Do we bloom just once?
The Irish writer, John McGahern once said:
"We bloom only once and you'd want to be very foolish not to know that".
Yet when one considers Ballilogue in Ireland's beautiful south Kilkenny countryside and what has happened in recent years to the village or Clochan-like cluster of stone and granite buildings, the bangor blue slate roofs, dating from 1700 and 1800 one wonders if that is indeed true?
The people who farmed in Ballilogue, lived together in tight knit communities, played cards in each other's thatched cottages and baked bread in cast iron bastibles on open fires are long since gone. Yet, in recent years an extraordinary thing has happened to the quiet cluster of buildings in the solitude of the Irish countryside.
The Irish vernacular architecture has been carefully preserved. The oldest building, Mrs. Meaney's Cottage, retains all the character, the artifacts, even the open fire with it's crane, Irish dresser and settle bed, each having such an important place in 18th and 19th century rural Irish life displaying the patterned and embellished dishes, plates and crockery and the settle bed acting as both table and bed at night to sleep large families in confined cottages by the heat of the open fire.
This jewel is still the centre of Ballilogue but clustered around it are the lovingly restored stone buildings with architecturally minimal light filled interiors. The London based, Irish architect, Mark Guard, had been commissioned to slowly bring Ballilogue back to life as a cluster of luxury private homes, a private complex in it's entirety for International groups of friends, families, weddings and celebrations to rent by the week or month. A Yoga retreat, a film and movie backdrop, a place to re-connect with generations of family and friends as an exclusive private place, Ballilogue has been at the heart of these events from around the world and has found a special place in people's hearts in recent years.
Could they have imagined, those people who farmed in the Kilkenny countryside, raised their families, many who emigrated, that Ballilogue would bloom again?
It is extraordinary to describe the feeling of calm and tranquility as you walk the bohereens nearby, chatting with local people or back through the gates and gardens of this private place. The sounds of starlings, blackbirds and cows mooing in the distance. The green of the Irish countryside and the proximity of beautiful Kilkenny with its Castle, galleries and brewery. Waterford Crystal and the Kennedy Homestead are both close by as is Inistioge, which is possibly the prettiest village in Ireland. Less than 2 hours to Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports for what is a heavenly experience.
What is special about Ballilogue is the layers of Irish tradition, contemporary architecture, Irish art, ceramics and furnishing. The re-imagining is quite beautiful. Five buildings in a cluster yet each with their own private gardens, orchard and painted galvanise hay sheds. Mrs. Meaney's Cottage is the oldest. At right angles to it is the long stone Old Dairy, now used by the Ballilogue chef to co-ordinate private dining, intimate small weddings and yoga retreats.
The three imposing stone houses add scale and height to the Clochan, a testament to skilled craftsmanship. Each house has tongue and groove roof structures, the proportion of the granite cornerstones, lintels and fine detailing of each building perfectly aligned. The Lodge was designed from a series of three old outhouses. It is now a spacious home on two levels. Ballilogue Loft was a hay barn, the stone is retained inside and out but it too is light filled with a white cube forming it's minimal and elegant interior. The third building is the imposing Ballilogue farmhouse, build on three levels in 1824. The architect Guard, re-imagined the interior, retaining the original shuttered windows but introduced massive galvanise roof lights, a double height living area overlooking the Kilkenny countryside and a mezzanine level above. Three of the five bedrooms are stacked, one on each floor and an Atrium, it's glass roof elevated, projecting outwards into the garden, facing south.
Artwork by Irish artists, Patrick Hall, Patrick Scott, Aiden Bradley, Ross Stewart and others hang on the walls. Ceramics and beautiful, hand built vessels from Freda Rupp, Marcus O Mahoney and Sue Ure feature in the antique dressers and nib walls. Cushions, throws and textiles by Celtic contemporary makers such as Studio Donegal (Welsh, Cornish, Scottish, Irish) from the Celtsius curated project.
The beds are Irish made, pocket sprung mattresses and Egyptian cotton bedlinen, butter soft robes, towels and the award winning, Irish seaweed organic toiletries range, Voya. Books abound, limited edition on Art, Gardening, Photography and Design.
It is a special place Ballilogue in the Irish countryside. A place to bloom again perhaps, as Irish writer, John McGahern might have said.