We left Glasgow on an Aer Lingus flight and one hour and thirty minutes later we arrived in Cork. Then we had an hour and half drive to the Liss Ard Estate. The main house is referred to as a country house estate as opposed to a hotel.
We were located in one of the two storey Mews Houses on the second storey, we shared the landing with one other room.
The Country House was built in 1850 and is set in 200 acres. Within the grounds they have the Garden Mews, the Liss Ard Lake Lodge and a Victorian Dower house overlooking the 50-acres lake. The Main House was originally built by 'The O'Donovan', Chieftain of the O'Donovan Clan, and it has undergone a complete refurbishment. The Garden Mews where we were staying were formerly a stable block. The rooms overlook the walled garden with views of the parterre and herb garden.
We had five minutes to freshen up and get over to the main house for pre-dinner drinks. The setting was the lovely front room, with comfy couches, and rocking chairs, a great homely feeling. After drinks we were led to the main dining room, to a table set for eighteen and sat down to a sumptuous dinner. I was seated next to the General Manager, Arthur who was very informative. Liss Ard offers fresh local seasonal food. Their food culture is based on the philosophy of using genuine and authentic produce of the highest quality sourced from local artisans and farmers. For my starter I opted for Ardsallagh Goats Cheese with fresh roast beetroot. The Ardsallagh Goat Farm is located near Carrigtwohill Village which is close by to Liss Ard Estate. It's a family run business and they produce high quality, handmade, natural dairy products. The starter was very simple, very filling and full of flavour. For the main I had Fillet of Union Hall Lemon Sole, it was served with lemon herb butter. Union Hall is a small fishing village located in Cork. The main source of employment is fishing and the pier has its own ice plant and fish processing factory. For dessert I opted for the Union Hall Raspberry Meringue Roulade. Union Hall made a big impression on my meal this evening. Too stuffed to go for our planned night time visit to the James Turrell Crater we decide to head back to the Mews and hit the hay.
After a fabulous hearty Irish breakfast, again all locally sourced, we decided to pay a visit to some local sights. We visited Lough Hyne and the Drombeg Stone Circle. Lough Hyne is Ireland's first Nature Reserve and is located 5 km south west of Skibbereen. It was once a freshwater lake to which the sea gained access. This unique lake and its surrounds are home to a rich and varied range of plants and animals, including many rare and beautiful species. We were lucky that the weather held out and it was a beautiful sunny morning as we took in the fabulous landscape.
Unfortunately by the time we got to The Drombeg circle, our luck with the weather didn't last, and the heavens erupted and we got thoroughly drenched! The Drombeg circle is probably Ireland's most famous stone circle. The recumbent stone circle is locally known as the Druid's Altar. Today only 13 of the original 17 pillars remain. The site was excavated and restored in 1958. During this process a pot was found in the centre of the circle, containing the cremated remains of a young adolescent wrapped with thick cloth. Carbon dating of samples taken from the site suggest that it was active c. 945 - 830 BC. Even in the rain, it was clear to see how popular this site is, as a coach full of tourists were all wandering around the Circle. After a morning of sightseeing, we stopped off for a pub lunch, overlooking Glandore Harbour.
And then it was back to Liss Ard. Upon our return we decided to explore the grounds. Lios Aird (Gaelic meaning high fort) is located on the original site of a ring fort and souterrain with a commanding outlook over the surrounding countryside. The 150 acres of gardens, ponds and forest offer an experience that has been described as one of space, perception and peacefulness. With acres upon acres of gardens and trails, the woodland walks with their specially designed pathways offer visitors a truly contemplative experience and enchanting vistas around every corner. Liss Ard has been planned to reveal a collection of 'garden rooms': the lakeside walk, the waterfall garden, the woodland garden, the water garden the arboretum and the wildflower meadow.
The Irish Sky Garden is one of the biggest attractions at Liss Ard. The giant earth and stone work called The Crater; made by famed artist James Turrell, with its contemplative 'Vault Purchase' or plinth at it's centre is a living piece of art. It is also an enlightening experience for the solitary surveyor, lying on their back on the 'Vault Purchase', gazing up through the Craters 'bowl' at the sky, an amazing experience.
We were having such an enjoyable time in the grounds that we missed the next scheduled activity on the itinerary, soda bread baking, so instead I just had time for a quick change and headed to my appointment with the masseuse. At Liss Ard they don't have a dedicated spa, they have treatment rooms. I was lucky to get a half hour slot with Magali Lacroix the resident therapist. Magali uses the French massage therapy tradition called the 'Savatofsky' method. The method is an all encompassing approach which envelopes the entire body and incorporates Swedish and Californian massage techniques while applying acu-pressure to particular points on the body's meridians.
In the evening, we headed out to Castletownshead and dinner at Mary Ann's Bar & Restaurant. It's like entering someone's home, we got a very warm welcome. We were shown upstairs to a private dining area. It really is actually the proprietors living room, which they had transformed for the purposes of our dinner. I was positioned next to the television! How quaint. Despite the fact that we had paper napkins, and the fact that I was next to the telly, the food did not disappoint. For starters I ordered the Steamed Mussels which were served in a garlic cream. The portion was enormous, luckily I had some help to polish it off! For the main I opted for the Hake which was served on Basil Mash with Red Pepper Salsa, again an enormous portion, and again delicious! Mary's has a great atmosphere, fabulous food, and we will definetly return on our next trip to Cork.
One light breakfast later, and we were ready for our bike tour through the estate gardens and to Tragumna beach. On our ride we saw a different side of the estate, and it made us realise exactly how big it is, we thought we had explored most of it yesterday. Thankfully the majority of the ride, once you are out of the estate is on flat ground. It's a beautiful ride, you are surrounded by rolling hills. The beach is very secluded, tranquil and picture perfect. We had scheduled a visit to the famous farmers market, but we were running late. We bid our farewells and headed to the airport for our departure flight back to Glasgow.
Cork is lovely, the hospitality of the locals is outstanding. Liss Ard is the perfect getaway, secluded, private and peaceful. And yet there's still plenty to do if you are looking for an active holiday.
The Main Living Room
James Turrell - The Crater