If this is your first time visiting Northern Ireland’s causeway coastal route, you’ll want a route map to take you from Derry to Belfast, or a good GPS. My husband and I recently did this scenic and rugged drive along Ireland’s coastline and used Ardtara Country House as our home base. This historic country house boutique hotel is within a 45 minute drive from Northern Ireland’s airport, Sperrin mountains and so many national trust treasures that you’ll want to allocate plenty of time here. With the luck of the Irish you may have great weather like we did in March!
With nine bedrooms in the boutique hotel, you’ll feel welcomed by the professional staff on a grand scale. Ardtara Country House, set on 10 acres, is surrounded by trees, gardens and an abandoned linen mill. You might feel like you’ve walked onto a PBS television set when you step into the historic mansion. Rooms are filled with antiques and some of the original wallpaper remains fully intact, dating back to the 19th century.
We stayed upstairs in the Blue Room, a grand room large enough to waltz across in a ballroom gown. If that’s not your style, simply pull up a chair in front of the working fireplace and relax with a cup of tea or coffee from the Nespresso maker in your hotel room. The homemade cookies were also spotted immediately after pouring myself some Irish tea.
While rooms are decorated with antiques and period features of a country manor house, you’ll still have complimentary wifi and modern amenities that we’ve all come to expect in four star hotels.
If you are visiting with girlfriends or family, consider making a reservation for Afternoon Tea. With advance reservations you’ll be able to take tea in the drawing room or enjoy afternoon tea in the glass-enclosed Garden Restaurant. With freshly made sandwiches, homemade scones with butter and jam, soup and pastries, you won’t go hungry.
In Northern Ireland, in addition to the gorgeous coastal scenery, the food takes the cake – pun intended. From morning until night I found myself eating the fresh baked scones with lovely Irish butter and looking forward to the warm brown bread (made with Guinness beer) that started off our tasting menu dinner. It should be noted that Browns Bond Hill Group not only owns and operates Ardtara Country House, the company owns several successful restaurants, including Browns in Town, in the city of Derry/Londonderry, as well as Browns on the Green in Letterkenny, County Donegal near where I stayed at Castle Grove Country House. We dined in the country house restaurant, as well as Browns in Town.
The company sells the fabulous brown bread mix at Ardtara House, as well as in the restaurants. You can bet that more than one bread mix made it into my luggage.
After a day of exploring the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Dark Hedges, made famous from the HBO television series Game of Thrones, and a stop at Bushmills Distillery, we headed to bed for a restful night’s sleep. Amazingly enough, we were ready to dig into another Irish fry breakfast in the morning before setting off toward Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and another stay in a country house in Ireland’s Blue Book.
Rates for a stay at this Victorian country house range from £119 mid-week, b&b only, low season, to £268 Saturday night, including dinner for two people. As always, check the hotel’s website for current pricing and special packages.
Hotel review by San Francisco-based Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. Photos © Nancy D. Brown. Ardtara Country House, with the help of Ireland’s Blue Book, arranged my stay for review purposes.