Historical sites in Ireland are precious to us – in fact, fast becoming even more precious – and those charged with the duty of maintaining the grounds of these cultural gems are doing a marvellous job to ensure that a visit will offer more than just a good view of an old building.
Freshly uncaged from our usual 5k stomp, we might fancy a trip to see something a little more special than our local park. There is no backdrop to a catch-up with a dear pal over coffee or lunch quite like that of a looming noble castle, or the generous sprawling greens of an ancient estate…
Muse Coffee + Food at the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny
Muse Coffee + Food is located in the grounds of Kilkenny’s magnificent Butler Gallery, the South East’s new contemporary art gallery with a crowd-pleasing brunch menu in stunning surroundings. The exclusive outdoor dining pods ensure a truly unique al fresco experience in the heart of the city, with the opportunity to absorb the spectacular serene courtyard garden and medieval surrounds. Muse utilises the best of local produce from Kilkenny and the surrounding counties along with coffee from Cloud Picker. Diners can also make use of speaker docks in the individual pods to personalise their experience, allowing them to set the mood and enjoy a relaxed meal against a background of their favourite music. Bonus points for heating in the pods too.
Burtown House, Athy
Once the centre of a 2000-acre estate and built for Robert Power, High Sheriff of Kildare, in the first part of the 18th century, Burtown House is marked on early maps as Power’s Grove. Burtown is surrounded by lush flowers, vegetable and woodland gardens with beautiful park and farmland walks, perfect to while away a sunny afternoon. The Green Barn overlooks the walled kitchen garden and serves fresh, seasonable produce and is the perfect place for a quick pit stop or indeed a long, leisurely lunch. After lunch, stop by Jo’s Pantry, a haven for the senses that houses a deli, farm shop, art gallery and interiors store selling lots of appealing things to eat, see and touch.
Castle Café at Blackrock Castle, Cork
The Castle is a family friendly café and restaurant located in historic Blackrock Castle, Cork. With Blackrock village, the Observatory and miles of scenic walks on their doorstep, the Castle Café is a popular venue just outside the city, perfect for a day trip. The castle itself is the oldest surviving structure still in use in the city of Cork and has served as an Admiralty Court, a lighthouse, a signalling station and a gun battery, defending the river approach to Cork.
Kylemore Abbey, Connemara
Perhaps one of Ireland’s most beloved tourist attractions, Kylemore Abbey situated on the Wild Atlantic Way in scenic Connemara is, in their own words ‘a haven of history, beauty and serenity.’ Home to a Benedictine order of Nuns for the past 100 years, Kylemore Abbey was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman, and liberal politician. Mitchell, a vocal advocate of the Irish people had a vision to create an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara. These days, Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine community who have been in residence here since 1920. Enjoy woodland and lakeshore walks, magnificent buildings and Ireland’s largest walled garden along with tasty homemade food and delicious home-baking in the café or The Garden Tea House. History talks take place three times a day and tours of the walled garden take place throughout the summer. And don’t forget to pick up some award-winning chocolates handmade by the Benedictine nuns in the craft and design shop before you depart.
Killruddery House, Bray
Dating from the 1500s, Killruddery House is a great historic house of Ireland perched on a magnificent 800-acre estate in Co Wicklow. It is home to a sustainable, bio-diverse farm that includes flowering woodland, formal 17th-century gardens, a high-hedge sylvan theatre, long ponds and a walled garden. The Grain Store Café showcases many wonderful ingredients grown on the estate and the Farm Shop provides an opportunity to take a small slice of this sylvan heaven home with you. There are daily tours of the historic house and The Tea Rooms is the perfect spot for something sweet before you depart.
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