county cork, ireland

the manor at ballymaloe
the manor at ballymaloe

After the urban chaos that is Dublin, and the sheets of rain that was Galway on the west coast, I was looking forward to heading south to County Cork in Ireland and settling in for a week at the Ballymaloe House accommodations.

We did not stay in the manor.  Only extremely wealthy people from Britain or America stay in the manor.  Modest Canadians stay in the converted pig barn.

ewe cottage at ballymaloe
ewe cottage at ballymaloe

This little cottage was ‘self catering’, meaning it had a kitchen and no housekeeping.  After three hotels in six days, I was very happy to settle in here for seven days – unpacking all our clothes, puttering about, setting up the little kitchen.

Now, Ballymaloe is quite the operation.  There’s the associated Cookery School, the accommodations at the very upper class manor, a kitchen shop, cafe and an extremely lucrative 70 Euro dinner at the manor that is open to the public.  (We indulged one night – that is for another post).  They also have a hall to rent for weddings, these self catering cottages, and lines of homemade food, including Ballymaloe Relish, which is touted and found all over Ireland.

kitchen shop and cafe at ballymaloe
kitchen shop and cafe at ballymaloe

I was impressed by the Allen family’s entrepreneurship.  Although the assortment of differing accommodations translated into a pecking order on the farm.  Those staying in the manor definitely trumped those of us staying in the pig barns.  Go figure.

I love the concept of farm stays – where you holiday on a working farm.  I might have been looking for our experience in Le Magnolie in Abruzzo Italy, which was close to perfect, but of course that wasn’t fair of me, was it?

view out the manor window
view out the manor window

So the experience at Ballymaloe House was an odd combination of upper class English (well, Irish, but I’m going on my knowledge of Jane Austen books here) and a muddy muddy farm.  The grounds surrounding the manor were gorgeous, and there was even a bird sanctuary that we thoroughly explored with our small travelling companion.

ballymaloe farm dudes
ballymaloe farm dudes

Lest you think this is a Trip Advisor hotel review, we did eat at Ballymaloe. We had breakfast twice in the very very hushed manor breakfast room, until the pressure to keep our six year old quiet broke me, and we scurried back to our little cottage for subsequent meals.

At Ballymaloe House breakfast, you will find the ‘Full Irish’ – which includes an egg, rashers/bacon, sausage, black and white pudding, a large mushroom and a grilled tomato.  Here’s my version sans pudding and tomato:

scaled down version of the full irish

scaled down version of the full irish

The Irish love their porridge, yes they do:

porridge offerings

porridge offerings
brown sugar is always served alongside white
brown sugar is always served alongside white
continental breakfast offerings
continental breakfast offerings

The self serve portion of breakfast included stewed fruit – the rhubarb and strawberries were my favourite.

I did sneak off for some time in the cafe attached to the shop at Ballymaloe where I had a nectarine-studded cake and a cappuccino and some Suz time to write in my little Moleskine journal.

nectarine cake
nectarine cake

The food at Ballymaloe is strictly committed to local, in season and organic.  And this commitment made the food very good.

But take one messy noisy Canadian family and mix them in a Merchant-Ivory film setting.  Shake to combine.  You’ll get an interesting, but not entirely relaxing experience, complete with sheep:

the sign is not kidding

the sign is not kidding

Ballymaloe House
Shanagarry
Co. Cork, Ireland

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s