History of Ballymaloe

Myrtle & Ivan Allen bought Ballymaloe in 1948

Ballymaloe Castle Cloyne

Baile ui Maolluaigh: The Homestead of Maloo, or Mo-lua.

For further reading, we recommend a fantastic book published in 2016 'Ballymaloe, The History of a Place and its People' by historian & dear friend of the Allen family Jane Hayter-Hames.  

This summary of the Ballymaloe Castle history has been sourced from a 1988 publication by James. N Healy called The Castles of County Cork.

1440 AD

1602 AD

1640 AD

1672 AD



Ivan & Myrtle Allen

Myrtle & Ivan Allen bought Ballymaloe in 1948 from the Simpson family. The Simpsons were known in the area for their parties & Myrtle & Ivan had, in fact, met at Ballycotton Lifeboat fundraising dinner at Ballymaloe a few years previously.   Ivan had wide farming interests, growing tomatoes & cucumbers in glasshouses & mushrooms in dark wooden sheds at nearby Kinoith as well as managing the orchards there.

However, Ivan longed for a mixed farm & when Ballymaloe came up for sale he decided to buy it.  Myrtle & Ivan spent the next sixteen years farming & bringing up their children. The farm was a success producing milk, butter, cream, eggs, home raised pork & veal as well as fruit & vegetables. Myrtle became highly knowledgeable about cooking their produce & began writing a cookery column in the Irish Farmers Journal.

Ballymaloe 1964 to present.

In 1964, Myrtle, encouraged by Ivan, decided to open Ballymaloe as a restaurant. The children were growing up & she could see a different future ahead of her:

"On a winter's day I sat by the fire alone & wondered what I would do in this big house when they were all grown up - Then I thought about a restaurant.”

Her aim was to emulate the best Irish Country House cookery.  Myrtle & Ivan then placed an advert in the Cork Examiner: Dine in a Historic Country House. Open Tuesday to Saturday. Booking essential. Phone Cloyne 16.

So Myrtle scrubbed down the kitchen table, and with the help of two local women she began. They cooked on an Aga at first & she was helped front of house by Ivan & their daughter Wendy. Their shepherd Joe Cronin ran the bar.

The food was good & the restaurant flourished. They cooked using their own produce- unpasteurised milk & cream, veal, pork, homemade sausages & black puddings, herbs, fruit & vegetables. Ivan went to Ballycotton every day for the fresh catch. Local beef & lamb came from Mr Cuddigan, the butcher in Cloyne. Myrtle also encouraged local farmers’ wives to bring in their surplus produce & blackberries, elderflowers & watercress were brought in by children for pocket money.

Although times have changed at Ballymaloe, the essential spirit of the place is rooted in these improvised beginnings & in the relationship of the farm to the table which underlies the elegance of Irish Country House cooking.

Myrtle Allen A Life In Food 50:30