Justin and I have just returned from Ireland and had the most amazing time! The highlight of the trip was our weekend at Ballyfin.
We were invited by a dear friend along with twenty others. It was such a special time with old friends and new at a magical place.
Ballyfin's story is fascinating and the staff at the house do an amazing job of making it come to life. We started our visit with a tour of the house by Lionel, a true Irish gentleman who grew up near the house and worked there as a carpenter during the renovation. He now does just about anything that is needed at the house, from the tour to the horse and carriage rides!
Ballyfin House was built for Sir Charles Coote in the 1820s by the great Irish Architects Sir Richard and William Morrison in the Palladian Style. Everything about the house is symmetrical which makes my heart skip a beat. You can click here for a brief history of the house. After serving as a boarding school for most of the Twentieth century, it is now owned by an American couple, Kay and Fred Krehbiel, who have restored it back to its original glory and maybe even beyond.
The Krehbiels have done an amazing job and the journey of the restoration is chronicled in a wonderful book called Ballyfin: The Restoration of an Irish House but we loved digging through these albums in the library too.
The Rotunda was always a gathering spot for our group. I think it was because they usually had cookies set out for us.
Isn't this cantilevered staircase amazing? This photo doesn't really do it justice.
The restored conservatory was a great place to gather to beat the chill! It captured the warmth of the sun and blocked out the wind. It originally functioned as a green house but now serves as a place to sit and read or dine.
The stunning formal dining room.
Of course, my favorite room in the house was a storage room! The collection of Flora Danica on display gave me a case of some serious china envy!
Of course, eating off a tray of blue and white china wasn't bad either!
I must say that the beauty of the gardens rivaled the interiors. Originally, the house would have been completely self sufficient and the would have grown or raised everything they ate. Today, they use as much of their own vegetables as they can. We often snacked on sliced fennel and tomatoes strait from the grounds.
The best way to take in the extensive grounds was with the horse and carriage ride. It was so charming to hear the clop-clop-clop of the horses, snuggle underneath a blanket and soak in the beauty of the Irish countryside.
We found the famous "grotto" - no, not the infamous American one but I'm sure some shenanigans went down here as well!
We climbed to the top of the tower where we could see green rolling hills for miles and miles. We started to count the steps to the top but lost track after a while.
But, enough about the house and gardens. The weekend was full of activity! From archery to fishing, it was non-stop. You could select your own activities and go at your own pace but, of course, with my energetic husband along, I didn't even get five minutes to curl up next to the fireplace with the stack of books I took!
Can you think of a more incredible spot to go fishing or ride horseback?
This "Bird House" is slated for the next phase of the renovations. Isn't it amazing? A beautiful place for the chickens and peacocks to live and stroll!
I loved exploring the grounds and Justin and I stumbled on this old row of buildings that had vines hanging down and trees growing up through the roof!
One afternoon, we hoped in the car at the suggestion of Angus Wilke and Len Morgan and went to preview an auction in a small town near by. We ended up "winning" eleven of these painted tractor seats. I'm not sure what we will do with them but I'm thinking they need a special spot at White Oaks Ranch. Any suggestions for me?
One of my favorite surprises on the trip was stumbling upon this little church on the grounds of the house. We heard music and stuck our heads in and joined a church service that had only eleven other people in attendance. It was so special and sweet.
On our last night, we arrived back at our room to find our costumes laid out so that we could dress for dinner. I hate to admit that I have always had a bad attitude about getting dressed in costume but more because of the time it takes to put the costume together! When it is laid out like this, how can you refuse?
It was a weekend I will never forget! A massive thanks to our wonderful host!
Any ideas on what kind of gift we can send as a thank you?