It was the quality of one of their products that led us to Pat and Miriam Mulcahy’s home, Ballinwillin House: delicious, tender Ballinwillin venison features on Martijn Kajuiter’s menu at The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore (Ireland’s only hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant) and, on discovering that they also have free range pork, a farm shop and accommodation, this was a place that just had to be visited.
And it is extraordinary. Right on the edge of Mitchelstown, you approach through a suburban cul-de-sac which ends in a security gate – leading into a different world. Once inside the 80-acre estate, you see deer grazing and the driveway opens up to reveal a substantial 18th century country house and outbuildings – which house the farm shop, and also some unexpectedly modern and luxurious accommodation in a recently converted courtyard.
Inside, the accommodation is laid out like a house and guests can book individual rooms for B&B or self-catering (sharing a communal kitchen), or a group can take over the entire unit.
Pat and Miriam also own the Chateau Mulcahy vineyard in Hungary, and another unexpected feature of Ballinwillin is a characterful old stone wine cellar, where they hold tastings and other events. Their claim to offer “a truly unique experience that combines luxurious accommodation, wine and artisan food” is no exaggeration - it is a most unexpected find, especially so close to the centre of a large country town.
Ballinwillin offers a real rural holiday for both adults and families, with farm tours available (safe walking tracks) and guests welcome to ‘roam free with the deer’. Foodies will love the farm shop and the many artisan producers to visit nearby - and should factor in a visit to the Ballyhoura Food Fair, held at Kilmallock on Bank Holiday Mondays in summer.
And Mitchelstown borders on Ballyhoura Country, famed for its beauty, great walking - and The Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails (www.ballyhouramtb.com), which is the largest trail network of its kind in Ireland. Offering 96km of linked way marked off road trails, ranging from 6km to over 50km long, the trails are laid out as ‘stacked loops’ with each loop leading onto the next and rejoining it on the way back.
All round, it’s a wonderful area to explore – and Ballinwillin would make a great base.