Crossogue House in Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland
Ireland is synonymous with horses; it is known around the world as the “Land of the Horse,” a connotation which in itself provides visitors with a myriad of choices when it comes to equine activities.
Whether dressing to the nines for a day at the races, spending an afternoon with punters and a pack of Guinness, trekking the Connemara Trail, or dining atop the River Nore, the Irish create an unforgettable experience for those who share their affinity with the horse.
As the host of “Unbridled,” I embarked on a coast-to-coast journey of Ireland to tape a series of television shows to feature the best of everything equine on the Emerald Isle. What I discovered has left me longing for a return trip as soon as possible.
Crossogue House in Thurles, County Tipperary was one of a few dozen stops on my whirlwind tour. The briefing I received prior to arrival indicated it was a large family home open to students for the summer, a description that fit several of the properties I had already experienced.
Upon arrival, the stable yard was active with teenage girls mounting horses and heading out for a group lesson. The girls were jubilant, the horses in good weight with properly fitting tack. My ravishingly gorgeous assistant Victoria Kohan, a neophyte in the saddle, accompanied me. Just days before, she took her first real horseback ride: eight hours across County Galway. She was still very sore from using muscles she did not know she even had!
Together we made our way to the centerpiece of the property, a huge Georgian mansion. As the door opened the unmistakably warm rush of a real home greeted us. Stepping inside felt like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia; it was as if all five previous generations that had lived here were welcoming us simultaneously. I’ve heard the expression, “if walls could talk,” but this was the first I had experienced such a reality. It was a pleasant change from the rapid pace through which we were traveling the country.
Owner Mark Molloy welcomed us as if we were long lost relatives. Once inside we met Mark’s sister, Pippa Rappoport, an earthy, grand woman with a rich voice: self-actualized and charming. Victoria and I found Pippa to be totally refreshing.
The four of us gathered for lunch and learned about each other over the world’s best—and I mean the absolute world’s best—macaroni and cheese (before I became vegan!), made from scratch by Pippa.
In the neighboring room, international tongues rose with excitement as girls shared with one another their morning activities in the saddle. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Victoria and I couldn’t wait to get out to the stable to see what all the chatter was about.
One should never ride on a full stomach. Like swimming it is advisable to wait about an hour before engaging in sport. We listened to our heads and took time to tour the home with Pippa. So fascinating were the Molloy family stories and photos that the hour passed as if five minutes. Generations of memorabilia spoke to the family’s deep commitment to their horses, and to each other.
At the time of our visit, the basement of Crossogue was filled with racks of handmade jams created by Veronica Molloy (Mark and Pippa’s mother). Veronica was born and raised in Kenya before training as a nurse in England. In 1967, she and her husband Tony relocated to Ireland and set-up home at Crossogue House. From the jars in the basement sprang forth the now internationally renowned, award-winning Crossogue Preserves, a story all its own adding to the depth and breadth of the Molloy clan.
Still reveling in the rich history the Georgian mansion held Victoria and I made our way to the stable yard. Our horses saddled and ready, each a special member of the Molloy family, too. As we adjusted tack, Mark gave us background information about the horses. Victoria was riding Mark’s sweet white hunter, and I was on a feisty bay thoroughbred, appropriately matched we set out on a bridle path to the cross-country fields.
With Mark’s instruction, Victoria and I had a delicious ride, both achieving milestones in our riding careers. Victoria enjoyed cantering for the first time and took her first jump … on national TV! I had my heart in my throat jumping a set of cross-country steps that were far more daunting than any huge oxer I had met in the show ring.
The quality of horses, instruction, and equipment made for a pleasurable learning experience at Crossogue. The tone and demeanor of the stable staff was like that of Mark and Pippa: genuine, kind, authentic, and sincere. More than any other property I visited in Ireland, I truly felt Mark’s biggest concern was the quality of our experience, more than any dollar amount that could be placed on our visit. My intuition of such a caring man was confirmed as I interviewed several of the students from different parts of the world. Representing Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, each had made their way back to Crossogue on their fourth, fifth, and sixth summer program.
Since the time of my visit, Crossogue has been completely renovated, offering a warm, friendly, and intimate atmosphere in premium accommodations. It is deliciously luxurious without pretension, a haven like no other for both teenagers and adults. I likened my time at Crossogue to being touched all over with a silken sheet of uniquely Irish warmth and charm—and that feels oh so good. Crossogue really is worth a trip from anywhere. I can’t wait to return!