After a chaotic week with preparations and endless birthday celebrations I am able to put pen to paper again as it were. Simply back to the keyboard! One of my favourite places is the spectacular Ballymaloe House in County Cork Ireland. I love everything about this place and Ireland itself. Having read about the very famous cookery school and always longed to attend I was thrilled when my daughter decided during her post university gap year that she wanted to complete the 12 week cookery course with the Allen family. What better excuse for a visit. There are fantastic walks,croquet lawn and lots of fantastic villages and places to visit nearby, not to mention cookery demonstrations to attend so plenty to keep you very busy.
Myrtle and Ivan Allen bought this magnificent house from the Simpson family in 1948. Ivan Allen was an experienced farmer and they continued farming here with great success and Myrtle became well known for her wonderful cooking with all their ingredients and she wrote a cookery column in the Irish Farmers Journal. Myrtle then decided to open the house as a restaurant. I feel this must have been in the nature of an Italian Agriturismo. She used her own seasonal produce and cooked her own menus according to her wonderful ingredients. The hotel has a country house feel. It is very welcoming and you feel as though you are visiting old friends rather than being an occupant in a hotel. There is great emphasis on excellent dining and the porridge at breakfast is just outstanding and anyone I have met who has stayed at Ballymaloe mentions ‘that’ porridge. The entire Allen family are hands on in running this establishment. On Sunday evenings there is an incredible buffet supper in the dining room and the entire family also eat at a beautifully set table. There are a series of reception rooms and drawing rooms all with comfy sofas and open fires so you can sit and read your paper in peace and quiet and I love the little bar where we had pre dinner drinks every evening before banqueting in one of the dining rooms.
The interior of the house is traditional and the walls are covered with artists many of which are Irish and with a contemporary feel. The hotel is spacious with little staircases and hallways tucked away so you never seem to bump into anyone I was always amazed how many people were in the dining room as we truly felt we were the only houseguests.
Every morning on the menu there is always an option for some freshly caught fish and Ballycotton is a very short drive away so we enjoyed a lovely walk around the harbour surrounded by little fishing boats. We managed to also visit Kinsale which is well known for its very colourful buildings this was very pretty and has lovely restaurants, gift shops and galleries but quite touristy so was not my favourite. Immie and I spent a very long morning at the museum in Cobh. This is where the Titanic stopped and took on passengers for the last time and the museum is fascinating and includes a lot of history about Cobh itself and plight of the Irish emigration from this town. We also visited Cork itself to make sure that Immie had the correct Chefs Whites as Darina prefers a very distinctive, stylish white long sleeved coat for her pupils! There is also the English Market in Cork a covered food market which was full of individual food stalls and smaller local producers selling their wares. We could not leave without a visit to Brown Thomas and a few treats for Immie during her time away from home before heading back to Ballymaloe for our pre dinner drinks.
No trip to Ballymaloe would be complete without a visit to the shop or the ‘cafe at the end of the shop’ where they serve the most delicious seasonal dishes, cakes, treats and the most delicious hot mulled apple drink. The shop has the most incredible selection of kitchen wares and cookbooks and many Irish textiles and products. We spent far too long in here both browsing and purchasing!!!