It would seem that cooking at this stretch of the River Sullane may have its origins in the Bronze Age (2500-500 BC) if we consider the many prehistoric water-boiling or cooking sites (fulachtaí fia) found nearby. Two of these were archaeologically excavated by Professor Michael J. O’Kelly (UCC) in 1952 near St. Gobnaits wood. He successfully demonstrated through scientific excavation and experimentation that meat, wrapped in straw, could be boiled in open-air water troughs using hot stones heated in a nearby fires.While these ancient cooking methods may have disappeared some 2000 years ago, the Mills Inn offers a more contemporary taste of similar traditional Irish Cuisine!
The Mills Inn was established as a stage-couch stop-over by James Colthurst in 1755 and was originally part of the Colthurst Estate, of which Blarney Castle is still included. Colthurst would later have a chequered history with the local community who, for the most part, were not sympathetic to the ideals of the landed gentry. The premises may get its name from two Millraces built adjacent to the site on the River Sullane and may have earlier origins if we consider its location in relation to the nearby Early Christian monastic site of St. Gobnait.
Throughout the many turbulent times in Irish history, public places such as hotels and other local landmarks would play host to many famous people and the Mills Inn was no exception. For instance, during the early 1800’s, the Inn was often used as a stop-over by the Irish liberator Daniel O’Connell while travelling from cork during the struggle for Catholic emancipation. However during other more tempestuous times, places such as these would also suffer the consequences of conflict during periods of unrest. During the Fenian Rising of 1867, the adjacent tower, known locally as ‘the courthouse’, was used as a prison during this historic event and the holding cells can still be seen today from the lawn.
On another occasion, during the height of the Land League troubles in 1881, Charles Colthurst married Jane Morr and held the celebrations at the Mills Inn where a great feast was prepared, accompanied by many barrels of porter! At midnight, a shot rang out and a gang of masked man attacked the wedding party where a number of people were shot. Mr. Coulturt and his new bride fled to Blarney and were never to return to the area.
During the War of Independence (1919-1921), the ‘Great House’ as it was known and the tower in the grounds of the Mills were empty for a period. On the 9th of June 1920, the local Flying Column of the Irish Republican Army decided to burn in to the ground to ensure it would not fall into rival hands. And so, the ruins of the great house and tower are what remain today.
Thankfully, peace now prevails in the area and while the Mills Inn was once at the focus of many periods of conflict in Ballyvourney, the only ‘conflict’ nowadays is over Cork and Kerry football!
The Mills Inn would like to thank Alan Hawkes (PhD Candidate) Department Of Archaeology UCC for his help compiling this research on the History surrounding The Mills Inn.