Walking in to The Stonehouse in Clarinbridge is like entering a whole different heavenly world where it is possible to lose oneself for an entire day by rummaging through hundreds of fantastic books, discovering many wonderful trinkets and gifts, and revitalising the body and mind before indulging in a delicious piece of cake and cup of tea.
In these times of fast living it is refreshing to find a place such as The Stonehouse where the old is mixed, quite easily, with the new, and where the mind, body, and spirit are looked after equally by the four businesses housed within. Claire’s Tea Rooms, The Stonehouse gift shop, Charlie Byrne’s bookshop, and Plexus Bio Energy Clinic and Holistic and Pregnancy Massage complement each other by offering customers a chance not only to explore the wonderful array of gifts, but also pick up an interesting book, get your health back on track with a wide range of treatments and massages, and then take time out for lunch.
At Claire’s Tea Rooms there is no such thing as mere tea bags, not here, ‘real tea’ is used and poured into gorgeous china cups. Claire’s Tea Rooms has a personality of its very own, the chinaware gives an air of sophistication while the decor complete with many beautiful paintings and a quaint fireplace is so relaxing that you will just never want to leave.
Claire’s Tea Room is the brainchild of Claire Walsh who has a wealth of experience in the food industry behind her, and when the opportunity came she jumped at the chance to move into The Stonehouse. “I started doing home-made cakes before gradually also doing breakfasts and lunches. It is a lovely old building with a great atmosphere and in the tea rooms china is used all the time. It is like having lunch with your granny in a sense,” said Ms Walsh.
Although the food and tea here is amazing the tea rooms has much much more to offer customers as it also houses a number of paintings and regularly holds numerous exhibitions, book launches, poetry readings, and other literary events in conjunction with the Clarinbridge Arts Festival committee. Once a month Claire’s Tea Rooms holds ‘The First Friday Supper’ event. Last month was Mexican night where four great musicians from Kinvara came to play. Forthcoming events include Christmas Night with music by Gary O’Briain on December 3, and Nollaig Na Mna/Women’s Christmas in January. Claire’s Tea Rooms also caters for small christenings, family gatherings, and even small weddings. Opening hours are 9.30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, 12 noon to 5pm on Sundays, and open again at 7.30pm for ‘The First Friday Supper’ evening events.
Towards the back of the main building you will find a quaint little cottage which is The Stonehouse gift shop. Here you will find dressers laden with jugs and mugs, both old and new, nooks and crannies where beautiful knitwear can be found in one corner, china in the next, as well as vintage jewellery and old fashioned toys. “The atmosphere when you walk in here is lovely, 99 per cent of people who come here tell me it is ‘absolutely divine’,” said proprietor Phyllis McNamara, who is also the owner of Cobwebs in Galway city centre.
“People coming into Cobwebs were always saying how they missed the upstairs part of the store which had lots of toys and other little trinkets. I wanted to recreate that magic for all ages with a mixture of antique and new. The shop here started in a little room in Claire’s Tea Rooms but when the cottage became vacant two years ago we moved into that. The shop has everything you can imagine for country living, all simple wholesome and nice things. It is a jumble of items which is just perfect for the ambience of the cottage. We do a lot of kitchen and dining items as well as knitwear by Heather Finn, from Oranmore, who has won a lot of awards for her designs. We also sell old fashioned toys for children and babies which are wonderful for Christmas. There are dressing dolls and teddy bears, simple things like that, the type of toys I would have had myself growing up.
“A home is something that evolves, that should have mixture between old and new, we have that mix. There are also lovely Christmas decorations which are old fashioned and simple. People always linger here because it is such a lovely warm atmosphere and there is so much to discover. The whole atmosphere of Clarinbridge is magical and The Stonehouse is a lovely place to spend time,” said Ms McNamara.
If it is more discovery you are after then a trip upstairs to Charlie Byrne’s bookshop is the answer. Now, those familiar with the big sister bookshop at the Cornstore in the city centre will know what a treat browsing through the selection of books can be but the store in Clarinbridge has something a little bit more special about it. As it is the only fully fledged bookshop in the village this addition to The Stonehouse has been gladly welcomed by the local community and the nearby school has also benefited greatly as there is a very large and impressive children’s section.
“I am 21 years in business in the city centre store and I have brought that experience out to Clarinbridge. I saw the opportunity to move in with businesses which complement each other, and it was ideal when a vacancy came up. So I set up a store there and it has been going for nearly a year now. It is a very small version of the city centre shop. There are not as many second hand books, it is mainly new books at discounted prices, and there is a very big children’s section which is very popular. There are various sections, history, literary fiction, popular fiction, all with up to 60 per cent off. As the space is more limited I chose some of the nicest books to sell there. The bookshop works well in Clarinbridge, it is the only one in the village and has lots of authors including local man John Quinn and books on the Burren as well as local history. All the businesses here work well together, it is a great combination. The Stonehouse looks after the mind, body, and spirit,” said Charlie Byrne.
When it comes to relaxing and looking after your health what better way than by visiting the Plexus Bio Energy Clinic and Holistic and Pregnancy Massage which has been based at The Stonehouse for nearly a year. The lovely energy which is felt throughout the building continues in the clinic which has a very relaxed and soothing atmosphere. Having completed a science degree at the University of Limerick, Aisling Connolly continued her studies by moving into the area of plexus bio-energy. After training as a bio-energy therapist under Michael O’Doherty and Tom Griffin, the co-founders of Plexus System, Ms Connolly became a fully qualified therapist in January 2004. To complement this therapy she also studied and obtained a distinction in holistic massage and pregnancy massage.
According to Ms Connolly plexus bio-energy is a powerful and effective healing technique that works by rebalancing the life force energy within and around the human body. For the body to be functioning correctly and in full health this energy needs to be in a state of continuous flow. If this energy becomes blocked or stagnant, it not only affects the physical body but mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of our being also. The treatment can be used to treat all problems and illnesses including back pain, headaches, grief, digestive disorders, and stress.
“As a plexus therapist, I have been trained to locate blockages through a series of hand techniques, which can manipulate the energetic structure of the body. When the flow of energy is re-established it unlocks the code of healing within each cell promoting and restoring wellbeing. The treatment programme is carried over four consecutive days, for 45 minutes per day. The plexus healthcare system urges people to take back responsibility for their own health. Through techniques such as abdominal breathing and visualisation, the patient is educated and taught how to maintain energy flow on a continuous basis. The therapy is also hugely beneficial to children for all types of problems including colic, asthma, congestion, and worry. It strengthens their immune system, which in turn strengthens their resistance to common childhood illnesses,” she said.
Ms Connolly added that as a mother herself she has a particular interest in pre-natal and post-natal massage which can be hugely beneficial not only to the mother but also to her unborn child. “Research shows that the baby can also benefit greatly as ‘feel good’ endorphins released by the mother are passed onto her baby,” said Ms Connolly, who added that the clinic offers vouchers for massages which can be the perfect present for an expectant mother. For more information phone 087 2106717 or 091 485962. Open Monday to Friday by appointment, late appointments catered for.