About Highbank Orchards

Highbank Organic Farm in Co. Kilkenny was a 17th century farmyard and the present farm house was built by our family in the 19th Century.

Highbank Organic Farm

The first apple orchards were planted by the family, in 1969, to compliment the hop gardens. The fertile Kilkenny limestone soils are uniquely suited to produce delicious apples and apple juice organically.

The varieties of apples are specially chosen for their juicing properties which are uniquely complex and full of health giving vitamins and minerals.

As artisan producers we do know our apples. All of our production is to the strictest of organic standards. No chemicals are sprayed on the apples, neither are any herbicides or chemical fertilizers used. GMOs are shunned to the extent that we avoid the use manure from animals fed on GM food.

Highbank Orchards is home to the original and innovative and multi award winning Highbank Orchard Syrup. We also produce several delicious Apple juices, including our acclaimed non alcoholic Drivers Cider as well as Highbank Proper Cider and Medieval Cider, matured on their wild yeasts with no added sulphites. 2014 brought the addition of Dodonus - the smallest Distillery in Ireland which was built in the old Highbank Dairy and now  produces Highbank Organic Apple Spirits - the first Irish and Kilkenny Organic Apple gin known as Highbank Crystal Gin (out of the rocks of Kilkenny), Highbank Orchard Spirit, Highbank Orchard Liqueur Brandey and Highbank Organic Apple Vodka.

All these products from just apples..........................................................

History

A great deal of the Calder-Potts family history is embedded in, Highbank Farm and coach yard with its beautiful stone-arched shop, orchards, lakes and apples.

“Highbank Farm in Co. Kilkenny was a 17th century farmyard and the present farm house was built by my family in the 19th Century. How my family returned to Kilkenny is a great adventure story, some of which I relate below.

My great grandfather Robert Murison, left his job as a game keeper on Rousey, one of the Orkney Islands, to manage the Farmley Estate for Colonel Beresford Flood in about 1880. He built and took up residence in what is now our family home. After the turbulent events of “the troubles” he, like many other employees of absentee landlords, availed of the opportunity of acquiring the small farm on which the family lived. We signed the last Land commission cheque in the 1980s.

My grandmother was born on the farm whilst it was still part of the Farmley Estate. She married Joclyn Iago from Kinsale and raised their family in County Down.

In the closing months of World War II, my mother’s brother Ian, a fighter pilot in the RAF, was tragically shot down and killed in his Mustang over Croatia. Due to this horrible family tragedy my actress mother met my father, who had volunteered to join the Royal Navy and was visiting Ireland.

After a whirlwind romance they married and began a new life in South Africa. In September 1958 Dr Verwoerd became Prime Minister of South Africa with a landslide majority and began the process of separate development or “Apartheid “. My parents decided that it was time to leave the country and return to Ireland as it was no place to raise a family of four young boys.

We returned to Ireland in 1961 looking for a livelihood and bought the family farm from my mother’s Uncle Billy. We renamed it “Highbank” after my Father’s cherished farm on an escarpment, over the banks of the Umzimvubu River in the East Griqualand. 

We introduced Hop farming to Ireland in 1963 and planted our first apples in 1969. Julie and I turned the farm over to the Organic system of farming in 1994 also beginning the process of returning the farm to a more environmentally inclusive husbandry. Over time we have constructed two small lakes, woodland and various wildlife habitats.

We have begun the process of refurbishing the beautiful arched, stone courtyard, mill and stables of this historic estate which was at one time the home of the great 18th century patriot Henry Flood. Henry Flood referred to Farmley as his ‘Tusculum’, with his customary humility comparing himself to Cicero.  Cicero famously retreated to his villa in Tusculum to put on plays and enjoy ‘the rural idyll’. To date Highbank continues the tradition into the next generation, through our daughter Ruth, having since staged, in the coach yard, several outdoor productions, including the Commedia dell’Arte, Musica In Mascera 2009 and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest 2011 with artisan picnics in the garden and, needless to say, hot organic Apple Juice for the intervals.”

Rod Calder-Potts

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