One for the road: 10 of Ireland’s best motorway coffee stops

One for the road: 10 of Ireland’s best motorway coffee stops

We all know that feeling of cruising down an Irish motorway when the caffeine fix kicks in, but what are our best cáfe options beyond the often uninspiring petrol station rest stops? 

I’ve taken a look at the main motorway arteries in and out of Munster and have chosen 10 great coffee stops to satisfy every coffee buff. 

All of these options are under 10km from the main motorways, nine of them within 5km and some closer again. 

Save this list for the next time you’ll travel: you’ll enjoy a delicious coffee, support small independent businesses and will add character and colour en route to your next staycation.

Town Coffee Company

“Coffee, goods, vibes and community” — that’s the motto of the ever-friendly Town Coffee Company located in the heart of Mitchelstown within easy scooting distance of M8 exits 12 and 13. 

Owned by husband and wife team Mikey and Bernadette Shinnick, the café places a firm focus on fresh, sustainable produce with all treats rustled up in-house every day.

Sweet and savoury specialties range from popular sausage rolls to millionaire shortbread while fresh brews from West Cork Coffee and Stone Valley as well as guest brands keep regulars coming back for more.

  • Detour: 3.5km from M8 Exit 13; parking available on Lower Cork Street and Clonmel Road.
  • Instagram @thetowncoffeeco

For another option in Mitchelstown, Blueberries, also on Lower Cork Street is highly rated while Praline Café, with its handy roadside location at Mitchelstown Shopping Centre, is a baked goods heaven.

A fresh brew at the Old Barracks.
A fresh brew at the Old Barracks.

The Old Barracks

Travelling from Limerick to the capital? For any coffee lover worth their beans, The Old Barracks in Birdhill, Co Tipperary shouldn’t just be a caffeine pitstop but rather a destination in its own right. 

Set in a 300-year-old heritage building with a neat industrial makeover, the stylish roastery is a cornucopia of sustainably produced coffee with expert baristas to guide you. 

The Old Barracks also sells bags of coffee, wine and homewares. 

NB: due to working machinery on site, the café is adult only and children are not welcome.

The Old Barracks has opened a second outlet on Limerick’s Dock Road for those travelling onwards to Cork, Dublin or Galway.

Darling interiors at Hey Darling.
Darling interiors at Hey Darling.

Hey Darling

If you need a coffee fix after leaving Dublin, neighbourhood café Hey Darling is in the ’burbs of Naas. 

“Pop in for the coffee and stay for the bagels, vibe and the friendly staff,” says owner Nicola Baron. 

Coffee is from Calendar roasters in Connemara, pastries are delivered fresh from Medialuna and Tartine daily, and bagels include BLT, smoked salmon, New York-style bacon and cream cheese. 

They’re dog friendly too. 

Hey Darling has opened a second location in Kill, also just off the motorway.

Bowe's of Durrow.
Bowe’s of Durrow.

Bowes (Durrow)

If you’re looking for a great lunch spot en route make a beeline for Bowes in Durrow, one of the finest spots along our motorway network. 

In the heart of the scenic village, the charming café wows as soon as you walk in. 

Popular dishes include a superfood bowl and vegan falafel salad alongside long-standing favourites such as warm chicken salad and an open steak sandwich. 

Bowes also have a walled garden out the back if you fancy lingering a little longer.

  • Detour: At 7km off the M8, Durrow is a little further off the main drag but here’s the payback: avoid the M8 toll by rejoining the motorway at Exit 17 via the N22. Street parking.
  • Instagram @bowescafe

Cinnamon Alley

Nenagh is sprinkled with great cafés and Cinnamon Alley is a local favourite. 

Lunch options include pasta salads, fish cakes and bruschetta-of-the-day; homemade jam sponge is a signature dessert.

  • Detour: 3.5km off M7 Exit 27; street parking though this may be trickier during peak times.
  • Instagram @cinnamonalleycafe

For other options in Nenagh, try Jenny’s Gluten Free Kitchen or the Abbey Court Hotel’s handy coffee dock while if pushing on further, E53 is a popular spot 4km off Exit 22 in Roscrea.

Shankill Castle Café.
Shankill Castle Café.

Shankill Castle

If travelling from Waterford to Dublin, Shankill Castle & Gardens makes a gorgeous spot to fuel up on coffee just off the M9. 

Located within the 300-year-old stable yard of the historic castle, this charming café offers excellent fresh bakes which you can wash down with a cup of Ponaire coffee.

  • Detour: 1.5km off M9 Exit 7, just beyond the Applegreen; on-site parking.
  • Instagram @shankillcastle

For other options, try Green Barn off Exit 3 or the characterful Grangecon Kitchen 8km off Exit 3.

Bowes & Co., Cashel
Bowes & Co., Cashel

Bowes & Co. (Cashel)

Cashel is surely one of the most popular (and scenic!) pitstops along the M8 and Bowes & Co café is a fine spot to enjoy a timeout. Run by Triona Bowes and her mother Mary, the café puts family at the heart of their business.

“A large percentage of our customers are families travelling from Cork to Dublin, going to matches and the like,” says Triona, all drawn by head chef Siobhán Feery’s excellent menu (eg prawn tacos, burrata salad) available for takeaway, and Cloud Picker coffee — I don’t think it can be beaten,” says Triona.

  • Detour: 1.5km off M8 Exit 8; street parking & free public car parks.
  • Instagram @bowesandco

The Keep

The Keep is a friendly speciality café in the shadows of beautiful Cahir Castle. 

Serving 3fe coffee, you can pick up toasties, wraps and salads along with a huge selection of freshly baked treats and even Irish handmade gelato.

  • Detour: 3.5km off M8 Exit 10 with handy parking in the public car park right across the road. They also have an outlet in Carrick-on-Suir.
  • Instagram @thekeepcoffeeshop

Bailey Coffee

Run by teenage entrepreneur Bailey Spillane, this roadside coffee trailer is a welcome friendly face for those who need a caffeine kick while zipping through the Galtees stretch of the M8.

“Our goal is to make you feel like you’re drinking coffee with a friend you haven’t spoken to in years,” says Bailey. He stocks plenty of home-baked treats and serves coffee roasted in Kerry by Babors Beans — “The best of the best,” he adds. 

Bailey Coffee is also a scenic timeout for your journey: “I can’t promise the sky will be clear but we’re sat at the foot of the Galtees,” he adds. “And coffee and a view can’t be bate.”

  • Detour: located outside Kilbehenny Community Centre 1.5km off M8 Exit 12; roadside parking.
  • Instagram @baileycoffeecompany
  Jacqueline Lanigan Ryan, pastry chef at Horse & Jockey Hotel, Co Tipperary
Jacqueline Lanigan Ryan, pastry chef at Horse & Jockey Hotel, Co Tipperary

Horse & Jockey Hotel

In the winner’s enclosure as perhaps the handiest stop of all is the Horse and Jockey Hotel’s Café & Bakery just off the M8.

The newly renovated café is baked goods heaven with no less than five pastry chefs, headed up by Jackie Lanigan Ryan.

“The hotel and therefore the coffee bar is the hub of the local community as well as a firm favourite of travellers off the M8 and they’ll often combine the stop off with a chance to pick up some our famous brown bread or sourdough from our in house bakery shop or gifts from the gift horse gallery,” says GM Caroline Egan.

“The coffee bar staff are renowned for their kindness and ability to look after their customers,” she adds. Tempted? Favourites include classics such as their lemon curd and coconut cake, fluffy sweet and savoury scones and salted caramel tarts.

Keep tabs on all Instagram accounts listed above for the latest info regarding opening times and daily specials.

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