With thoughts of long summer days in mind, family-friendly places to visit are on the agenda for many. Richard FM Conlon says that Bantry House, Garden and Tearoom — amongst the bountiful selection of visitor attractions that West Cork has — offers both culture and adventure for the whole family. Within walking distance of the town of Bantry, the house and gardens are known the world over for their elegance and splendour.
With the house central to this 18th century stately home, the formal gardens with prominent Italian garden design elements are interconnected, with natural flow. This includes the south-facing parterre, with a central feature of a water-fountain and seating encircled by shade-giving purple-flowering wisterias.
The Parterre then leads up to the infamous Hundred Steps, offering a magnificent climb, leading up past the terraces overlooking the house and also offers a breathing-taking view of the surrounding gardens and the bay beyond.
However, as a genteel alternative, you can follow what their garden-tour leaflet calls the ‘Old Ladies Walk’, as it guides you up to the Hundred Steps. Meandering up through the mixed woodland and onto the Carriage Drive and finally along to the spectacular Hundred Steps, with the view beyond.
The north-facing lawn, overlooking Bantry Bay, has fourteen round beds displaying seasonal flowers along with statues and balustrades defining the manicured area. A central pathway divides the beds and lawn into two equal parts, leading down some steps and past a central feature of a decorative stone vase on a pedestal, and onto an oval viewing-point with Bantry bay beyond. The vase on display is a rare 19th century copy of the Warwick vase, and is made out of Coade stone.
The garden and surrounds of Bantry house were developed by the second Earl of Bantry and his wife Mary, during the mid 1800s, it being said that they gained inspiration while travelling in Europe.
Since 2010 the business side of this family home has been managed by Sophie Shelswell-White on behalf of her mother, Mrs Brigitte Shelswell-White, and the family.
While the garden, along with the house, are undergoing longterm restoration, these mature grounds still offer many features to be enjoyed, and a lot to be explored, by both children and adults.
The spectacular interior of Bantry house offers fine art on display with ornate picture frames, period antique furniture and fine-china dining sets to be admired. Also, on display in the library are rare and collectable books surrounded by ornate marble-type pillars.
Sophie described the house best, when she wrote; Bantry House has been in my family since the 1700s and has a unique feeling since it has always been lived in and contains so much of the original content that was bought for the house in the 1800’s.*
The Bantry demesne has been in the White family since the 1700s, with its history intertwined with the history of Ireland. As the first privately owned stately house in Ireland to be open to the public, it has been welcoming visitors since 1946.
In 1796 Richard White and a local militia were involved in a successful attempt to halt a French armada, lead by the Irish revolutionary Wolf Tone, from landing on Irish soil. During the Irish civil war, Bantry house was used as a hospital for both sides of the conflict.
With a Tearoom that offers teas, homemade cake, lunches and other fine food and refreshments your visit has real potential to turn into a whole-day affair.
With Bantry house, Garden and Tearoom open since April 18, Sophie, family and staff have what appears to be a busy schedule on their hands for 2014.
For further information please visit; www.bantryhouse.com.
*quote from ‘charlotteandjane.com’ blog