Relocating to Co Mayo: We ‘swooned at the thought’ of opening our own coffee shop

When a premises became available in Louisburgh, they pounced

If Caitriona Gray was still living in Dublin she'd be leaving the house each morning at "the crack of dawn" before her daughter was even awake. The daily routine would most likely involve a fairly hectic day at work and then a mad dash (or as mad as it gets in bumper to bumper traffic for about two hours), to get to the crèche before it closed.

Instead Gray and her English-born husband Louis Freiter, and their two-year-old daughter Polly are enjoying a much less frenetic lifestyle with “beaches, mountains and woodlands on our doorstep”, having joined the growing band of former city dwellers discovering the joys of life in the west of Ireland.

She may be Dublin-born and bred, like her parents before her, but Louisburgh, Co Mayo was very familiar territory to the Bank of Ireland executive when she moved there in the summer of 2020, initially for a Covid-19-inspired break which gradually evolved into a permanent move.

Gray is pretty sure she learned to walk on Carrowmore beach, during a family holiday in the 1980s – and now much to her delight she can say her daughter took her first steps there as well.


“The beach is her playground,” she says.

Polly’s grandparents David and Cathleen bought a holiday home in Louisburgh, a longtime favourite holiday destination, after their retirement in 2009, and soon made it their permanent base.

While they visited regularly, Gray and Freiter were clearly not thinking of heading west permanently when they bought a home in the coastal village of Donabate in Dublin in 2018, the year before Polly was born.

At the time, Freiter was working for Happy Out, a coffee shop in a shipping container on Clontarf’s Bull Wall in Dublin. The couple had met on a backpacking holiday in Australia in 2009 and a year later Freiter moved to Dublin.

He was introduced to Louisburgh by Gray and her family in 2010 and he too fell in love with the landscape and the easy pace of life.

“We would visit regularly. Louis is a keen cyclist and loves nothing more than taking to the roads around Delphi and Leenane to get that adrenaline fix,” says Gray.

The couple always dreamed of opening their own coffee shop and “often swooned at the thought of being able to do it out west” and then the pandemic came along and focussed their minds. Freiter previously worked in fashion retail but his main passions are “food, coffee , cycling and the outdoors”.

When a landmark business premises which had been closed for 40 years became available in the centre of Louisburgh, he grabbed the opportunity to turn what was once Morrison’s shop-cum-pub into the Seven Wanders café. Not surprisingly it’s very welcoming to cyclists, who can hang up their wheels on hooks on the back wall while they refuel inside.

Maternity leave

After months of not being able to see her parents during the strict lockdown of 2020, Gray finished maternity leave just when remote working was becoming the norm and soon realised she could do it as easily in Louisburgh as Donabate.

The fact that her parents hadn’t seen Polly for eight months because of restrictions was a key factor in the move.

“Polly loves them. The bond is just incredible. So now it’s like the four of us are parenting one little two year old.”

Other perks of living in Louisburgh include spectacular views of Croagh Patrick and of the sun going down over Clare Island.

“When you are looking at that it doesn’t matter too much what your house is like,” says Gray who is conscious of the huge demand, growing all the time, for family homes on the Wild Atlantic Way.

The couple, who featured on TG4’s new Moving West series which explores the experiences of people who have recently relocated, were lucky that they were able to move into a family-owned property in Louisburgh while they contemplate selling their Dublin home and buying a house in the area.

“We have started looking at the market in Dublin in terms of selling,” she says. Finding a home around Louisburgh may be a challenge as “ it does not feel like there are a lot of properties just sitting there”.

Like many other workers over the last 18 months she has realised that working remotely has many advantages .

“I think it’s important to allocate a space to work in, rather than sitting on the couch with the laptop on your knee and I am lucky I have the space to do that here.”

With a busy schedule punctuated by zoom meetings and work calls, she’s also conscious of the importance of occasionally organising “a virtual coffee” with friends and of not being “strapped to the laptop”.

As restrictions ease she says she is looking forward to the office opening up in Dublin and getting to check in with colleagues there every few weeks. She’s also looking forward to social outlets opening up all around her new home, an area teeming with visitors for a lot of the year.

“Given that we have loved living here during the pandemic when there were no social outlets it is only going to improve,”she says.

Westport is just 20 minutes away, Knock airport is an hour from their base, and Galway city is a one and a half hour drive from Louisburgh, so the couple feel very well connected.

“I am not dissing Dublin,” stresses the bank executive. “I love Dublin. But you don’t talk to strangers there. Every time I go to the playground with Polly here I chat to other mums and dads. They all know Polly and that is lovely.”