Editor’s note: Bella Supiana is working with JJ Kavanagh & Sons on a new series called ‘Tastes of Ireland’. She’ll be travelling to our destinations around Ireland and scouting out the best places to eat for hungry travellers. In this post she experiences what’s it’s actually like stay in Castle in Ireland!
Want to stay in a Castle in Ireland? Here’s the answer…
When I was told I would be staying in a castle for my Tastes of Ireland jaunt to Kilkenny my heart raced… Something I had wanted to experience for quite some time was going to be fulfilled and that brought a huge amount of joy. Never did I expect to be welcomed wholeheartedly by the residents of Shankill, of whom have lived here for more than twenty years. The Cope family instantly allows for an outsider to enjoy their wondrous home, feeding you with scrumptious cake and warmth from the bitter October cold with a steamy cup of tea.
The castellated entrance gives a brief snippet of what to expect when the house is reached by the long tree lined driveway. The castle sits on a sprawling piece of land, on acres and acres of vibrant Irish green grass – the kind of grass that is admired by almost every other country for pasture that gives growth to some of the finest beef the world has ever tasted. The estate is rich in homegrown food as it is in fine art.
With an apple orchard, the Cope family produce a tangy apple juice that sells in local shops around the county including SuperValu. A long slender browny green coloured bottle holds this delicious juice which Sybil Cope, development manager of Shankill and one of the daughters suggests mixing it with a touch of water. With the very same apples they also produce a cider, quite sweet and somewhat dry which I think would be perfect with roast pork and all the trimmings.
The walled garden to the back of the grounds is a sight to behold… Filled to the brick with homegrown vegetables and fruits, this is one of the most impressive food patches I’ve ever seen. Sybil kindly gave me the ‘royal’ tour of what seems like an area of the estate she is very proud of. Watch us explore it here on our live JJ Kavanagh Facebook video we shot while down there. Amongst food being grown, there are cows that graze happily right by the orchid and behind the stables hens and geese live in contentment together. Fresh eggs are laid everyday and I had the pleasure of tasting them in an omelette ,
mixed with their garden courgette for breakfast.
There are forty two rooms that make up the castle and I felt like a princess in my huge period bedroom overlooking the pond which gives home to fish and ducks. Entering Shankill is magical, a foyer the size of my little apartment in beachside Greystones is the middle ground for entering either the study to your right, dining room straight ahead or board room and bedrooms to the left.
The walls are splashed with vibrancy and creativity. Elizabeth Cope is one of the world’s finest artists. Her work has internationally exhibited in Zuirch, Brussels, London and Sao Paulo to name but a few. If you fear missing the opportunity of experiencing her work first hand then simply come and stay, the house is an exhibition in itself and hours could be spent admiring her thought provoking creations.
Shankill was quite cold and the only downside to my recollection… You’ll appreciate the electric blanket that will have your bed warmed before you even get back from a day’s exploring – that’s how attentive the Copes are! The bed itself was comfy while the duvet, feather I think, was puffy and wrapped me up, toasty all night long.
For breakfast get ready to feast amongst a beautifully adorned table of hearty porridge accompanied by poached pears and garden raspberries along with a truly Irish meaty breakfast. Elizabeth’s vegetable omelette and moist scones are delicious, slathered with rich yellow butter and her own made jam. If this isn’t enough to make you feel welcomed then I don’t know what will!
Shankill is the ultimate getaway, a place to transport you to a different era and allow for a second of forgotten worries or stress that our busy lives can bring. Take hours strolling around the grounds, through the grass or nature rich woodland. Get involved with the walled garden and learn how to grow and maintain your very own crops. And if you can catch Elizabeth for a chat then you’re in for a treat, this woman is a true inspiration and someone I have come to admire only after a short cup of tea! A truly wonderful escape anyone could benefit from..
We’ve 10 buses daily to Paulstown where you can get off at our Paulstown (AppleGreen Stop) and Shankill Castle is a 10 minute walk from there.