The charming little riverside town of Newport has always been a delightful place but, now that the Great Western Greenway walking and cycling route, and the Gourmet Greenway food trail pass through it, it has become much livelier and the many walkers and cyclists who stop here for refreshment each day will find the best of food and hospitality. And, for the most discerning visitors, Newport House will prove to be the ultimate place to stay.
For two hundred years this distinctive creeper-clad Georgian House overlooking the river and quay, was the home of the O’Donnells, once the Earls of Tir Connell.Today it symbolises all that is best about the Irish country house, and has been especially close to the hearts of fishing people for many years.
But, in the caring hands of the current owner, Kieran Thompson, and an outstanding staff, the warm hospitality of this wonderful house is accessible to all its guests not least in shared enjoyment of the club-fender cosiness of the little back bar. And, predating the current fashion by several centuries, pure spring water has always been piped into the house for drinking and ice-making.
The house has a beautiful central hall, sweeping staircase and gracious drawing room, while bedrooms, like the rest of the house, are furnished in style with antiques and fine paintings.
The day’s catch is weighed and displayed in the hall - and the fisherman’s bar provides the perfect venue for a reconstruction of the day’s sport.
*Newport was our Country House of the Year in 1999, and also selected for our annual Wine Award in 2004. Fishing, garden, walking, snooker. Riding, walking, diving and hang gliding nearby.
Rooms 16 (2 with private (non connecting) bathrooms, 2 with bath & separate shower, 4 ground floor, 2 disabled). B&B from €110pps (€95 low season), ss €26, no S.C. Children welcome (under 3s free in parents' room; cots available, baby sitting arranged). Limited wheelchair access. Pets allowed in some areas. Free broadband wifi. Closed 1 Nov-mid Mar.
High-ceilinged and elegant, this lovely dining room makes the perfect backdrop for “cooking which reflects the hospitable nature of the house” in fine meals made with home-produced and local foods.
Home smoked salmon is a speciality and some of the fruit, vegetables and herbs come from a walled kitchen garden that has been worked since 1720, and was established before the house was built, so that fresh produce would be on stream for the owners when they moved in.
John Gavin has been head chef since 1983 and this quiet man is one of Ireland's unsung food heroes. His 5-course menus feature fresh fish, of course - freshwater fish caught on local lakes and rivers, and also several varieties of fish delivered daily from nearby Achill Island; smoked salmon is prepared to a secret recipe, but carnivores will be equally delighted by charcoal grilled local beef or roast spring lamb, and perhaps game in season.
The style is classical and the cooking skilful yet without unnecessary cheffy flourishes, allowing the sheer goodness of this wonderful food to take centre stage. One of the most enjoyable details is the unannounced arrival of an ultra-fresh leaf salad between courses; simply presented in a pyrex bowl and deliciously dressed, it's a joy.
To finish, there are Irish farmhouse cheeses with fresh fruit, and classic desserts, perhaps using fruit from the garden. Service, under the direction of restaurant manager Catherine Flynn and sommelier Cathal Murray, is warm, discreet and efficient.
And then there is Kieran’s renowned wine list that, for many, adds an extra magic to a meal at Newport. It includes classic French wines about 150 clarets from 1961-1996 vintages, a great collection of white and red burgundies, excellent Rhônes and a good New World collection too.
The foundations of this cellar go back many decades to a time when Kieran was himself a guest at Newport; great wines are a passion for him and, while acknowledging that they are irreplaceable, he offers them to guests at far less than their current retail value.
Great lists of this scale and quality are almost a thing of the past, so it is a matter of celebration that such a collection should belong to a generous spirit like Kieran, who takes pleasure in allowing others to share his passion.