Beech Hill Country House – a Review Peace & Tranquility on the Edge of the City

We recently had the pleasure of being invited to spend Easter Weekend at Beech Hill Country House, just outside Derry.

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The beautiful Beech Hill Country House

Nestled in the hillside of Ardmore, Beech Hill is a hidden haven of peace and tranquillity, despite being only a stone’s throw from the main Derry to Belfast road.  It is quite literally on the cusp of the city and only a 20 minute drive from our home.

Recently taken over by Sam Harding, Barry Kemp and Adam Kemp, the new owners of country house have vowed to turn it into Northern Ireland’s best four-star hotel.

The 32-acre estate has a rich history which is beautifully catalogued and shown both inside the hotel and on plaques throughout the forests; it was taken over by US Marines during WWII as a base for soldiers, before being transformed into a hotel in 1989.

What is a grand and stately building, filled with history and character, is being gently moulded into a modern hotel to compete with any of its contemporaries.  The natural beauty of the grounds combined with the quaint decor is indeed stately and classic, and yet the restaurant and bedrooms are modern and fresh.     What is also traditional and classic, is the staff and how they interact with the guest; polite, helpful and professional.

We brought the two girls along for a family switch-off and catch-up weekend!

Check in was easy and friendly.  Our family room brought us on a trek through the many little corridors and rooms, all well signposted and filled with history and photographs.  A lift brought us to the first floor and then a small flight of stairs brought us to the room.  If you had a buggy however, there is plenty space to safely leave it if you don’t want to carry it to the room.

The family room was huge!  A massive double bed, with a single bed and a fold-out bed for the toddler, these beds were incredibly comfortable.  There was a sofa and resting chairs in front of the TV and lots of space for a family of 4. 

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The bathroom, gleamingly clean, had a bath which is so essential when travelling with kiddies.

The forests provided a beautiful playground for the four of us.  We spent over two hours running and playing on the grounds before dinner and another hour on Sunday morning in a completely different part of the forest.

We had booked dinner for 6.30pm.  The restaurant is bright and has gorgeous views over the little lake and gardens.  Again, the staff were incredibly pleasant and efficient.

The food was beautiful.  I had mussels to start; a subtle portion as opposed to the unnecessarily huge bowl that is so often served.  I then had pork belly, which was served with a perfect balance of flavours and again, was a perfect size.  Himself had a meat terrine to start, and then the steak, perfectly cooked and seasoned.  Both were served with potato and veg.   Dessert was sorbet for Him and a cheeseboard (yes, as usual) for me.  It didn’t disappoint.

I was particularly impressed by the kids’ menu and the freshness of the food served to them.  No beige frozen or processed food for the kiddies at Beech Hill.  The chicken tenders were obviously freshly battered in breadcrumbs and the burger would have been acceptable on any adult menu!  The hand-cut chips still had skin and the girls devoured their meals.

I would love to see some crayons and colours for kids next time we visit.  In fairness, we managed over two hours with the girls, with no crayons or books or screens! They were quite happy to sit and chat and eat with us.  Mini-Me loved feeling grown up when her food was served on proper plates, the same as ours.

They were full of stories from the forest and were so suspiciously well behaved that we even ventured into the gorgeous bar for a drink before bed.  Special shout out to Aaron, the lovely barman who really knew his stuff.  He was able to recommend a beer to Himself and proceeded to explain the difference between different types of draft.  When I asked for an Espresso Martini, he asked if I’d like it bitter or sweet and was able to tell me the history of where the instapopular cocktail originated.

My favourite meal as always was breakfast; I get very excited about breakfast!

I love the selection and variety of fruit and cereal and baked treats, but what particularly excites me is when there is a menu and someone brings you a lovely plate of cooked joy!  I am not a fan of having to plate up and serve myself.  Maybe it comes from working as a waitress for many years, but when I am out for any meal, I truly appreciate it being brought to me at the table. This is unusual in hotels nowadays, but a definite tick in my book.

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We had the most relaxed 24 hours.  And to only have to drive a short distance to find such a beautiful escape, means that we will certainly be back.  Beech Hill House is wonderful for a family switch-off.  The TV in the room didn’t get switched on and the girls were so happy exploring the forests and the corridors.

It would also be perfect for a romantic sneakaway or a girly break.  I’m looking forward to visiting again many times and to seeing how the new owners develop and grow this beautiful estate.

 

Mammy and her family were invited to review the hotel.  As always however, Mammy was under no obligation to write anything, maintains her honesty and all views and comments are my own.  

 

I am Summertime-Family-Fun at Castleknock Hotel.

Last week, The Him and I took Mini-Me and Princess to Castleknock Hotel and Country Club for a 3 night Staycation.  Situated on Porterstown Road, Castleknock, this hotel is perfectly located for exploring Dublin.

We booked the Family Fun Package, which included a family room, Breakfast, tickets to Tayto Park and the Zoo, a dinner and a packed lunch.

When we arrived, we were checked in by a truly lovely young man.  Stephen was his name as far as I remember. He was friendly and efficient. When we arrived in the room allocated to us however, we weren’t overly impressed.  It was at the far end of the hotel, looking out at the hotel bins.  My 4 year old’s first words about the room were “Look at the man working at the bins Mammy.” There was a single bed and a double bed, but no cot and there wasn’t enough room to fit one in.

I rang reception and asked for a different room.  Again, he was very friendly and said he would look into it.  I went back to reception after ten minutes where Stephen was working on trying to find us alternative room for the three nights.  He eventually moved us to a new room, which was a bit bigger and so the cot fit in and we still had room to move about.  This room was overlooking the carpark and above a flat roof, but was much better than the first.

The hotel is clean and the public lobby, bar and reception are spacious and comfortable.  (Gorgeous air freshener in the huge lobby!)  The outside patio area is beautiful and a playpark was very well received by Mini-Me each evening. One lovely touch was the table of blankets, suncream and sunglasses at the door to the outside area.  Very simple, but very thoughtful.

The gym is basic but functional and the pool area is beautiful. There are two pools suitable for young children.  They were a perfect temperature and open to children from 9am until 6pm each day. (I should say that this suited us with very young children, but had our kids been a bit older, or teenagers indeed, we would not have been impressed that they couldn’t avail of the pool after 6pm.)

A family changing room would be helpful in the leisure area also.  Yes, there is a baby changing room and changing tables near the entrance to the pool, but for a young family, a communal room where both parents can help the children dress would have been wonderful. (A suggestion rather than a criticism.)

Breakfast each morning was perfect.  Porridge, fruit, pastries, cheeses, smoked salmon and a hot buffet.  The toasting machine needs replaced asap however…infuriatingly slow and took three attempts to warm the bread before eventually burning it!  The staff were very accommodating each morning.  On the third morning, Trish had seen us coming down the stairs and by the time we got to the restaurant, had reset the table closest to the buffet, set up the highchair and had even left extra teaspoons on the table for feeding the baby.  This was a simple act, but again, made us feel welcome and looked after.

We had barfood on the first 2 nights.  It was tasty, with a varied menu and satisfying portions.  Again, staff were efficient and friendly, taking time to talk to Mini-Me.  On our final night, we used the included dinner in the very elegant restaurant.  Decor in this area is stunning; elegant, tasteful and classy.  Our server Christina was superb from beginning to end and the food was exellent.

Had the Him and I been in this beautiful restaurant on our own, we would have enjoyed it much more to be honest.  It was difficult to enjoy this meal to its full potential with a tired baby and a 4 year old who thought we were at a ball in her honour!  We were terrified she would break or spill something. We both agreed that a barfood voucher included in the package would have been much more beneficial in the family package.

The hotel is very close to the zoo; it’s only a 5 minute drive to Phoenix Park.  It’s also close to Tayto Park and the City Centre so it is ideal for a family adventure in the Capital.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our break. We have stayed in Family rooms in other hotels which had a small hall or reception area which allowed for us to watch a movie or even have a drink after the girls went to bed, but the fact that they go to bed early isn’t really the hotel’s fault is it!?  It is however something that we would consider if booking again.  Perhaps adjoining rooms or a suite would be worth paying the extra for.

The Castleknock Hotel was very pleasant and perfectly located, the grounds and golf course were lovely, the food was excellent and the staff were friendly.  We left with a tasty packed lunch to spend the day at the zoo and they even put down the red carpet for Mini-Me! (Obviously it was for her and not for the beautiful Bride that day. 😂)

We will be back, (but maybe we’ll try one of the couple’s packages next time!)

I am Summertime-Family-Fun Mum

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(Please note: S-Mum received No Renumeration for reviewing this hotel.  I do so simply to help other parents to decide if such a family break would suit them.  These simply are our experiences.)