Croan Cottages

Niamh and Francis Nesbitt moved to rural Kilkenny in 2000, determined to live a more sustainable life. “When we lived in Dublin, we tried our best to live sustainably, growing herbs, fruit and vegetables in our small suburban garden. We even kept a couple of ducks in that garden,” they said.

Since then, their 10 acre holding has become home to pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and even peacocks. There are also five cottages in the grounds which are rented as self-catering holiday homes. These have won numerous awards including a place in the ‘Top 10 Eco Breaks in Europe’ list in 2010.

Francis has also restored the ruined walled garden and orchards at Croan. These now provide year-round fruit and vegetables, not just for their family, but also for guests staying at Croan Cottages.

Recently the couple saw an opportunity to launch an education initiative that promotes a greater connection to the foods they produce and enjoy themselves.

“Many of our guests are interested in helping out with our animals or in the gardens,” they said. “It felt right to share our own experience, gained by trial and error, to encourage those interested in learning about smallholding and living a more sustainable life.”

With this in mind, Croan Cottages will be offering residential courses in Smallholding, Gardening and Cooking in 2016. The first in the calendar is a three-day cooking event in April with two of River Cottage’s best known personalities, Gill Meller and Steven Lamb.

“It seems appropriate that we’re beginning this chapter with our friends from River Cottage, considering our move to Kilkenny was largely inspired by watching the TV show,” said Niamh.

A smallholding course is also scheduled for May.

MORE: Both courses are available to book at

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