Myrtle Allen is Ireland’s answer to Alice Waters: The centenarian chef has lobbied the Irish parliament for better food policies, earned some Michelin stars, and 50 years ago she opened a restaurant called the Yeats Room in Shanagarry, a town an hour east of Cork City. She eventually added bedrooms upstairs and called it Ballymaloe House, and her sous-chef-turned-daughter-in-law, Darina Allen—who has written canonical Irish cookbooks and helped lead Ireland’s Slow Food movement—tacked on the Ballymaloe Cookery School and farm two miles from the main house.
This is thus the seat of Ireland’s food royalty, and it shows. The restaurant spins herbal, flavorful dinners out of whatever comes in from the farm or East Cork’s fishing boats, and the cookery school has become known the world over for teaching expert and novice chefs to make pizzas, ferment pickles, cook baby food, and grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Even without all that, the ivy-fronted house—and cabins and cottages on the farm’s grounds—make for a simple, pleasant country retreat.
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The hotel’s 400-person home village, Shanagarry, means “the old garden” in Irish. Stop into pubs and galleries, and stroll along sandy (if chilly) Atlantic beaches.
Need to Know
Rooms: 33 rooms. From $140. Check-in: 1 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: It’s hard to forget the fresh-baked Irish soda bread, crisped bacon, and nutty muesli on offer at breakfast. The roast pollack with tarragon butter and shrimp or red-wine-braised East Cork beef on the dinner menu similarly leave a lasting impression. Spa and gym details: A small array of massages and nail services are available in-room. While there is no gym, the property does include tennis courts, a five-hole beginner’s golf course, complimentary bicycles, and a small outdoor pool during the summer months.
Who’s it for: Food lovers, of course, especially aspiring chefs. Our favorite rooms: The New West room has pretty floral wallpaper and a small private courtyard. Plan ahead: Arrive a bit before check-in to choose between the available rooms.