Exploring Munster


Saturday 10 - Friday 16 May 2025 (7 Days)


Almost FULL

Marvellous week spent exploring Counties Cork & Waterford

Ballymaloe will be our ‘home from home’ for six days with its remarkable food & country house comforts - all dinners at Ballymaloe

Wonderful selection of houses, some not open to the public

Fine selection of gardens including Harold Peto’s Garnish Island & renowned Mount Congreve

Unhurried itinerary allowing time to enjoy the magical scenery

Tour Overview

The ancient Irish province of Munster was a thorn in the side of the Normans who invaded Ireland in the 12th century. Their Tudor successors, particularly Elizabeth I, spearheaded a new attempt at conquest which led to the “Plantation” of several new counties, particularly Cork and Waterford, as English norms in religion and land management merged with an already existing and vibrant Gaelic culture. Our week in this lovely part of Ireland will allow us to trace this process through fortified towns to the castles dotted about the countryside with their successor houses and gardens from the Georgian period much in evidence. The following centuries of rapid social, economic and political change have left an indelible mark on all we shall see.

Since first introduced as part of our tour programme in 2005, much has changed in and around Cork and Waterford. Several important buildings and collections in Cork will be closed for restoration and this will give us the opportunity to explore Waterford, in many ways much more exciting given so much of its Viking, Medieval and Georgian past has survived, all remarkably preserved and supported by a series of marvellous new museums.

Ireland’s castles and houses are particularly well represented in Munster and we shall include such gems as Curraghmore, the seat of the Marquesses of Waterford, a Norman castle encircled by later Georgian additions, truly the longest inhabited house in Ireland by a single family. Riverstown and Kilshannig are famed for their plasterwork by the renowned stucco workers, the Lafranchini brothers. The recently restored seat of the St Leger family at Doneraile is a fine example of how the neglect of previous decades is now fading fast.

Ireland in May is a particularly good time to visit gardens and we shall see some of its best. Many of the houses are surrounded by formal parkland while later gardening trends are all well represented, from the formality of terraces and water features seen at Bantry House and nearby Garnish Island, the latter designed by Harold Peto, to the modern miniature masterpiece at Hester Forde’s Coosheen. The acid-rich soil suits magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas - all featured at the recently re-opened Anne’s Grove and nearby Mount Congreve, one of the great gardens of the 20th century.

The visit will concern itself not just with food for the eye, mind and soul but with food for the body as we shall stay at the renowned Ballymaloe House Hotel. Ivan and Myrtle Allen’s family have owned Ballymaloe for a long time and since opening the house to guests sixty years ago, it has gained an international reputation, both for its warm welcome and its superb food. Mrs Allen’s daughter-in-law, Darina, is known throughout the world for her work as cook, writer and inspirational teacher. We shall enjoy family-led tours of both Ballymaloe House with its important collection of modern and contemporary Irish art and the nearby Cookery School Gardens.

Our evening meals will be taken at the hotel, an opportunity to sample the best produce, imaginatively presented in a unique manner.  Sadly Myrtle Allen died in June of 2018, but her family continue to run Ballymaloe with the same focus on high quality country-house cuisine using the best local and seasonal ingredients.

Houses and Gardens of Cork was my first tour with CICERONI. I enjoyed every minute of this very well organised and interesting 6 days, and I will not hesitate to book with them again.
Mrs P Norfolk

Day by day

Day 1: Saturday 10 May
We fly from Heathrow in the early afternoon to Cork. We transfer the short distance by coach to Ballymaloe and later that evening we have our first group dinner at the hotel.
Day 2: Sunday 11 May
For sheer beauty of setting nothing quite equals Bantry House, the seat of the White family, former Earls of Bantry, overlooking one of the finest bays on the Irish coast. We shall have a simple group lunch at Bantry before visiting one of Ireland’s most famous horticultural gems, Garnish, on the island of Ilnacullin which is laid out to Harold Peto’s inspired designs. We have dinner at Ballymaloe.
Day 3: Monday 12 May
We spend the morning discovering the magic that is Ballymaloe. A member of the Allen family will guide us around the house which has a fine collection of modern and contemporary Irish art including works by Jack Yeats. We travel the short distance to the nearby Cookery School (founded by Darina Allen) where we will be taken round the fruit and vegetable gardens which supply the school and hotel with fresh daily produce. After a light group lunch we continue to Riverstown House, built by an early 18th century Protestant Bishop of Cork, who employed the famous Swiss-Italian Lafranchini brothers, recently arrived in Ireland, to decorate part of his house with wonderful Italian-inspired Baroque stucco. We then visit a marvellous plantswoman’s garden, Coosheen, in the nearby village of Glounthaune, created in recent years by Hester Forde, who will be our host for this private visit. We return to Ballymaloe where we have dinner that evening.
Day 4: Tuesday 13 May
Located on the banks of the Awbeg river in north County Cork is the recently restored and reopened Doneraile Court, the Georgian seat of the Irish St Leger family. We shall have a guided tour of the house followed by a simple lunch. En route back to Ballymaloe we visit Anne’s Grove, the enchanting ‘Robinsonian’ garden of the Annesley family, also recently restored and reopened to visits. We dine in the hotel.
Day 5: Wednesday 14 May
Medieval Waterford is a remarkable city: Viking in origin, then the bridgehead for the Norman invasion of Ireland, it prospered through trade with the continent and beyond. Consequently, its built heritage is unique in Ireland. So too is the city’s commitment to celebrating its diverse heritage via a series of several new museums which we shall explore during a day-long visit led by the city’s leading historian. Treasures will come ‘thick and fast’ from the finest set of late medieval Flemish church vestments of any European collection to the amazing decorative arts in furniture, silver and the original ‘Waterford’ glass. Our day will be broken by a group lunch and we have dinner at our hotel.
Day 6: Thursday 15 May
Close to the border of Counties Cork and Waterford we visit Curraghmore, the seat of the Marquesses of Waterford. This is an amazing ‘secret’ house, Norman in origin, later rebuilt in the mid-18th century, further enlivened with great State Rooms by James Wyatt.  The surrounding ornamental grounds are stunning, and we shall see the famous Shell Cottage made in the 1750s by the then Countess of Tyrone, the ancestress of the present Lord Waterford. We spend the afternoon at Mount Congreve, where we have a group lunch on arrival.  This magical place reflects the extraordinary level of horticultural excellence achieved by the late Ambrose Congreve. We have dinner at Ballymaloe.
Day 7: Friday 16 May
For connoisseurs of eighteenth century houses this morning’s private visit to Kilshannig will be a highlight. It was built for Abraham Devonsher, the local MP and a very wealthy landowner of Huguenot origin, by the Sardinian architect, Davis Ducart. It too contains very fine plasterwork by the Lafranchini brothers,. The house has been meticulously restored by Hugo Merry, who will host this final lunch of the visit. We travel on to Cork Airport for the return flight to Heathrow arriving in the early evening.
Wonderful gardens and houses in Cork and exceptional food and comfort at Ballymaloe.
Mrs GF, Gloucestershire


  • Price: £3,475
  • Price without flights: £3,275
  • Deposit: £495
  • Single Supplement: £295 (Double Room for Sole Use)

Hotel Details

6 nights with breakfast & dinner at Ballymaloe Country House Hotel.  


Aer Lingus

Outward:          EI715 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 2) 1350, arrive Cork 1510

Return:             EI722 Depart Cork 1615, arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 2) 1735

Price includes

All dinners & lunches with wine, water & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees, gratuities & services of Tom Duncan

Not included

Travel to/from Heathrow


Current Conditions

Weather Conditions for Cork in May are:
Average Temperature between: 10oC - 19oC / 51oF - 56oF
Average Rainfall: 69mm / 2.7inches



Fitness levels

We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.

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