A Piece of Ireland’s History in Miniature
I have visited Longueville House lots of times over many years and every single visit is special and always memorable. One of the hardest things for those in the hospitality sector is living up to the expectations of regulars. Here at Longueville it just comes naturally to them.
The earliest part of the present day Georgian Manor House dates back to 1720. The original castle and lands were confiscated by Cromwell after the Rebellion of 1641, when its original owner, Donough O’Callaghan, fought on the side of the Catholics. In the 1930’s the current owners’ grandfather, Senator William O’Callaghan, bought the House and lands, thus recreating a small piece of Ireland’s history in miniature. During the late 20th century Longueville House became synonymous with an emerging new concept for hospitality when Michael and Jane O’Callaghan became founder members of the Irish Country Houses and Restaurants Association (Ireland’s Blue Book). Now the next generation, William and his wife Aisling, are the current custodians of this very fine Irish Country House hotel. It is situated about two miles from the town of Mallow, off the N72 road to Killarney. It is just as well it is well signposted as it has one of those very long driveways associated with grand houses and is therefore well hidden in the middle of a 500 acre farm. Twenty five acres of the farm are given over to an extensive orchard. Here the apples are made into a sizzling cider and a simply delicious apple brandy and this is now a thriving business.
Guests sweeping up sedately along the long driveway will firstly see the Turner designed Victorian Conservatory on the right of the House as the main House arches around the natural contours of its hilly surrounds. The clever design and location gives guests a majestic view across the farm. From previous visits I know that it takes an hour to walk the circumference of the farm estate; best to wear wellie boots as it is a working farm.
There is something special about pushing open the big heavy front door and walking into the front hall lined with antique cabinets stuffed full of Longueville’s produce from jams and chutneys to the aforementioned cider and brandy. The graceful stairs to the bedrooms is set in the back hall and branches off to either side at the first return.
For this visit I was staying in the Vineyard Suite; a classically chintzy bedroom with two aspects, one to the west overlooking the vine pergola and the other aspect north overlooking the courtyard at the back of the House. I find the courtyard buildings very interesting as they are in regular use from the housing of farm machinery to being used for the cider production – a regular hive of activity. So many Country Houses abandon their outhouses but here the stonework has been carefully preserved so that it will be in good shape for many more generations to come. The bathroom was very substantial with two washbasins, generous bath and excellent separate shower. Loads of mirrors ensured that I had no excuse for not looking my best. In total there are 20 bedrooms, six of which are Junior suites, all of which are a fine size, with the exception of the cutest single room that actually makes it a very attractive option to someone travelling on their own. The House, however, always remains true to its origins and authenticity.
The main Drawing Room in Longueville is decorated in classic style with splendid curtains and soft yellow wallpaper which is an extremely relaxing colour. On one of these visits I might just manage to stay awake for more than 10 minutes whilst reading the newspaper! Since my last visit William and Aisling had opened another smaller drawing for residents only. I did puff out my chest a little when I saw the name on the door said ‘Mount Hilary’ room. Gosh they didn’t really have to name a room after me. However, on looking at the map, I saw that it was in fact named after a local mountain.
Cuisine: We dined with Jane in the President’s Dining Room; named very aptly after all the Irish Presidents, who only get to be ‘hung’ on the wall after their term of office. Both Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese are now adorning a group of what could be construed a ‘Mens Club’; so well done to our two fantastic female Presidents, who each brought a breath of fresh air into Aras an Uachtarain. Dinner was amazing, as always. William is one of those very understated Chefs who just gets on with producing Menus and food that make Longueville stand out as a ‘foodie house’. All produce served is given its provenance and one can tell that William is very proud of his cooking, without being a prima donna like some celebrity chefs. Grilled salmon with chicory, followed by local spring lamb, cooked to perfection and melting like butter in my mouth, made for a divine combination. A delicate syllabub for dessert followed by proper camomile tea finished off a most enjoyable meal. Longueville House has probably one of the best herb and vegetable gardens in the country, with very extensive greenhouses. I remember on a previous visit picking camomile flowers and trying to dry them myself but it didn’t quite make the grade.
Longueville House is a great base if you want to do some touring. For starters Blarney Castle is only down the road. My theory is that very few Irish people need to kiss that stone as we don’t need the ‘gift of the gab’ (learning to chat!). Cork City is a very easy drive from Longueville and a visit to the English Market in Cork city is well worth a visit. If it was good enough for Queen Elizabeth then it is good enough for everybody else. Certainly looking at photos she appeared to have really enjoyed her visit there.
My only complaint about my visit this time was that I hadn’t looked properly at their website as I was a few weeks early for the ‘Dusk and Dawn Chorus’ event. This is an annual event where an expert from Bird Watch Ireland accompanies guests around the farm and you get the opportunity to listen to the songs and calls of Ireland’s song birds. There are many other activities, of the more unusual variety, on offer. After all Longueville House was and is a ‘hunting, fishing and shooting’ estate in the real sense of the word and here their Clay Pigeon shooting is very much an integral activity going back generations. Some things never go out of fashion and Longueville House, being a classic Country House Hotel, will never go out of fashion.