When Jane and the late Michael O’Callaghan opened Longueville House to guests in 1967, it was one of the first Irish country houses to do so - and, today, it is one of Ireland’s finest country house hotels.
Its history is wonderfully romantic, “the history of Ireland in miniature”, and it is a story with a happy ending: having lost their lands in the Cromwellian Confiscation (1652-57), the O’Callaghans took up ownership again some 300 years later.
The present house, a particularly elegant Georgian mansion of pleasingly human proportions, dates from 1720, (with wings added in 1800 and the lovely Turner conservatory - which has been completely renovated - in 1862), and overlooks the ruins of their original home, Dromineen Castle.
Very much a family enterprise, Longueville is now run by Michael and Jane’s son William O’Callaghan, who is the chef, and his wife Aisling, who manages front of house. The location, overlooking that great fishing river, the Blackwater, is lovely.
The river, farm and garden supply fresh salmon in season, the famous Longueville lamb, and all the fruit and vegetables. In years when the weather is kind, the estate’s crowning glory is their own house wine, a light refreshing white, “Coisreal Longueville” - wine was always Michael O’Callaghan’s great love, and he also used their abundant apple supply to make apple brandy too. William has been developing this side of the business and they now produce a delicious natural cider, as well as the apple brandy.
Public rooms include a bar and drawing room, both elegantly furnished with beautiful fabrics and family antiques, and accommodation is equally sumptuous; although - as is usual with old houses - bedrooms vary according to their position, they are generally spacious, superbly comfortable and stylishly decorated to the highest standards.
Dining here is a treat (see below) and breakfast is also very special, offering a wonderful array of local and home-cooked foods, both from the buffet and cooked to order; Longueville was the National Winner of our Irish Breakfast Awards in 2003, and it’s worth calling in even if you can’t stay overnight - what a way to break a journey! (And the light lunch offered in the bar is ideal for travellers too.)
As well as being one of the finest leisure destinations in the country, the large cellar/basement area of the house has been developed as a conference centre, with back-up services available.
The house is also available for small residential weddings throughout the year.
Conference/banqueting (50/138), secretarial services, free broadband wi/fi. Children welcome (under 3s free in parents' room, cot available free of charge, baby sitting arranged). Dogs permitted staying in outhouse/kennel. Garden, walking, hunting/shooting, fly fishing, clay pigeon shooting. Equestrian, golf and garden visits nearby. (Shooting weekends available in winter; telephone for details).
Rooms 20. (6 junior suites, 1 superior, 3 family, 2 single, 2 shower only; all no-smoking). B&B €125 single room, from €160-180 for a double. Closed Mon, Tue & 2 weeks Feb.
Named after the family collection of specially commissioned portraits of all Ireland’s past presidents (which made for a seriously masculine collection until Ireland’s first woman president, Mary Robinson, broke the pattern) this is the main dining room and opens into the beautifully renovated Turner conservatory, which makes a wonderfully romantic setting in candlelight; there is a smaller room alongside the main restaurant, and also The Chinese Room, which is suitable for private parties.
William O’Callaghan is a Euro-Toques chef, and home- and locally-produced food is at the heart of all his cooking, in starters like house smoked salmon, or salad of crab with dry cured Longueville ham; main courses of Longueville lamb, or home-reared pork with Longueville cider sauce – and, perhaps, wild rabbit; and a dessert trolley offers treats such as a croustade of caramelised apple with Longueville apple brandy ice cream - and it is hard to resist the local farmhouse cheeses.
Delicious home-made chocolates and petits fours come with the coffee and service, as elsewhere in the house, is outstanding under Aisling O’Callaghan’s direction.
Menus offered include a Table d'Hote dinner menu and 8-course Tasting Menu (both with simpler versions midweek), Sunday lunch, and a light lunch/afternoon snack menu. Traditional Afternoon Tea is a speciality, also 'Celebration' and 'Chocolate' Afternoon Teas, for which 48 hours notice is required.
A fine wine list offering many treats has particular strength in the classic French regions and includes a half a dozen champagnes, and a good choice of dessert wines and half bottles; it includes many wines imported directly.
*NB* Dinner reservations are essential and required at least 24 hours before arrival day or a table may not be available on night of arrival.