I didn’t expect to come away from a small town like Dromore feeling so inspired.
But there’s a very special feel to the place and we came across some fascinating folk in our search for coffee, tea and cake near the cathedral.
I wasn’t sure what the coffee shop above the ‘Hope and Soul’ charity shop would be like, but something drew me in regardless. And from the moment Jeanette gave me a booming and beaming welcome, I knew I’d made the right choice for coffee in Dromore.
The Olive Branch Coffee Lounge reminded me of places we reviewed in the US on our Fancy a Cuppa tour east of the Mississippi. In Rochester NY and Milan Tennessee, we had come across individuals running coffee shops that were actually a charity helping disadvantaged people find their feet in the community.
Gail came down and gave me the story of Via Wings, which is the charity that set up this coffee shop in Dromore. It’s an extraordinary tale of perseverance, love of their community and based on their faith that God would help them find a way. How else could you refurbish a whole building in 3 weeks and open a coffee shop on £1,200 capital?
There was such a good vibe to this place that I almost didn’t care about the quality of the coffee and cake. But actually it was really good: and the cakes are (nearly) all baked by the volunteers who staff the place.
There was an open-arms welcome also at the Cathedral. It’s locked most of the time, but if you give the Cathedral Office a call in the morning, they’ll come down and open up for you.
What a lovely intimate space inside. There’s something about those churches (like the one up near Whitby Abbey) when the pews all face in different directions that give them a warmer, togetherness feel.
The Dean himself , Stephen Lowry – came down to show me round. It was fascinating to see where Enoch Powell sat when he was MP round here: his security team picked him a pew based more on safety than on his prominent place in Down South society…
And what a thought-provoking exchange with the Dean on the nature of nostalgia, on how to balance building on the past with looking to the future. All this triggered by the drum-kit and sound system they have now installed, taking Dromore also into the 21st century, just like Lisburn…
Dromore is lucky also to have a wonderful tea room, looking down over the fast-flowing River Lagan. The Riverside Tea Room is another labour of love, having lain derelict for some years before a local family took it on and completely refurbished the place. Their focus is more on the home and gift shop downstairs, while upstairs Mechelle runs a cosy little venue for a cuppa and cake (with lots of locals stopping by for lunch too).
Great quality home-baked cakes, here. So good, in fact, that I broke my own rules and had two (well, they were only small…). The coconut meringue was a tasty new take on tarts; and I couldn’t resist their Fifteens, which is that sticky cake you only find in Northern Ireland. Oh, and the tea? Well tea bags, but as tea bags go, the Punjana brew from Thompsons in Belfast is not a bad brew.
Overall a really nice experience, capping a surprisingly wonderful day in Dromore.
And if you’re in Dromore, don’t walk past the gruesome stocks without noticing that they used to expose people’s feet rather than their hands and face – baring their soles, I guess.
And take a look at the Mound, a great place for a run around if you’ve eaten too many fifteens. King John apparently stayed here once, though I doubt he ate many fifteens, and they hadn’t even discovered tea in England when he was around….
But I’m not sure we should end this blog post with King John – he isn’t the most positive character from UK history, and there’s so much that’s positive about Dromore. Great place on the Cuppa tour.