They make their own granola and do porridge with fresh fruit and honey. At the Galway branch they will pack an urban picnic from the menu and let you bring it out into the sunshine when it’s around.

Providence Market Kitchen, Clarinbridge, tel: 091-777066

It’s a traditional stopping point for the journey west through the midlands, and on a good day at Keenan’s of Tarmonbarry you can sit and eat on the banks of the Shannon. The hotel is on the Roscommon side of the Longford border and perfect for those heading to Mayo from Dublin. The menu includes fishcakes, potato pancakes and chowder. The scones are proper fresh ones.

Keenan’s Hotel and Restaurant, Tarmonbarry, Co Roscommon, tel: 043-3326052