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Located close to Cork, on a piece of land inhabited since the Middle Ages, Ballyvolane House has been built in 1728 by Sir Richard Pyne, a retired Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. It was designed with three stories, in the classic Georgian country house style.
The Ballyvolane House before its transformations in 1847 © Ballyvolane House
The place was soon to become the setting of an intriguing drama: Andrew and Jane St Leger, who rented the house, were killed in their bed by the butler and a maid. Both murderers were apprehended, found guilty and executed in 1731. A well known local legend claims that the butler and his accomplice (who was thought a witch) buried the trunk with the precious valuables of the victims in the manor’s shrubbery before fleeing. This treasure has been searched forever since.
Jasper Pyne, one of the descendents of Sir Richard, enlarged the house considerably in the early 19th century, after three marriages to wealthy women. The three-story house was then modified in 1847 by Jasper’s nephew and heir George Pyne: removal of the top floor and recreation of a two storey house rendered in Italianate style, with an extensive west end wing.
© Koster Photography
Typical of this “Neo-Renaissance” influence, the perfectly rectangular building, the low-pitch roof, the large eaves supported by corbels and the quoins (masonry blocs at the corners). The outside sobriety (reinforced by the dark color of the coating) contrasts with the richness of the interior decoration and the brightness of the rooms.
© James Fennell
The house was sold to Cyril Hall Green (known as Squirrel) and his wife Joyce in 1953 on their return from Malaya (Malaysia) where Squirrel had managed rubber plantations since the 1930’s. Ballyvolane then passed on to Squirrel’s son Jeremy who ran it as a mixed tillage and dairy farm. Ballyvolane was run as a successful guest house by Jeremy and his wife Merrie until January 2004, when the reins where handed over to his son Justin and his wife Jenny. Their two children seem a little young to take over soon, though … (but the picture is an old one already).
Ballyvolane House has a sense of place culturally and enjoys a real sense of history. It is totally unique and one-of-a-kind as each generation has put their mark on the walls in terms of style and decorations (family portraits and heirlooms). The house is furnished with an eclectic mix of fine antiques and mid-twentieth century (quirky) furniture, evoking a slice of home-from-home ancestral chic. The house is run in a relaxed and unstuffy manner however the attention to detail and little touches are impressive.
The Ballyvolane House offers vast gardens to explore, a beautiful walled vegetable garden, woodland walks, salmon fishing on the river Blackwater, game shooting in season, ferreting, cycling, guided canoe trips on the river, guided mountain hikes, plus other activities as foraging expeditions with an expert forager and cookery demos.
Collecting fresh sea-kale from the walled-garden © James Fennell
Justin and Jenny are trained hoteliers having worked in some of the best hotels in the world. Food is a high point at Ballyvolane House and the menu changes daily. The ingredients are grown and reared on-site or sourced from local artisan producers. Ballyvolane rears rare-breed pigs, hens and ducks and grow a vast array of vegetables and fruit in the walled-garden. Sea-kale is an exotic vegetable eaten with Hollandaise sauce one day a year. Game features prominently on the menus in season as does wild salmon caught on the river Blackwater. All meals are served in the grand dining-room “house party” style where all the guests sit together around the main dining table.
Mr and Mrs Green are very child-friendly. Their own children host a high-tea each evening with the guests’ children. There are vast gardens to play-in with a trampoline and tree house, woods to explore and they can help feed the pigs and collect the eggs after breakfast each morning.
Blarney Castle & Gardens: build over 6 centuries ago by one of Ireland’s most popular chieftain, Cormac MacCarthy, especially known for its “Stone of Eloquence”, at the top of a tower.
The Rock of Cashel: Impressive group of medieval buildings, former residence of the Kings of Munster, set on a hill in the Golden Vale (Tipperary).
The Rock of Cashel © still.epsilon
© Jan Baldwin
To fully appreciate the period atmosphere of the Ballyvolane House, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books (nothing beats a good historical novel to bring old stones back to life). Watching a film evoking the era or listening to some period music may also be a good way to transport you back in time… A few suggestions:
Books to be devoured in situ
Films to be watched before arriving
Period music to be enjoyed on location
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Justin & Jenny Green
Castlelyons, Co. Cork
+353 25 36349
(fax +353 25 36781)
Guest House’s own website
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