The celebrated Golden Vale, a wide swathe of rich, rolling pastureland, covers much of north Cork and extends in the neighbouring counties of Limerick and Tipperary. It is renowned as the best land in Ireland for dairy farming. And on a green, lush island such as ours, that is really saying something.
In Cork, the Golden Vale is watered by the Blackwater River, flowing across our county from west to east, through a lush valley of ancient castles, market towns and some of the richest farmland in northern Europe. The bounty of these rich fields has, for centuries, flowed down the Blackwater, along the old Butter Roads and out to the world through our great harbour.
Just one day travelling north from the city, to the towns of Mallow and Mitchelstown, along some of the old Butter Roads, will bring you to:
Breakfast at the Old Blarney Post Office Cafe – It’s a 9km or 20 minute drive from Cork City to historic Blarney, home of the world famous Blarney Castle & Gardens and also the Old Blarney Post Office Café.
This up-cycled Post Office, right on the village green, serves up gorgeous breakfasts with locally baked bread, eggs from farms just up the road and smoked salmon from West Cork.
Then – Drive north for 25 minutes or 28km towards Mallow and Longueville House, some ten minutes outside the town, a gorgeous, Georgian Country House with 500-acres of woodland, pasture and orchards. They do a famous, indulgent Sunday Lunch, with legs of lamb and huge cuts of beef roasting on spits in the cavernous open fireplace of their grand, main room. Or you could take Afternoon Tea in their drawing room.
Longueville is famous for its orchards, which provide the raw material for their own ciders and apple-brandies, and you can take the Distillery Tour which also includes lunch.
Drop by to Kanturk – This ancient market town is 20 minutes’ drive from Longueville House. You could visit historic Kanturk Castle – a 15th century fortified manor – or just stroll the village and drop in on local legends McCarthy's Butchers. Now 5th generation artisan butchers, father and son team Jack and Tim are always up for a chat about great food, the local area, the weather or just about anything else. Their speciality is cured meats and their North Cork Bresaola is a must taste!
Travel On Towards Mitchelstown – About an hour’s relaxed drive from Kanturk (or 35 minutes from Mallow), you will find Mitchelstown, at the heart of the Golden Vale and home to award-winning craft brewers Eight Degrees, where you can taste and buy some of the best craft beers brewed in Ireland.
Also nearby Mitchelstown, you will find Ballinwillin House, an 18th century manor farmhouse which is now a charming B&B and home to a very inviting and well-stocked Farm Shop (which also caters for online orders) featuring the best of local produce, including their own from their 80-acres of rich pastureland.
For Dinner – Travel the 30 minutes or so from Mitchelstown to Ballyvolane House, an award-winning country house resort that is full of delights and surprises. For a taste of the great outdoors, luxury style, you can stay over and go Glamping. But if you are not staying the night, the restaurant, which is heavily focused on locally sourced, top-quality ingredients, offers a fine set-menu at a very reasonable price in a truly gorgeous and special setting. Some of the food is very locally sourced, coming from their own farm and gardens.
Ballyvolane is also the home of the famous Bertha’s Revenge Small-Batch Irish Milk Gin, named in honour of Ireland’s most famous cow.