Double-decker dining delight in County Cork is ready to welcome guests

A bistro bus is preparing to re-open it’s doors next month. CHRIS DUNNE caught up with the owners of the novel eatery
Double-decker dining delight in County Cork is ready to welcome guests

Andrew and Annabel Boyle with their daughter Alice at the 1966 Regent Araglin Bistro Bus. Pictures: Dan Linehan

THE wheels on this bus may not go round and round, but the double-decker that is destined to be a new dining experience thankfully made the journey from Ipswich in England to Araglin in one piece.

“The journey was a bit hairy,” says Annabel Boyle, who runs Araglin Animal Sanctuary and Glamping business with her husband Andrew.

“The roads leading in here are so narrow and the bus has no power steering. But we got it here at the end of February, 2020,” adds Annabel.

 Annabel Boyle and her daughter Alice.
Annabel Boyle and her daughter Alice.

The bus served another purpose before it became a bistro.

“We had it parked up outside the house and we used it for home schooling during lockdown!”

That must have been a novelty for the kids?

“The novelty quickly wore off!” Annabel says.

The Araglin animal sanctuary, best known for its creatures great and small, is now home to a still smooth-running 1966 AEC Regent double-decker bus, which came kitted out to cater for the discerning diner, and it is neatly parked up ready to welcome people who want a unique dining experience.

Annabel Boyle and her daughter, Alice, thought outside the box when they came up against a planning permission issue.

“We ran into difficulties regarding planning permission for a catering outlet here at the animal sanctuary,” says Annabel.

“So I thought outside the box and I came up with the idea of a London bus as a bistro.”

How come?

“I was brought up in London and so I was always travelling on double decker buses there,” says Annabel.

“So it brought back great nostalgia to me when I spotted the double-decker green and cream bus for sale on the internet.

 Annabel and Alice on the upper deck of the bus.
Annabel and Alice on the upper deck of the bus.

“The bus’s top speed is 36mph, so it was never going to be an express journey - but it made it here in one piece!”

Araglin Glamping and Animal Sanctuary is not easy to find. It is not for the faint-hearted or for anyone not used to reversing!

The low howling of the resident wolves at the sanctuary can be heard as far away as Kilworth.

“People having brunch or dinner on the bus have a bird’s eye view of the wolves from the upper deck,” says Annabel laughing.

Hopefully she’ll keep the wolf from the door?

Annabel laughs.

“The wolves have their own area on the grounds and are quite happy t here! They can’t get out.”

They might make good bouncers though!

“They probably would!” says Annabel.

Diners will be under the eagle eye also of the resident hand-reared raven that was rescued as a chick when he fell out of his nest.

“The wallabees, emus and ring-tailed lemurs are some of the most unusual animals we have here,” says Annabel.

Willow the Irish Wolfhound taking an interest in the day old pygmy goat looked after by Cian Clarke at the Araglin Glamping and Animal Sanctuary in North Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Willow the Irish Wolfhound taking an interest in the day old pygmy goat looked after by Cian Clarke at the Araglin Glamping and Animal Sanctuary in North Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

The ring-tailed lemurs are partial to grapes and leave their enclosures for a regular feast.

“Each animal has its own individual back story,” says Annabel.

“They are dropped here to us for many reasons. After my husband Andrew retired he was able to focus on the animals more, whilst I set up a glamping business to help fund the needs of the animals and their own large families. This proved to be a huge success and the next step was purchasing a converted vintage double-decker bus.

The kitchen of the 1966 Regent Araglin Bistro Bus. 
The kitchen of the 1966 Regent Araglin Bistro Bus. 

“This opened up a lot more potential to grow and evolve the business,” says Annabel.

Daughter Alice joined her enterprising parents on board for another adventure.

“Alice ran her own childcare and in-house cooking business in London and decided to move back home to team up with me to help develop something novel and exciting together!” says Annabel.

Mother and daughter make a great team. The new addition to their airbnb and glamping business, Annabel’s Bus Top Bistro, will prove popular for those looking for a unique dining experience.

“We are both passionate about cooking,” says Alice.

“And I think the bus and the lovely countryside blend so well together. People will love it.”

So Alice pushed the boat, (or bus) out, to go into business with her mother?

“I did!” says Alice.

“Mum and I work well together and we get on well together.”

“Alice is my right-hand woman,” adds Annabel.

The Boyles look after a small amount of accommodation on a glamping site that houses two mobile shepherd’s huts and a log cabin. The income allows the sanctuary to operate as it is not open to the public.

“The bus was kitted out already,” says Annabel.

“I went to the UK and Alice and I took a drive in the bus. We both fell in love with it and it was in great condition.”

The double-decker was destined for great things, surrounded by green fields with exotic and domestic animals frolicking nearby.

“We can create delicious menus that can be served on the bus and we welcome groups and private bookings,” says Annabel.

“Coffee mornings can be held on the bus for people who want a small get-together.

Ready for afternoon tea.
Ready for afternoon tea.

“With Covid and lockdown, there were quiet weeks, but we will be up and running again in February.

“You can book afternoon tea on Saturdays. And we also hope to offer a package of a guided tour to see the animals that includes lunch or dinner on the bus.”

Google Maps might come in handy to source the novel dining experience?

“I think people know where we are now, even though we are out in the sticks!” says Annabel laughing.

The Boyles like being in business and they like welcoming people to their neck of the woods.

“The animal sanctuary started off as a hobby when the kids were small,” says Annabel.

“People dropped animals into us and we never turned them down.

“Since Andrew took early retirement, he’s around more. The airbnb and the glamping have really taken off.”

And Annabel’s Bus Top Bistro has taken off too.

“Our pizza nights are really popular with our airbnb guests, but we hope to expand on this,” she says.

Date night is popular too.

“Romantic meals for two are popular,” says Annabel.

 Annabel Boyle.
Annabel Boyle.

“We cater for all tastes and we only use quality and local ingredients for our dishes.”

Is the bus cosy?

“It has a massive oven that throws out unreal heat,” says Annabel.

“I go into the bus in the morning and turn on the oven. Soon the whole bus is heated and it is lovely and toasty. In summer-time people can sit outside where we have a fire-pit.”

Annabel says the double-decker bistro is a hidden gem.

“But we get great reviews from the people who stay here,” she adds.

Annabel’s Bus Top Bistro in Araglin is well worth discovering.

You will find it at: Post code P61Y860. Contact 089-2521283 or email info@araglin-glamping.com

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