If you want to truly savor the local culture of the Munster Vales and get a real farm to fork experience, a great option is to check into Ballyvolane House in Castlelyons in Co Cork. The owners of this beautiful big house complete with high ceilings, buckets of light and wonderful views, pride themselves on providing mostly locally grown and sourced food. And if you prefer a taste of the outdoors, Ballyvolane offers exceptional glamping pods with a tasty welcome box and a communal chill out area.
Kick off Day 1 with a walking tour of Buttevant Heritage Town with a guide from Say Hello to Ireland Tours. This medieval town is bursting with stories, with archaeological digs as recent as 10 years ago shedding even more light on the town’s origins.
Head over to Donneraile to eat at the popular Townhouse Café which has a variety of hearty salads, soups and breads with a delicious twist. Spend the afternoon at the Donneraile Estate and wildlife sanctuary exploring the five themed gardens and the 400 acres of parkland which is home to deer, otters, herons and squirrels.
On Day 2, start your day at the 6,000 year old lake of Lough Gur. You can book a guided tour to find out all about the history and folklore of the area. Check into the community run Visitor Centre and explore the ruins of a Norman Castle known as Black Castle.
If you have time, head over to the Kenndy Rooms in Bruff, a former convent with a great history and links to John F Kennedy.
Back at Ballyvolane House, you can book a session to get a taste of their very own Bertha’s Revenge Gin. You can’t stay at Ballyvolane House without sampling their tasting menus which are tailored to make use of their produce across each of the four seasons.
For the next three nights of your stay, other great options could be Grenane House with its listed gardens and stunning hand painted playroom; or the luxurious Georgian Lismacue House which is surrounded by 200 acres of parkland and views of the Galtee mountains. The 800 year old Castle, Castlegarde, is another good choice. And if you want to get a bit closer to the scenery, pitch a tent or caravan at the Glen of Aherlow Caravan and Camping Park.
Spend Day 3 exploring the Glen of Aherlow with its scenic drive up to the Christ the King statue. There are some great hikes around the area but make sure you take time to check out the Heritage Trail. Head over to Tipperary to fuel up with freshly cooked and responsibly sourced food at the popular Flanagan’s Lane Restaurant. Then spend the afternoon at Tipperary Excel Heritage Centre which offers a great gallery space and a fascinating section on genealogy and heritage. The centre also hosts theatre, film and events.
A great way to spend Day 4 is to take a Family History Tour at Grenane House which, if you time it well, will include lunch! This will also provide a great opportunity to explore this wonderful house and gardens. Alternatively, take a tour of Castlegarde to find out its 800 year old story or the beautiful Georgian Manor, Lismascue House.
When it’s time to eat, why not check out the menu at the Ballykisteen Hotel which includes everything from light wraps to succulent burgers.
And finally, on Day 5, take yourself off to explore the iconic Rock of Cashel, an imposing and spectacular archeological site outside the Tipperary town of Cashel, the seat of the High Kings of Munster. A great choice for brunch or lunch is Mikey Ryan’s which has great food and a fantastic outdoor space.
After lunch, visit Cahir Castle, one of the largest ancient castles in Ireland which appears to jut out of the rock at the River Suir. Take the pretty, tree lined 2km walk along the river to reach the quaint, historical Swiss Cottage. Once you’re back in Cashel, it’s time to try out the Michelin starred Chez Hans & Cafe Hanz which is, simply, unmissable.Back for more itineraries