BY JACKIE KEOGH
WEST Cork is well represented in a search for the Best Shops in Ireland.
More than 30,000 shops were originally nominated in the awards, organised by The Irish Times, but the judges had the unenviable task of whittling the number down to 100.
Among the finalists in the best café and teashop category is the Heron Gallery café and garden in Ahakista, which is owned by Annabel Langrish and her husband, Klaus.
Annabel, who is an artist, told The Southern Star: ‘We moved to Ahakista on the beautiful Sheep’s Head Peninsula about eleven years ago and set about creating a special place.’
Whatever about national awards, Annabel said the best review they ever got was on TripAdvisor. A parent wrote that her son wanted to return to ‘the magic place’.
She said: ‘We are delighted to have been shortlisted and would like to say thank you to all of our customers who nominated us.’
Another nominee in the same category – The Firehouse Bakery in Delgany, Co Wicklow – is not strictly West Cork, but they do come via Heir Island.
Patrick Ryan and Laura Moore established their brilliant bread school on Heir Island in 2012 and it is still doing exceptionally well. In fact, it is consistently booked out.
But in May 2013, Patrick explained that they opened a bakery and café in Delgany. ‘That, too, is doing well,’ he said, ‘but we are happy to commute up and down to run the day-long bread making courses on the island.’
Meanwhile, in the best bookshop category The Kinsale Bookshop at No 8 Main Street, is up there with Hodges Figgis and Ulysses Rare Books, amongst others.
Kinsale also makes it into the best specialist shop category with Kinarie Boutique at No 1 Market Street, which is much admired by the judges as a ‘stunning lingerie shop stocking practical pieces and fripperies.’
Not too many foodies will be surprised that Bantry’s Organico is in with a chance of winning the best food and drink category. The judges lauded this local institution for being ‘a modern health food shop stocking its own bread, organic fruit and veg’.
Last, but not least, The Old Mill Stores in Connonagh Village, outside Leap, has made it back onto the nominated list, having previously made the shortlist in their best craft or gift shop category in 2014, when it was runner-up. The judges say they like ‘its out of the ordinary homewares in the wilds of West Cork.’