Built in 1853 as a coastguard regional headquarters, this fine property on the edge of the wonderfully away-from-it-all village of Ballycastle was later acquired by the Sisters of Mercy, who named it Stella Maris, and it now makes a very special small hotel, restored by proprietors Terence McSweeney and Frances Kelly, who have created a warm and stylish interior where antiques rub shoulders with contemporary pieces.
There’s a welcome emphasis on comfort throughout public areas, including a cosy bar - but the location is this hotel’s biggest asset and a conservatory built all along the front takes full advantage of it, allowing guests to relax in comfort and warmth while drinking in the majestic views of the surrounding coastline and sea.
Accommodation blends understated elegance with comfort in uncluttered rooms that have magnificent views and are furnished with antiques but - with complimentary broadband, modern bathrooms and power showers - offer the best of both worlds.
Children welcome (under 4s free in parents' room, cot available free of charge). Walking; fishing. Garden. Equestrian and golf nearby. No pets.
Rooms 12 (1 suite, 6 shower only, 1 ground floor, 1 disabled, all no smoking). B&B from €100pps, ss €55-60.
Dinner - cooked under Frances’ direct supervision - is a very enjoyable experience, based on local ingredients as far as possible, including organic produce from nearby Enniscoe (see entry) and also from the hotel’s own new gardens.
Strongly seasonal à la carte menus are well-balanced and imaginative, without being over-influenced by fashion and the cooking is admirably simple: toasted organic St Tola goat cheese on a pesto croûton over garden greens, with raspberry purée, roast rack of spring Ballycastle lamb with sweet potato purée & minty jus, are typical and there is usually a choice of two fish dishes, perhaps including local organic salmon, from Clare Island (vegetarian option on request).
Classic desserts include refreshing seasonal fruits – warm stewed organic rhubarb with Chantilly cream, perhaps - and there will always be an Irish farmhouse cheese plate; then it’s back to the conservatory for a digestif...
The wine list, while relatively short, has been chosen with care.
Residents also have a treat in store each morning, as the Stella Maris breakfast is worth lingering over: lashings of freshly squeezed juice, a beautiful fruit plate, gorgeous freshly-baked brown bread, hand-made preserves and perfect hot food cooked to order, be it a traditional Irish or a special like creamy scrambled eggs with smoked salmon; not a grand display, but exceptionally delicious.
Stella Maris was the Connaught winner of our Irish Breakfast Awards in 2004 and was our Hideaway of the Year in 2005.
This is indeed a wonderful retreat. Short breaks offered - details on application.