When I was preparing to head off to Ballymaloe for three months, I must admit that one of the most concerning aspects of the experience for me was the accommodation. I think it’s fair to say that most of us reach an age when we decide a house-share is not for you any more. The lure of having your own space and being able to surround yourself with your own lovely possessions takes over, and you don’t look back. Well, I reached that stage a few years ago.
To be completely honest, part of the reason I was apprehensive about the living arrangements was simply because I didn’t know what to expect. I also know I need a bit of space and privacy to myself. And I really needed a good internet connection. So, having completed the course, and survived 12 weeks of living on-site, I thought I’d share a bit more detail with you on what the accommodation is actually like.
Fortunately, I was pleased when I arrived at Ballymaloe. I had been allocated a double en-suite room in the White Cottage to myself. The room was really spacious, with two beds, a separate desk area and my own shower room. The cottages are comfortably decorated with a shared kitchen and sitting room, and are equipped with pretty much every thing you’ll need over the next few weeks.
There are around five cottages on-site at the cookery school. They are all situated around a lovely courtyard (complete with doves) and are adjacent to Darina and Tim’s house. There are another two houses off-site which have been more recently acquired by the school, and each housed around 5 students. This was where the more mature students (absolutely no disrespect intended) stayed. However, I was probably the oldest student to live on-site, and generally older by a fair bit than the average student age on the course.
Some cottages (The Barn and the Coach House) were really big, housing around 10 students each. Room sizes varied, but the smallest rooms were absolutely tiny, with just enough room for a single bed and not much else, and two bathrooms for everyone to share. So clearly, there is a big difference in what’s on offer.
Arriving just after new year, it was absolutely freezing in Ireland. The weather was bleak to say the least. The cottages are well-heated, and all have open fires in the sitting rooms, but I would say it was definitely worth bringing extra warm clothing and bedding, as it really was SO cold for the first month. It certainly feels pretty wild down in East Cork in the winter. Having said that, it would be a different experience in the summer, as there is plenty of outside seating provided, and it would just be gorgeous to relax outside in the evening with your fellow students.
There is wifi in all cottages at Ballymaloe and in some areas of the main cookery school building, with the exception of the demo room. The connection isn’t bad, but it is affected by weather conditions from time to time. It also is affected by other users – it takes one heavy user in each cottage to put the connection out for everyone else. And that happens. A lot.
Students are responsible for cleaning – a rota is devised for your cottage, but I’m not sure anyone sticks to it. Staff do come into the cottages frequently in the day – sometimes to check on the state of it, and sometimes just to use the facilities, but I would say that it would be a good thing if students paid a little extra to have a cleaning service in communal areas. The most untidy cottages had Darina coming to visit, and instigating a cleaning party!
All in all, it was a good experience living on-site. The cottages are all decorated differently in a very tasteful, homely style, and it is so convenient being just a short walk away from the school. Particularly when you have to make your way in and back in the dark every day. I was really happy with my room, and cottage, as fortunately, it was well-matched to my needs. I would urge anyone with specific requests to speak to the school before coming.
The biggest benefit of all is having the time and space to spend with fellow students – valuable time indeed, as the 12 weeks flies by.