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