I pulled into the long driveway leading up to Ballyvolane House with a great sense of anticipation. In terms of places to stay in Ireland, this is one of the most unique jewels in Ireland’s crown, and I was so excited to experience it for myself.
Ballyvolane House is, in fact, a private home, situated in rural north County Cork, an historic, characterful and exquisitely decorated family home that has been opened up in recent years to offer quite unique luxury accommodation and some excellent Irish food.
This is a grand, yet comfortable and relaxed country house, offering six guest bedrooms – all decorated in their own unique style and with impeccable taste – and a selection of yurts in the gardens as par of their glamping offering. Everything at Ballyvolane screams good taste and luxury – as you might expect with the pedigree of the family who own and run the operation. Justin and Jenny Green are hosts with experience of running some of the world’s most-loved establishments, including the Jumeirah in Dubai, Babington House in Somerset.
The main house offers a cosy drawing room for guests to enjoy, which looks out over the gardens. I loved that it is packed full of interesting books and a wide selection of up-to-date magazines – in fact, I could have sat here all day and just read. There is an open fire, afternoon tea served in here, and an honesty bar just outside, where you can help yourself to a wide selection of spirits, including brand-new Bertha’s Revenge, which is Justin’s new homemade whey alcohol-based gin, which has been lovingly developed in the copper stills at the House.
Dinner is served every night in the dining room at 8pm. It is served family style on a large table, where guests all sit and dine together. It was a lovely experience, and even with the other guests on my table being German speakers, we had an extremely pleasant evening. The food at Ballyvolane is simple, delicious home cooking with a modern twist, and all made using superb quality local ingredients, including produce from the gardens and farm at Ballyvolane. The menu changes every night, and guests are asked if they have any food intolerances when they arrive. Guests can take a drink in the drawing room beforehand and take a look at the menu. To start, we were served with a lovely seasonal soup, alongside fabulously thick slices of home cured salmon and a scrumptious St Tola’s goats cheese salad, made with garden lettuce, strips of roasted red pepper, beetroot and toasted pine nuts, which was wonderful. The main course was a very traditional, but beautifully cooked loin of bacon, served with mashed potatoes, parsley sauce and carrots, with a rhubarb crumble and cheese to follow, then coffee in the drawing room. There is an excellent selection of carefully chosen wines on offer, with a couple of red and white options by the glass.
Breakfast is also taken in the dining room. The choice is wonderful, and as you’d expect, only the best local produce is used. I chose the superb cooked breakfast – I only went for a small version of the popular ‘Full Monty’ – and it was excellent, again made using the tastiest and most local ingredients.
There is so much to see and experience at Ballyvolane; walks down to the lake, up to the woods to see the bluebells, across to the walled garden to see the produce used in the kitchen and over to see the donkeys in the fields. The gardens were bursting with colourful flowers when I visited, and of course, there are the outbuildings that have been so lovingly converted into a dreamy wedding venue.
Every aspect of Ballyvolane House has been created with care, attention to detail, comfort and understated luxury, and it is a truly unique experience to be looked after by the owners and a small team of superb staff. It says a lot that on arrival, I just sat in my room for three hours, looking out over the garden, listening to the birds singing and reading some of the excellent books in the room. I haven’t done that in so long, and it’s such a rare thing to be in a place where one can truly switch off.
Ballyvolane House exceeded my expectations. And I can’t wait to go back.