Bee our guest…
You may have noticed that there's been a bit of a buzz about bees in recent months. We've been warned that our fuzzy flying friends are under threat and if the bee population continues to decline it could have a hugely detrimental effect on our environment and ecology. Ireland is home to 21 different species of bumblebee of which over half are in decline. Indeed, the numbers show that unless something changes, we could stand to lose a third of our bee species by 2030.
Something to be thankful for is that fact that our honeybee species is still doing well, and this is largely due to the practice of beekeeping. Many of Ireland’s Blue Book hotels and country houses boast a farm to fork ethos with produce from onsite gardens and local farms. But did you know that some even produce organic honey from their own beehives? Not only do these busy workers produce delicious honey for breakfast and dessert, but they also pollinate the gardens and grounds of the properties they occupy. Here are five Blue Book Houses that have their own resident bees.
1. Tankardstown House, Co Meath
Amongst the flowers and woodlands of Tankardstown House, are the Tankardstown bees, cared for by local beekeeper, Jim Leonard. The bees complement the fresh produce from the ever-evolving walled kitchen garden, polytunnels and fields, providing the Brabazon restaurant with a bountiful variety of just-picked salads, herbs and vegetables. The honey produced by the bees is used in the Brabazon Restaurant – try it with freshly baked brown bread from the kitchen!
2. Coopershill House, Co. Sligo
Coopershill is an eco-friendly Country House Hotel in beautiful County Sligo. which became the first luxury property in the UK or Ireland to achieve the EU Flower, the only environmental award recognized throughout Europe. As part of the House’s sustainability, Coopershill produces much of its own food, including honey. The bees that roam the grounds of Coopershill and the hives they inhabit are tended and cared for by local beekeeper, Philip Sheridan.
The bees at Coopershill House, feed on old-growth lime, horse chestnut and hawthorn trees and as a result, the honey is very light. It is served each morning at breakfast and is used to make home-made muesli and is also the perfect sweetener for Coopershill homemade yoghurt. Local honey is great for counteracting hay fever. You can also take home a small jar home sold at €8 per jar.
3. Ballymaloe House, Co Cork
Did you know that Ballymaloe means the ‘place of sweet honey’? It is only fitting that Ballymaloe House and its blossoming gardens have two beehives collecting bees from the local area. The bees are looked after by Darren Allen. The honey produced is used at breakfast time, as well as some of Ballymaloe’s unique recipes including Lavender Jelly and Honey Mousse.
4. Liss Ard Estate, Co. Cork
There are nine hives of busy bees at Liss Ard Estate. The bees are cared and tended for by beekeeper Niall Dignan, who and sells the produced honey to Liss Ard Estate to be used in sweet recipes. The bees are a wonderful addition to the estate as they are the pollinators to Sally’s Garden at Liss Ard. Liss Ard Estate is a place of enchantment and relaxation set on 163 acres of gorgeous countryside and an amazing 50-acre lake.
5. Belleek Castle, Co. Mayo
Fergal O’Shea is the beekeeper at Belleek Castle, who is in the process of adding another 5 five hives to those that are already there, bringing the total to 10. The hives have already begun to produce some honey, and 10kg per hive is expected in August. Belleek Castle are also in the process of developing the kitchen garden, which the bees will be sure to add to their hunting grounds!
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