Built in 1720 by John Ryan, one of the few landed Catholic gentlemen in Tipperary, this magnificent Georgian house outside Thurles managed to survive some of the most turbulent periods in Irish history and to remain in the Ryan family for almost 300 years.
John and Norah Egan, who farm the surrounding 250 acres, took it over in a state of dereliction in 1985 and bravely began the major restoration work which has resulted in the handsome, comfortably furnished period house which guests enjoy today.
Reception rooms on either side of a welcoming hallway have period fireplaces with big log fires, and include an unusual William Morris-style drawing room with a tall stained glass window, a magnificent plasterwork ceiling (and adjoining library bar) and a fine dining room, which is used for residents’ breakfasts and is transformed into a restaurant at night.
The five bedrooms have individual character and are furnished with antiques - several have four-poster or half tester beds, and all have garden views (the view from largest, The Green Room, is especially impressive), tea and coffee making (fresh milk from a fridge on the landing) and complimentary Tipperary Water. Information folders highlight the wealth of activities to be enjoyed in the area, including food trails, hillwalking, horse riding and historical visits and, while bathrooms may be a little dated, everything works and most have a full bath.
The house is full of interest - and there are buildings at the back awaiting restoration, including the original house; but it is the warmth and hospitality of the Egan family - with daughter Mairin now Nora's right hand woman in the house - and the sense of being at the centre of a working family farm that makes this wonderful property such a delight.
Good food has always been at the heart of life at Inch House and, in addition to Nora's famous Inch House Black Pudding (see entry), they are active members of the Tipperary Food Producers Network and proud to promote other producers and likeminded businesses in the area. They offer food breaks and a suggested food trail is detailed on their website, where you will also find information about cookery classes offered t guests.
Small weddings. Equestrian, golf, fishing (coarse) and hunting/shooting all nearby. Walking (a 5km walk around the perimeter of the farm is planned). Children welcome (under 10 free in parents' room; cot available without charge). No Pets. Free broadband wi/fi.
Rooms 5 (all en-suite, 1 shower only, 1 family room). B&B about €45-55 pps, ss €10; special breaks offered, eg DB&B for two, €140. Closed Christmas & New Year.
The restaurant, which is open to non-residents by reservation, is a lovely dining room with polished wood floors, classic country house decor and tables laid with crisp white linen and fresh flowers, which provide a pleasing setting for dinner, especially when the ambience is softened by firelight and candles.
Dinner menus offer a well-balanced choice of about six dishes on each course, in a fairly traditional style that combines French country cooking and Irish influences, and makes good use of local produce - especially their own Inch House Traditional Black Pudding, of course, which is a versatile ingredient and features in many imaginative dishes.
Another great local product, Cooleeney cheese, has inspired many favourites - it may be deep-fried as a starter, for example, and served with Inch House red onion marmalade - and local steaks will always feature, served with seasonal vegetables including Inch House potatoes (Records) which are available year round.
Home made ice creams are a highlight of the dessert menu and the excellent Boulabán Farm fruit sorbets (see entry) are also served.
Special dietary needs, including vegetarian, are willingly catered for, but this should be mentioned on booking to allow for preparation of extra dishes.
A very good breakfast is served in the restaurant, which is bright and cheerful in the morning sun - and smartly set up for guests to enjoy a homely feast of freshly baked breads and homemade preserves, fruits, yogurts and juices along with hot dishes featuring local Crowes Farm rashers and sausages as well as Nora's Inch House black and white pudding - which, incidentally, is proudly made to her mother's recipe.
Inch House traditional black pudding is widely distributed within Ireland (see website for a list of outlets) and a growing range of other products is also available, including dressings, sauces and chutneys.