Europe & Britain | Food

7 facts you never knew about Ballyknocken, home of Be My Guest host Catherine Fulvio

Located just a one-hour drive from Dublin on a stunning 280-acre farm, Ballyknocken House & Cookery School is a true gem of County Wicklow, Ireland. Ballyknocken House is a charming Victorian farmhouse accommodation – and it’s also the home of award-winning celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio. You can spend a relaxing weekend here, learning to cook at Catherine’s Cookery School, or exploring the gorgeous surrounding region. And when you travel Ireland with Trafalgar, you’ll get to visit Ballyknocken, meet the Fulvio family, and enjoy a delicious Be My Guest dinner, lovingly made with home grown ingredients. Ready to pack your bags? First, get to know more about this wonderful farmhouse with these 7 amazing facts you never knew about Ballyknocken.  

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1. Ballyknocken is home to celebrity chef and award-winning food writer, Catherine Fulvio

Born and raised at Ballyknocken, Catherine is founder of Ballyknocken House & Cookery School and the third generation of her family to live at the farmhouse. She’s an incredibly accomplished chef, writer, and TV presenter, having been nominated for a Daytime Emmy for her roles as Outstanding Culinary Host on her US TV series “A Taste of Ireland” and “Catherine’s Farmhouse Kitchen” on Recipe TV. She’s also an award-winning author of six cookbooks and is currently filming another series of Catherine’s Farmhouse Kitchen. 

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2. Ballyknocken House was built in the 1850s for a local landlord

The beautiful 19th-century Victorian farmhouse was built for the Hetherington Family. Mr. Hetherington was the area agent (rent collector) for the major landlord at the time. In those days, a rent collector was a much more respectable job than that of a lowly farmer. While most tenant farmers lived in thatched cottages, the Hetherington Family were able to afford the bigger house. 

While the Hetherington family scored the bigger house, it did not mean they were more popular. In their case, it meant the opposite, as Mr. Hetherington was found murdered by the watering hole just 800 yards (730 metres) from his home. However, it has to be said that the Hetherington Family were good to the locals. At Ballyknocken House, you can still see the famine soup pot, used to provide soup for the poor tenants during this difficult time in Irish history. 

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3. Ballyknocken is said to be haunted

To this day, the locals believe that Hetherington’s ghost haunts the road. Legend also says that another ghost named “Whitty” occupies the spot where Hetherington was murdered. Perhaps Hetherington continues to live up to his rent collector reputation and has sub-let his spot! 

4. Ballyknocken was one of Ireland’s first farmhouse B&Bs and has been open to guests for over five decades

Catherine Fulvio’s grandparents, Richard & Margaret Byrne, purchased Ballyknocken House in the 1940s. The Byrne family had been farming in the area for centuries and Catherine was fortunate enough to inherit old deeds and interesting paperwork regarding her family, dating back into the 1700s.

One of the most interesting documents is a solicitor’s letter to Catherine’s great Uncle Louie. As was custom at the time, Louie had agreed to an arranged marriage. However, Louie defaulted and the disappointed fiancée decided to sue him for breach of contract and damages!

In 1968, Catherine’s mother opened Ballyknocken’s doors to guests, and it was one of the first farmhouses in the county to begin welcoming guests. Now, over five decades later, the Byrne hospitality lives on through Catherine and her family.

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5. The name “Ballyknocken” comes from a Gaelic phrase

The name Ballyknocken stems from Gaelic – Baile an Cnocan – meaning “the town land of the little hill”.  The little hill in question is Carrick (meaning rock), which rises directly behind Ballyknocken House. For the record, Carrick originally measured 999 feet, however it needs to be 1,000 feet to be classified as a mountain. So, some enterprising locals sorted that out by putting a cairn (pile of rocks) on top of Carrick! 

The Ballyknocken farm and surrounding area is a hill walker’s paradise, with plenty of scenic trails to explore. You can also go biking, golfing, explore waterfalls and gardens, learn to cook, or simply relax on the beautiful farm. 

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6. Ballyknocken is a working farm

Ballyknocken is much more than just a pretty farmhouse – it’s also a working farm. Most of the farm is now organic and produces organic lamb and organic oats for oatmeal. Ballyknocken Farmhouse also grows their own fruit, vegetables, and herbs in their beautiful gardens. Catherine and the Fulvio family use this fresh produce in the meals they cook for their guests and you can tuck into their scrumptious food on Trafalgar’s trip to Ballyknocken. 

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7. Catherine’s favourite family recipe is…

Soda bread! Catherine’s grandmother made two or three large soda bread loaves a day to keep her family and farm workers happy, especially during the busy harvesting time. Catherine learned to make this beloved family recipe while growing up at Ballyknocken and still loves to make it for guests at the farmhouse. You can even learn how to make Irish soda bread with Catherine Fulvio here.

Have you ever visited Ballyknocken house in Ireland? Let us know in the comments below

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