Ballymaloe House – Shanagarry, Cork, Ireland

The Best of Irish Country Life and Good Eating

A rambling 19th-century house built into the ruins of a medieval castle draped in wisteria, Ballymaloe is the password for “coziest inn in Ireland.” Myrtle Allen has lived here since 1947, raising her six children and slowly building a reputation—first national and then international—as an inspired self- trained cook, cookbook author, and born host­ess.

Most kitchen ingredients (except for the signature fresh fish offerings direct from nearby Ballycotton Harbor) are from Allen’s famous orchards, gardens, and 400-acre work­ing farm that surround the country house. The ancient gatehouse and stables have been con­verted into large, comfortable guest quarters (Mrs. Allen tries to book guests into rooms that suit them best).

In a nearby converted apple barn, Darina, her ebullient daughter-in-law (herself a well-known cookbook author and leading authority on Irish food) runs the country’s first and most important cooking school (more than thirty courses are offered yearly, from one day to several weeks each).

Ballymaloe (“place of honey” in Gaelic) owes its special conviviality to the enveloping welcome of the extended Allen clan and family-like staff who cre­ate an elegant, but very unhotel-like atmosphere, “divorced from snobbery” as Myrtle Allen would say while describing her simple country-house cooking.

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