How this family switched from a traditional farm to a thriving equestrian holiday business
The Molloy family ran a traditional farm near Holycross in Tipperary for generations, but you won't find cattle and sheep grazing there any more.
Instead, Crossogue House and its surrounding 200 acres have been turned into a thriving equestrian holiday business that attracts guests from all over the globe.
It was over 25 years ago when Mark Molloy took over the homestead and decided that a change was needed in order to make a decent living.
"This farm originally started out in dairy and my father found it very tough at times, so he later switched to beef and sheep," he says.
"When I returned to take over the farm in the early 1990s I felt I needed to diversify and move away from the old tradition."
With elder brother John running a luxury fragrance brand, Memo Fragrances, in Paris and their four sisters all busy in their own careers, only Mark took an interest in taking over Crossogue as a project. It was therefore up to him to find something new that would see him through his lifetime.
"I was never drawn to a life in farming," he explains. "Dad always had horses here too and I had a great interest in them growing up. We had thoroughbreds and I loved that side of it, so I liked the idea of bringing in sport horses as well and turning it into a venue for riding holidays specialising in cross-country and show jumping.
"It made sense when we had the space and perfect location."
Crossogue sells itself as a home away from home. Guests of all ages live in with their hosts, get to ride horses across the most picturesque terrain, and lend a helping hand around the yard whenever needed, while at the same time enjoying all that there is to love about the Irish countryside.
"We do not sell Crossogue as a large Georgian country house in case our guests are disappointed," says Mark, the fifth generation of the family to live here, yet visitors will inevitably be overwhelmed by its charm.
Publicity is also something that the Molloys have rarely sought since they started out a quarter of a century ago. Modest about their appeal, they prefer to let the visitors do the talking.
Just take a glance at Tripadvisor and the stream of five-star reviews will be enough to reel you in.
When Mark sold off the cattle and sheep, he bought in some new thoroughbreds to add to those already owned by his father. Using the best stallions, they have bred some good racehorses over the years.
The Game Changer, Morgan and Johns Spirit all hail from the same family and their dam Gilt Ridden is among a nice band of broodmares still breeding on the farm.
Mark has held a trainer's licence for some 14 years and sells some home-breds off the track, while others are sold on as foals.
"It's another sideline to what we do here and I thoroughly enjoy it," he says.
Today Crossogue caters for guests from as far afield as China and the US, and all have a chance to experience the racing side of the business whenever time allows.
Many keen equestrians living closer to home also pay a visit here during the summer months.
The season runs from May to October, and bookings are already filling up fast for the residential holidays.
Having a house-full of guests is nothing new to Mark, who spent much of his childhood surrounded by visitors at the family home.
"The house was always full of people when we were growing up so I was well used to a busy living room," he explains.
It is this relaxed atmosphere that draws overseas visitors who want to experience authentic country life.
"We can cater for up to seven guests at a time and they all stay here in the house with us. Jennifer (Murphy, Mark's partner) does a fantastic job at keeping everything in order."
Residential holidays are not confined to adults and in the coming months Crossogue will cater for a good number of teenagers taking part in the riding camps.
"This year we've been encouraged to incorporate wellness into some of our packages and we are looking forward to hosting a group from the States for a week of yoga and cross-country clinics," Mark adds.
In a bid to keep up with the times, Mark believes that diversification is the key, and he is constantly looking for ways to attract new clients to Crossogue.
"We are still a small operation and we'd like to keep it that way, but I would hope that what we do, we can do it well," he concludes.
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