Set in lovely gardens on the shores of Lough Swilly just outside the village of Rathmullan, this gracious nineteenth century house is fairly grand, with public areas which include three elegant drawing rooms, but it’s not too formal - and there’s a cellar bar which can be very relaxed.
It was built as a summer house by the Batt banking family of Belfast in the 1800s, and has been run as a country house hotel since 1962 by the Wheeler family, with management currently under the direction of Mark and Mary Wheeler.
An impressive extension was recently built to a design that is admirably sympathetic to the surroundings. Here there are ten very desirable, individually decorated bedrooms, and The Gallery, a state of the art conference facility for up to 80 delegates. Bedrooms in the original house vary in size, decor, outlook and cost, but all are comfortably furnished in traditional country house style.
Donegal has an other-worldliness that is increasingly hard to capture in the traditional family holiday areas and, although now larger, Rathmullan House still retains a laid-back charm and that special sense of place - and it is greatly to their credit that the Wheeler family have developed their business (and extended the season) without compromising the essential character of this lovely place.
In celebration of '50 years of welcoming guests to our award winning house' (2012) the Wheeler family commissioned the Dublin-born illustrator Dermot Flynn to do an illustration representing the people and some events that have been important to Rathmullan in each decade from the 1960s; it'a delightful record of half a century of family and hotel life - make sure you have a good look at it when you're there.
*Rathmullan House was our Country House of the Year in 2007, and was presented with the Natural Food Award in 2009.
Conference/banqueting (80/60); free broadband wi/fi; video conferencing. Swimming pool, steam room, tennis, walking. Children welcome (free in parents room under 12 months, cot €10, baby sitting arranged, play ground, playroom). Pets permitted in some bedrooms by arrangement (special pet-friendly room available). Gardens.
Rooms 34 (20 with separate bath & shower, 9 ground floor, 4 family, 1 for disabled, All no smoking). B&B €80-110 pps, ss €45, SC 10%. Closed 6 Jan - 12 Feb.
The Weeping Elm:
The dining room was revamped and extended in the last round of renovations, but the famous tented ceiling (designed by the late Liam McCormick, well known for his striking Donegal churches) was retained.
It is a pleasing room that makes the most of the garden outlook - including a formal garden beside the extension, which is maturing nicely - and provides a fine setting for Kelan McMichael’s modern Irish cooking, as well as the tremendous breakfasts for which Rathmullan is justly famous.
Cooking here is upbeat traditional and meticulously-sourced menus are based on the very best of local and artisan foods – and, working closely with Bob Wheele, who is a keen gardener, Kelan uses fresh produce from their own lovely restored walled garden.
There are many beautifully conceived combination dishes, and you can look forward to specialities like home-smoked Silverhill duck breast, with baked borlotti beans, Parmesan purée and garden rocket, or fillet of North Atlantic halibut with handmade crab ravioli, garden spinach and cauliflower purée - and, perhaps, a fine farmhouse cheese selection or a refreshing compôte of garden fruits with carrageen pudding. (Both the cheeses and the carrageen are equally at home as part of the legendary Rathmullan breakfast too.)
And a particularly attractive feature of Rathmullan is the Children’s Menu - a proper little person’s version of the adult menu, with lots of choices and no concessions to ‘popular’ fare, this is education on a plate.
Like everything else here, the wine list is meticulously sourced and informative - unusually, the alcohol content is given along with other details; it also includes half a dozen organic & bio-dynamic wines, lots of lovely bubblies, a wide choice of half bottles and a section dedicated to wines selected to complement the menu, some of them available by the glass.
All this plus caring service and a beautiful location...
*Excellent informal meals are served in the atmospheric Cellar Bar, which has a separate entrance and outdoor seating.