17 years ago
The story of Coolanowle Country House began 17 years ago when Bernadine Mulhall made a brave decision to convert her family home into a guest house. Bernadine who is married to Jimmy, a traditional dairy farmer, had to consider a way of supplementing the income from their farm to ensure a sustainable future for her family.
Now leading farm guest house
What started as an intimate guest house grew in name and reputation as a result of Bernadine’s commitment and dedication to the family business. Bernadine’s hard work certainly paid off and today, Coolanowle Country House and Organic Farm is one of Ireland’s leading farm guest houses, with an international clientele and a fantastic offering of their own organic farm produce.
Innovation and progression
Bernadine’s initial aim was to develop a sustainable, long-term business for the family. Bernadine is continuously making changes to expand and develop the business keeping up to date with current market demands. The continuous progression of Bernadine’s farm business has provided employment for family members including her son, son in-law and daughter.
The farmhouse, approached by an attractive tree-lined avenue and surrounded by three acres of mature beech wood gardens, has the atmosphere of a welcoming family home on a working organic farm with antique furnishings. Bernadine has designed individually styled spacious bedrooms which are complimented by pristine bathrooms and all enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Bernadine also developed two limestone cottages, original cow byres, to four star quality while retaining their original charm. Between the main farmhouse and the limestone cottages, Bernadine can cater for up to 26 people.
Shortly after opening business in the guest house at Coolanowle, Bernadine believed there was a market for the sale of organic produce and so converted the farm of approximately 100 hectares. Initially selling the produce at local farmer markets, this business has continued to grow and Coolanowle Organic Meat is now sold country wide. Customers can also purchase organic produce from their online store http://www.organicmeat.ie/online-store/index.php with the option of doorstep delivery. This aspect of the business was grown further with the construction of a processing unit on the grounds of Coolanowle, where customers can come and purchase the local products.
On site at Coolanowle also is the newly renovated Barn, a purpose built conference/banquet centre which has opened up new target markets allowing Bernadine to cater for weddings, conferences and events with overnight accommodation available on-site, thus maximising the usage of the other two core areas of Bernadine’s business – accommodation and organic meats. The newly renovated barn was officially opened on the 13th November 2012. The conversion of this old barn was featured on the Brennan brother’s television programme ‘At Your Service’. The programme also featured improvements Bernadine made to the self catering houses on the grounds.
Coolanowle Country House and Organic Farm, through the hard work of Bernadine, has earned an enviable reputation for the quality of its home baking and cooking – with homemade and organic being the order of the day. Coolanowle Country House and Organic Farm was voted national winner of the ‘Good Food Ireland Best Breakfast Award’ in 2008 while the farm is also one of the former Organic Demonstration Farms for the Department of Agriculture and a national agri-tourism award winner. More recently Bernadine’s hard work was recognised by Ireland Guide and Coolanowle Country House and Organic Farm was awarded ‘Farmhouse of the Year Award 2012’. Georgina Campbell of Ireland Guide described Coolanowle as ‘the backbone of genuine Irish hospitality’.
Bernadine has established a sustainable business generating employment for her family. Bernadine’s innovative skills have led to the development of an integrated farming model with each aspect of her enterprise complementing the other. Bernadine has created a business where she maximises all additional resources, both man-made and natural, with a view to providing a high quality, value-added experience for visitors. The food produced on the farm is used for the guests or sold locally providing an environmentally sustainable enterprise with very little food miles. I think it is fair to conclude that Bernadine has utilised her innovative skills to maximise the link between local food and tourism for her own enterprise.