Close your eyes and imagine Ireland’s road network. Radiating outwards from Dublin are the major motorways, crossing the country and meeting the coasts north, south and west. Other roads spider out filling the gaps between the cities and the larger towns.
When we want to take a break when driving, we often choose the convenient option of a petrol station or motorway plaza. But what if you wanted something more when taking a break from driving? Here’s a handy list of unique stops for great coffee, tasty food and even a few surprises within a short distance of our motorways.
M1 – Dublin to Belfast
Ballymascanlon, Dundalk, Co Louth; 042-937 1856, strandfield.com
If heading north, a stop at Strandfield House will refresh you mentally and physically. This bright spot combines a florist, bakery, cafe and grocery, with inside and outside seating available. Chef Oisin Coyle oversees a vegetarian and vegan menu of delicious seasonal soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza using ingredients from the farm or local organic suppliers. Stock up on groceries in the farm shop before getting back on the road. Dogs welcome.
Quails at the Gallery
200 Newry Road, Banbridge, Co Down; 0044 28 4062 9668, quailsfinefoods.co.uk
There’s no doubt that Banbridge offers opportunities for a break on the road to Belfast. Shop at The Boulevard outlet centre, experience the Game of Thrones studio tour, or visit the FE McWilliam art gallery. The restaurant is an offshoot from the famous Quails butchers & fine foods shop in Banbridge, and offers a chance to enjoy a light meal in smart arty surroundings.
N2/A5/N15 – Dundalk to Letterkenny
Suitor Craft Gallery
17 Grange Road, Ballygawley, Dungannon, Co Tyrone; +44 028 8556 86530, suitorcraftgallery.com
Artist Beryl Suitor opened her eponymous craft gallery over 30 years ago, and it continues to offer a charming variety of homewares, jewellery, wooden toys and childrens books. Located in a converted barn, the tea shop offerings are solidly traditional, with simple salads, hot panini or fresh scones with jam and cream, all served in classic tea room style.
N3/A509 – Dublin to Ballyshannon/Donegal
Pottlereagh, Carnaross, Co Meath; 046 924 5799, sheridanscheesemongers.com
Visit Ireland’s most famous cheesemongers in the heart of the historic Boyne Valley for a chance to stock up on Irish and international cheeses, wine and other artisan groceries. Then take a break in the adjoining cafe for light lunches, hot sandwiches and delicious cakes. Open seven days a week with a local Farmers’ Market every Saturday.
The Jolly Sandwich Bar
3 Darling Street, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh; 0044 28 6632 2277
The perennially popular and cheerfully named Jolly Sandwich Bar from the Johnston family is an institution in Enniskillen. A counter that literally heaves under the weight of fresh baked cakes sends all the right signals. With Ballymaloe-trained daughter Carina Cutler now at the helm, the future is bright. For something scenic, grab your order to takeaway and find a riverside spot to enjoy.
M4 – Dublin to Sligo
Moyvalley, Co Kildare; 046 955 1185
Coming from the west, Furey’s is located off the M4 at Moyvalley (via the Kilcock exit) after the Sligo and Galway roads converge. Ideal for travellers heading towards Dublin who might fancy a break about 45 minutes before negotiating the city. Furey’s is a beautiful, cosy old school pub/restaurant serving hearty fare, including home cooked burgers and chips and a chowder that’s hard to beat. Prices are reasonable and in summer the riverside setting is idyllic.
My Kitchen by Sham Hanifa
Unit 12, Carrick-on-Shannon Retail Park, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Roscommon; 071 961 630
Open all day for breakfast to dinner, Malaysian Sham Hanifa’s spot in Carrick-on-Shannon offers variety for all. Choose from staples such as a breakfast bap made with Andarl Farm sausage or buttermilk chicken burger, to more fragrant dishes such as Kari Mee or beef rendang. The interior is bright and smart with plenty of space for all.
M6 – Dublin to Galway
Brownes on the Green
The Crescent, Tyrrellspass, Co Westmeath; 044 922 1755, brownsonthegreen.ie
Tyrrellspass is a uniquely charming village with a distinctive semicircular green and a crescent of Georgian houses. Here you will find Brownes, a former hotel and now a family run restaurant and cafe. Chef Ciaran is known for his aged Hereford steaks, but locals and savvy visitors keep the place packed all day for coffee, snacks and meals. Dogs are welcome in the lovely covered outdoor space to the rear.
Slow Roast Sandwiches & Coffee
Trinity House, Kelly’s Street, Loughrea, Co Galway; instagram.com/slowroast.ie
Keep an eye out for the bright yellow exterior of Slow Roast Sandwiches & Coffee as you pass through Loughrea. Although short, their sandwich menu will still have you pondering whether you’d prefer the Sunday Roast or the Slow Roast Breakfast. Get your order to takeaway and enjoy lakeside on the shores of Lough Rea. Look out for their second store when in Athlone.
M17 – Galway to Sligo
The Old Barracks, Vicar Street, Tuam, Co Galway; 093 711 10, nichecafe.ie
Just a short distance off the legendary N17 of Saw Doctors renown, the slick, modern interior and dark green exterior of Niche Cafe just screams coffee shop. However, Niche has also built up a solid local following for their cakes and biscuits, hearty daytime sandwiches and evening burgers made with Brady’s beef.
M7 – Dublin to Limerick/Cork
The Wandering Elk
2 Bull Lane, Portlaoise, Co Laois; the-wandering-elk.business.site
Open seven days a week, The Wandering Elk is a modern little coffee shop tucked away off Portlaoise’s Main Street. Their distinctive elk motif adorns the walls and cups, and there’s a wide variety of sweet and savoury goods on offer. Customise your porridge at breakfast time, or choose the Spicy Cajun from their menu of toasted sandwiches. Due to the small size, pets are welcome at off-peak times and takeaway is available.
M7 – Dublin to Limerick
E53 Coffee House
1 Church Street, Roscrea, Co Tipperary; instagram.com/e53coffeehouse
Located in Roscrea town, E53 Coffee House is right next to an 11th century round tower and Black Mills museum, and across the road from the historic St. Crónán’s Church. Owner Aisling England has just celebrated the first year in business having successfully renovated this modern, bright coffee shop which serves 3FE coffee along with a range of homemade sweet treats and light meals.
M8 – Dublin to Cork
10 Main Street, Abbeyleix, Co Laois; 057 875 7749, bramleyabbeyleix.com
Bramley is the first restaurant from Sam and Emily Moody, Sam being the former head chef at the uber-luxe Ballyfin Desmesne. Abbeyleix has long been a traditional stop for travellers, and the dining room at Bramley has been very elegantly remodelled. The lunchtime menu is casual, with Caesar salad featuring Butlers free-range organic chicken or chunky Fior Bhia sausage roll. Coffee comes from local roasters The Good Bean and there’s a short, well-curated wine list. Dogs welcome.
Bowes & Co
26 Main Street, Cashel, Co Tipperary; 087 909 6292
Take a detour from the M8 and catch a view of the iconic Rock of Cashel before a break at this deceptively spacious cafe. Located amidst some lovely shops, mother and daughter Triona and Mary Bowes have created a cosy and casual cafe with a warm welcome. Cashel native Siobhan Feery leads the kitchen turning out their famous scones, seasonal sandwiches, salads and even a Sunday roast. Coffee comes from Cloud Picker Coffee.
The Town Coffee Company
2 Lower Cork Street, Mitchelstown, Co Cork; 087 273 6429, thetowncoffeeco.com
Owners Mikey and Bernadette Shinnick have imbued their little cafe with a lot of heart and a genuine love for food. After all, their mantra is about doing things right or not doing them at all. All items are made in house including breakfast granola, sandwiches, sausage rolls and all kinds of baked goods. Coffee comes from Irish roasters such as Clonakilty’s Stone Valley or West Cork Coffee. Pets welcome.
M8 – Dublin to Waterford
Main Street, Grangecon, Co Wicklow; 087 747 8863, grangeconkitchen.ie
Leave the M9 and wind your way to the little village of Grangecon. Here you will find Stephanie and Laura’s magical tipi tent, offering a range of snacks, meals and delectable home-baked cakes from their all-day brunch menu. Try Turkish eggs, hearty free-range chicken sandwich, or the famous John’s Breakfast, named after their most regular customer. The heated tent allows dining outside in all weather, and the themed Friday nights are especially popular. Dogs welcome.
Main Street, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny; 056 770 0815
Located in the beautiful village of Bennettsbridge on the banks of the river Nore, Crafted offers a rest point for walkers, cyclists and motorists alike. Browse the lovely range of crafts, pictures and other items curated by owners Katie Gordon and Gail Johnson, then relax with a light meal made with local ingredients such as homemade pork, sage and apple sausage roll, hearty ham and cheese toasties or freshly made fishcakes. Dogs welcome outside.
Lekker Food Collection
Pipe Street, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny; 087 218 4808, lekkerfoodco.ie
In South Africa, the word ‘lekker’ means something pleasant or delicious, giving a little hint as to what you will find tucked away in Thomastown. Ashika and Julien are both trained chefs, creating breakfast and light lunches with South African and French influences. Fill up on their full Irish or try the Durban classic dish of Bunny Chow, curry served in a hollowed out loaf of bread. Browse their pantry for dishes to takeaway.
M11/N11 – Dublin to Wexford
The Village at Wheelocks
Finchogue, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford; 087 295 7647, thevillageatwheelocks.ie
At this time of year, there’s no doubt that Irish fruit is at its very best. The Wheelock family have been growing fruit since the 1950s and their farm offers an opportunity for a unique pitstop. Enjoy a walk, visit farm animals and pick seasonal fruits such as strawberries, gooseberries, and rhubarb, before enjoying hearty food from chef Amy in the cafe. Outside seating is available and dogs are welcome outside.
N22/N25 – Waterford to Cork to Killarney
Eamo and Ró Cafe and Larder
Main Street, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford; instagram.com/eamo_and_ro
Whether travelling between Cork and Waterford, or cycling along the Waterford Greenway, a stop in the village of Kilmacthomas is recommended. Eamon and Róisín’s little cafe has been immensely popular with locals since opening, offering breakfast, lunch and occasional evening dining. Enjoy takeaway salad pots or toasties made with Dún Bakery sourdough, with drinks from ethical coffee roasters Moyee and local tea blenders Trá.
Farranvarra, Farran, Co Cork; 085 746 0108, instagram.com/wunderkaffee_farran_village
Anyone who has ever travelled between Cork and Killarney will be familiar with the long streams of traffic that fill this road. Take a break by pulling over at the charming Wunderkaffee, a combination plant shop, gift shop and cafe from the owners of Cork City’s popular Filter. Enjoy eclectic vintage furniture, specialty coffee and home-made sweet treats. Dogs welcome.