North County Dublin is generously supplied with lovely places to visit, and the 12th century Malahide Castle and its extensive grounds would be high on any list of favourites.
Surrounding the castle, there are woodland walks, sports grounds, a children’s playground and, among the gardens, a Secret Walled Garden with a beautiful Victorian glasshouse is under restoration.
An old stone courtyard beside the castle has recently been stylishly redeveloped and now houses an Interpretative Centre (telling the story of the castle itself), and an Avoca store, laid out with all the familiar temptations including a foodhall with a deli, bakery and artisan foods.
And then there’s the café: a large L-shaped room with huge windows overlooking two gardens and an outdoor terrace, it is self-service and has a huge blackboard along one end wall detailing the main treats on offer - plenty to digest while waiting in the queue to be served; just make sure you’re in the right one, as it can get very busy and there’s another queue for anyone who just wants light refreshment from the home bakes and drinks in a second display unit.
There’s a good team here and the food is up to their usual high standards, all home cooked and based as much as possible on local and artisan produce. Avoca is especially well-known for great baking and traditional dishes like beef and Guinness casserole, but the salads and vegetables are also legendary.
Once you have found somewhere to sit and enjoy it, the quality speaks for itself, although it may seem on the expensive side for self-service - a table service option along the lines of the lovely Fern House Café (at their flagship Kilmacanogue store) would be very welcome here.