Take a trip to Ballyvolane House, where charismatic owners Justin and Jenny Green have made a fine art of throwing unforgettable boho weddings…
In his sweet little bar in the converted barn, Justin Green gives his cocktail shaker a final twist and deftly pours one of his signature rhubarb martinis – a vision in pink that is utterly delicious. “We grow the rhubarb in the walled garden,” Justin says.
Ballyvolane is a truly magical place to stay. Tucked away in Castlelyons, Co Cork, along a sweeping drive flanked by ancient beech trees and banks of wildflowers, it is a welcoming and beautiful spot to escape and unwind.
Built in 1728, the house has been in Justin’s family for three generations – it was bought in 1953 by his grandfather Squirrel Green – and each generation has layered it with their own sense of style. With its pillared hall, baby grand piano, hand painted cornices and quirky mix of family heirlooms, it has a timeless quality that the Greens have added to with their collection of contemporary furniture and paint colours.
Justin’s parents had a mixed tillage and dairy farm until the mid-1980s when a flagging economy forced to them to re-examine. “The estate wasn’t making enough money to support the running of the house,” Justin says. “It was a complete money pit, so my parents diversified and starting opening the house to guests and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Justin and Jenny took over in 2004. They had extensive experience in the hospitality industry after enjoying stints at the legendary Babington House, Somerset, England, and the Mandarin Hotel, Hong Kong, and knew they were facing a major challenge. When the economy took a downturn, it was time to change or go under. “The idea to specialise as a wedding venue was really to fend off starvation,” Justin says. “Our traditional B&B market collapsed as the economy crashed.”
The couple have an incredible knack of creating a seamless feeling of laid-back luxury and charm and it’s little wonder the house and gardens are so popular as a wedding venue. String lights wind their way from the main house to the wedding marquee, which is attached to an old barn with cosy bar filled with a quirky mix of old furniture and junk shop finds, a high-beamed dance floor complete with disco ball for revellers, and a mezzanine area where guests can chill out and play pool. Their thoughtful touches extend to the glamping site, where campers can expect a luxurious bell tent complete with cotton sheets, duvets and pillows and a welcome box with apple juice, homemade cookies, map of the estate and a head torch.
“We took a punt in 2011 and persuaded the bank to give us a loan and we converted an old barn into a fun, rustic yet glam space to party,” Justin says. “We identified a gap in the market in Ireland for weddings with a slightly bohemian twist.”
If you fancy a visit to this bucolic part of Cork but have no plans to get hitched, then don’t worry as a stay is not just for boho revellers. And if you’re lucky enough to bag one of their six guest rooms in the main house, it’s the perfect place to spend an indulgent couple of days. “It’s not a museum – it’s somewhere to enjoy,” Justin says. “The advantage of opening up only a handful of bedrooms is that you can give guests your complete attention. The house really purrs when it’s full of people having fun.”