Belle Isle Castle, County Fermanagh
From the outright spectacular to the quaint and unique, Northern Ireland has a range of castles, hotels, inns and cottages that can make you feel part of your ancestors’ history.
Rich in atmosphere, here are great places that won’t just connect you to the past, but give you the warmest of welcomes and an overnight stop to relish.
Ardtara Country House
Built as a family home by linen entrepreneur Harry Jackson Clark during the reign of Queen Victoria, Ardtara Country House hotel in County Londonderry now accommodates visitors in the comfort and style of a bygone era – with all modern conveniences. The firm Harry founded is still operating nearby, and is the oldest linen manufacturer in Northern Ireland.
Beech Hill Country House Hotel
With a dramatic history stretching back over 400 years, Beech Hill Country House Hotel has been in the ownership of families that have shaped both the city and county of Derry~Londonderry. One unique chapter occurred during World War II, when it was transformed into a camp for the United States Navy. Many marines married local girls and the US connection remains strong, including the Beech Hill-United States Marines Association which is still active today. A long list of famous guests includes US President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, as well as actor Will Ferrell.
Belle Isle Castle
Originally called Ballymacmanus, Belle Isle Castle in County Fermanagh was once home to the old MacManus and Maguire families, and later the residence of generations of nobles. It has been inhabited since the 12th century. Now, extensively refurbished, you can stay in the castle, coach house and a variety of Belle Isle cottages. Modern amenities are mixed with antique furniture and stunning spaces, making for a truly historic experience.
Berwick Hall Cottage
This wonderfully restored eighteenth-century barn is situated adjacent to Berwick Hall, a seventeenth-century ‘Planter’ farmhouse in County Armagh and the earliest building still standing in the village of Moira. The owner provides tours of the two-storey listed farmhouse, which is thatched, and a fine example of a yeoman's home. Moira has links to major events in Ireland’s history.
Dobbins Inn Hotel
Located in the heart of the historic town of Carrickfergus, County Antrim for over 800 years, Dobbins Inn has been an integral part of the formation and development of the town over the centuries. A listed building with strong links with the town’s Norman Castle and during its lifetime has been a tower house, gatehouse and prison before eventually becoming an Inn. It is believed that a tunnel stretched between Dobbins and the castle. Many of the building’s original features still exist including the ‘Priests Hole’ and the grand Elizabethan fireplace at the reception. The hotel is also said to be haunted by the ghost of Elizabeth Dobbin the wife of one of the building’s first incumbents Hugh Dobbin.
Fools Haven Thatched Cottage
This wonderful County Antrim cottage is over 250 years old and is where two local children, orphaned by the Titanic tragedy, were brought up. They had been sent to live with their aunt while their father sailed on board the tragic liner as an engineer. Fools Haven Thatched Cottage is situated on the shores of Belfast Lough at the start of the world famous Causeway Coastal Route and opposite the homestead of Andrew Jackson, the seventh US President and the first of Ulster Scots descent.
The Homecoming Barn
This traditional barn on a working farm in County Tyrone has a unique layout making a feature of an original stone gable. Genealogical expertise and help in tracing ancestry in the Clogher Valley and border counties is available from the owner. Reference facilities on site include maps, gravestone inscriptions, local directories, estate records and valuation data.
The Londonderry Arms
The Londonderry Arms was originally built in 1848 as a coaching inn at a time when Ireland was suffering one of the greatest tragedies in its history, The Great Famine. It was once owned by Winston Churchill, and during World War II it was commissioned by the army to allow for the recuperation of wounded soldiers. The hotel still boasts original Georgian architecture, complimented by antique furniture.
The Merchant Hotel
Designed in 1857 to appear “elegant, substantial and prosperous”, the Merchant Hotel was the former headquarters of the Ulster Bank in the heart of Belfast’s mercantile and commercial centre in pre-Titanic boomtown Belfast. At the nearby junction of Waring Street, Donegall Street, North Street and Bridge Street is the oldest part of the city, dubbed the Four Corners. It was from here that all milestones from Belfast were measured.
The Old Inn
Situated in Saint Patrick’s Heartland of County Down, The Old Inn is a historic hostelry that has been standing in its present form since 1614. It still retains elements of its connections with Ireland’s early Christian heritage as well as a strong seventeenth-century literary and cultural history, which has included being patronised by the likes of Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens and C. S. Lewis.