Former home to the Clark linen milling family, Ardtara is now an attractive, elegantly decorated Victorian country house. It has long been a member of the prestigious Blue Book (Irish Country Houses & Restaurants Association) and, in the caring hands of manager Valerie Ferson, has a warm atmosphere and a well earned reputation for genuine hospitality.
The property changed hands in 2014 and, as the new owners are the highly regarded Browns Restaurant Group (of Derry City and Letterkenny), there is a sense of real excitement surrounding its future - with big changes in the kitchen and restaurant (see below) but Valerie Ferson and her team remaining in place to oversee the accommodation and the house in general.
While not especially large, it is a fine house with well-proportioned reception rooms including a proper bar which has access to the recently renovated conservatory and garden. Antique furnishings and fresh flowers everywhere give it a homely ambience, and it can also have a sense of occasion which lends it very well to small weddings and other family occasions.
Large, luxuriously furnished bedrooms enjoy views of the garden and surrounding countryside and have king size beds, original fireplaces and LCD TV and DVDs, while bathrooms combine practicality with period details, some including free-standing baths and fireplaces. Rooms vary somewhat, as is the way with old houses, and a fairly recent room conversion has allowed for the addition of an extra bedroom, on the ground floor.
Breakfast has always been a high point, so allow time to enjoy it.
Ardtara is a destination in itself, and it would also make an excellent base for exploring this beautiful and unspoilt area.
Conferences/Banqueting (60); free broadband wi/fi. Tennis, golf practice tee. No pets. Garden, woodland walk. Equestrian, fishing (fly & coarse), golf and hunting all nearby.
Rooms 9 (1 junior suite, 5 executive, 3 family, 1 shower only, 1 ground floor, 1 disabled); B&B room rate from £89. Children welcome (under 2s free in parents room, cot available, baby sitting arranged). *Short breaks offered.
Browns Restaurant at Ardtara Country House:
Good food has always been a point of pride at Ardtara, and guests enjoy the intimacy of the small house which allows the time to build up a rapport with staff.
Although meals may also be served in the conservatory or bar, the main dining room was previously a snooker room and still has the full Victorian skylight and original hunting frieze, making an unusual setting for fine dining.
This is the fourth restaurant in the Browns Group, which has two excellent restaurants in Derry City (Browns Restaurant & Champagne Lounge and Browns in Town) and one just outside Letterkenny, in Co Donegal (Browns on the Green, at Letterkenny Golf Club). All are testament to the high standards and superb organisation of Executive Chef and co-owner, Ian Orr (GCGuides Chef of the Year, 2013), who is committed to showcasing the local foods of the region and has assembled an outstanding team in each location.
Here the new young chef is Eddie Attwell, a name we may expect to hear a lot more of in 2015 and beyond.
A native of Northern Ireland who travelled to gain experience and quite recently returned with an impressive CV, Eddie shares Ian Orr's philosophy of food. The 'best of local' provides the basis for his skilful cooking, including produce grown in the gardens at Ardtara.
Wines are supplied, as before, by the highly regarded wine merchant James Nicholson.