History of Ballymaloe

Myrtle & Ivan Allen bought Ballymaloe House in 1948

Ballymaloe Castle Cloyne

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

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

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

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 and she could see a different future ahead of her: "On a winter's day I sat by the fire alone and 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 and she was helped front of house by Ivan and their daughter Wendy. Their shepherd Joe Cronin ran the bar.

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

"Our food suppliers have changed greatly since we first opened our restaurant in 1964.  In those days we had a mixed farm, which produced Jersey milk, cream & eggs daily & pork & veal as well.  We also had our own mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers & apples from the farm in Shanagarry.  This was where my husband first started to work on the Strangman property in 1932 when he was 17 years old.

 Our old walled garden still supplies us with some fruit, wonderful herbs & vegetables.  The organic farm in Shanagarry sends us beef and pork, cucumbers, salad crops & tomatoes ripened on the stalk.  Other steady supplies continue.  Fish becomes scarce, but still comes in from Ballycotton.  Mr Cuddigan, the Cloyne butcher has closed the old family business and retired.  Our meat still comes from local farmers.  Ducks, geese & turkeys are reared for us by Nora Ahern.

The farmhouse cheese industry flourishes with excellent new cheeses appearing each year while the old ones remain as good as ever.  We also offer some freshly churned farmhouse butter & cream for the table, from Glenilen Farm in West Cork.  We thank Bille Mosse of Bennettsbridge for his unbleached white & wholemeal, stoneground flours for all our breads & confectionary.

This is not cheap food, it is food that has been loved & cared for by knowledgeable producers.  We think that it is Ireland's best."

Myrtle Allen