ESTUARY Way Café is the newest gem on Clare’s Shannon Estuary – the result of a community effort to make Ballynacally a more attractive place to live and visit.
Nestled in the quaint village between Ennis and Kildysart, locals and visitors can enjoy the newly-established eatery situated at the Range Cottages at the village’s Fair Green.
Two years since planning was sought for the project, the café is the result of a local initiative led by the Ballynacally Development Association, which had the help of no less than 17 passionate community organisations (under the umbrella group Future Planning Ballynacally).
Chairman of the Association, Liam Kirwan says that the café – which is less than a month open – is breathing new life into the centre of the village. Currently, the café opens from Tuesday to Sunday (9-5pm) and offers not just a new dining option to the area but also a meeting point for friends and groups alike. The project is ongoing and there are plans to accompany the café with two Air BNB apartments at the Range Cottages which will help attract more tourism to the area, with the committee actively seeking funding for this. Liam also says there is an opportunity to make the café an information centre-point for visiting tourists and walking groups.
According to local historian Mary Hester, “These houses were originally built by the Ball family who were local landlords. Usually, employees on the Ball estate lived there. House Number 1 was owned by the O’Dea family and latterly John O’Dea worked here as a harness maker. Gardener to the Ball family, Michael O’Toole and his family inhabited House Number 2. The last people to live in the third house were Bill and Beatrice Cusack (nee McMahon). Beatrice inherited the dwelling from her aunt. House Number 4 was Nan Fawl’s. Nan was the village character. She was always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it and also worked at O’Grady’s. Stories about her abound. She played the concertina and as children we loved to visit her for bread and jam and to practise our jigs and reels. At the end of the Range is Grady’s garage which is now in private ownership.”
Speaking about the project which has resulted in the Estuary Way Café now being housed by the cottages, Mr Kirwan told The Clare Echo, “With the help of LEADER and the consultants, we did a survey to know what people would like in the village. Top of the list was a meeting place, a café where the whole community could meet or hang out, all ages. That’s how it came about initially.” Assisted by LEADER and Clare County Council, the group then successfully applied for funding through the Town & Village Renewal Scheme and secured further funding to develop a working kitchen which came from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
Breakfast, lunch, tea and coffee are all on the menu at Estuary Way Café, which is being run by Deirdre Mulpeter who Mr Kirwan says the project would not have happened without. He explains that she is also employing one person “which is under the criteria of the funding going towards trying to create jobs and cater for tourism”.
Local reaction has been “amazing” with a thriving local repeat business being complimented by visitors from Ennis, Kildysart along with visiting walking groups. Liam quips that it has almost become the “new pub” while Covid restrictions remain in place, however he admits the onus is now on people from Ballynacally and its surrounds to make sure the café remains viable into the future. “People can’t believe it happened in Ballynacally and it has, there’s a great buzz around it. There’s a little square there, the Fair Green, and a playground right beside it, and the hall, parking spaces, and it’s created a great buzz. It has become a social place for young and old.”
Mr Kirwan added that an official opening will take place in the coming weeks while visitors will also be treated to surprise ‘pop-up sessions’ in the coming months on the Fair Green with people able to enjoy the café and its surrounds with their coffee or tea along with entertainment in a safe setting for social distancing.
The Estuary Cafe is located in two of the houses on the Range in Ballynacally looking out on The Fair Green. The four cottages are owned by Ballynacally Development and with the aid of grants and local fundraising they have now been refurbished. Houses 1 and 2 are now the Estuary Cafe.