On the square, just up from the car ferry that goes over to Portaferry, Peter and Caroline McErlean’s inviting village inn is a welcoming place where visitors immediately sense the hands-on care and hospitality of the owners.
Over a century old, the inn is immaculately maintained and it has plenty of character with open fires, cosy lounges and a homely bar where food is served throughout the day.
The McErleans are committed Taste of Ulster members and, with Peter's menus, it's not so much a matter of what dishes are offered - although the range is excellent - as how they showcase the fresh seasonal produce of the area, and the province.
Most dishes include information on provenance, whether it be the area - Ardglass rollmops, mackerel or breaded scampi, for example, or Ballyhornan crab - or, in most cases, the name of the producer (local farmers Joel Meeke and Noel Killen, for example, and Fivemiletown cheeses), or the supplier (Crossgar Meats beef and poultry, Pinkerton's pork and bacon). This adds depth and texture to the menu, and gives a welcome sense of place that helps to make the dining experience more rewarding for visitors - and it would be nice to have more information, perhaps listed at the end in line with the Republic's Just Ask programme.
Vegetarian and gluten free choices are highlighted on the menu and dairy free options are available on request. Specialities include Our Own Homemade Seafood Chowder (Marty Johnston's select fish, plus onions, leeks, carrots, peppers, diced potatoes and fish stock, 'finished with a dash of fresh cream and slithers of smoked salmon'), and The Cuan's Seafood Platter, a seasonal selection of local fish, shellfish, smoked fish and 'many more surprises', which is designed to be a complete meal for two to share at £70.
The Cuan is an old, slightly cottagey building and the room sizes reflect this, but that adds to the charm and the standard is high following recent upgrades.
Bedrooms, including two family rooms, are comfortable and pleasingly furnished and most of the en-suite bathrooms have bath and shower. Some rooms overlook the square and all have digital television, free internet access, direct dial telephone and tea and coffee making facilities as standard.
The Cuan would make an ideal base for exploring this beautiful area and short breaks are offered.