In the heart of the Boyne Valley, this former coaching inn dates back to the 17th-century and now has the good fortune be in common ownership with nearby Tankardstown House whose owners, Tricia and Brian Conroy, undertook their trademark tasteful refurbishment of the characterful old hotel in in 2012.
Both the exterior and the main interior areas have been painted in the muted creams and sage greens that will be familiar to anyone who has visited Tankardstown, and this understated country elegance suits the Conynham Arms equally well.
The proportions of the building - quite low ceilings and a rather higgledy piggledy arrangement of rooms - give the hotel a friendly cottagey feeling and a pretty sitting/dining room at the front of the hotel catches the eye on arrival. You could settle in to this appealing spot very comfortably for a while, on sofas or plush armchairs, enjoying a leisurely coffee or reading the paper.
Tucked in behind reception there's a cosy bar set up with an open fire and small tables for meals, mainly for twosomes. (As larger groups may be seated too close to the servery, it would be a good idea to check availability in the front room on the way in.) Beyond the bar, there's a function room which is sometimes used for local activities, such as antiques fairs, as well as weddings and other events.
The fifteen pretty bedrooms have been individually redecorated and given a light upgrade. Just what you would expect (or hope for) in a rural hotel, they have not been over designed; while very comfortable - all are en-suite and some have full bath - they are quite modestly sized and have retained the lovely country atmosphere of the old building.
Dining at the Conyngham Arms may be informal but, styled 'Tankardstown's little sister', the menu shows the same attention to detail as its country house big sister, featuring local seasonal produce and specialist suppliers.
Thus the sausages in the bangers and mash are made with Peter Whelan's free-range Tamworth pork from Whole Hoggs Farm; the smoked salmon is from Annagassan; the burger is served on a Waterford blaa; and the rocket, blue cheese and baby beetroot salad showcases the locally produced Boyne Valley Blue farmhouse cheese. And the drinks are interesting too, with some Irish craft beers on offer.
A baked seafood gratin of locally sourced seafood with a Parmesan and herb crust is one of the most popular dishes on the menu. It's like a deconstructed fish pie, made with a lighter touch than the usual pub menu staple. The burger, served on a blaa, has a fantastic flame-grilled flavour that you don't often get these days.
But the Conyngham Club has to be the best value dish on the menu – at only €6, this monster sandwich, made with thick-cut granary bread and served with kettle chips, is as big as a plate. And the skinny fries are about as perfect as a chip can be – salty and crackly crisp on the outside, giving way to a light, fluffy interior. If you're the type to dream of your meals long after they're done, you'll be dreaming of these chips.
Along with the ubiquitous sausages and chicken goujons, the children's menu also offers a fish of the day served with salad and new potatoes, or a cold platter of sliced ham, sliced turkey, apple and grapes, cheddar cheese, sourdough bread and yoghurt.
And, as a welcome option, most of the main courses on the bar menu can be prepared as a half portion for children.