If a break to Northern Ireland is on the top of your list, look no further than the elegant Ardtara Country House near Maghera. Luxurious from inception, the Victorian property was built by one of Northern Ireland’s wealthy linen barons and is in a picturesque setting amid woodlands and lakes.
It is part of the multi award-winning Browns Bonds Hill Collection, a bespoke restaurant group that includes Browns Bonds Hill and Browns in Town, both of which are in Derry city, and Eighteen Ninety Four, a fine dining restaurant near the beautiful beach at Portstewart.
All are owned by hospitality specialist Marcus Roulston and chef patron Ian Orr – well known for his appearances on TV cookery shows such as BBC’s Saturday Kitchen Live. Orr oversees Ardtara Country House’s restaurant, creating amazing dishes with ingredients that are fresh, seasonal and locally sourced – including from its own gardens.
He and Roulston bought the property in 2014, smitten not just by its potential, but by its past. “We have lovingly restored it, combining its romantic Victorian architecture with all the modern comforts you expect in top class hospitality,” explains Roulston.
Its nine bedrooms are beautifully decorated and feature antiques and heirlooms alongside modern conveniences such as flatscreen TVs and Nespresso machines. The bedrooms, and indeed some of the en suite bathrooms, feature original fireplaces and working fires.
While the hotel is peaceful and secluded, there is that unmistakable buzz that comes from having a full-service restaurant on site, with extensive wine list and cocktail menu. Open to residents and non-residents alike, it’s a destination eatery that attracts gourmands from far and wide.
The restaurant is recommended by the Michelin Guide, has won the AA award for Guest Accommodation of the Year and was shortlisted as a Hideaway of the Year last year by Georgina Campbell. “Our idea for Ardtara was always for it to be a gourmet destination,” explains Roulston. There’s loads to see and do too. The property has 80 acres of lakeside walks directly behind and is perfectly located for exploring further afield. “If you were to put a pin directly in the centre of Northern Ireland you’d land on us,” he points out.
Equidistant from Derry city and Belfast, a 45-minute drive takes you to both cities, or to the Causeway coast. That puts you in easy reach of popular visitor attractions such as the Bushmills Distillery, the Titanic Centre in Belfast and Derry’s famous City Walls. All around Northern Ireland you’ll see locations familiar from TV’s Game of Thrones and there are plenty of opportunities for walking, from coastal paths to mountain hikes.
Of course, the other significant element of Ardtara Country House’s success is the service which, like all Blue Book properties – of which it is a member – is top notch and polished – without being remotely stuffy. “This house feels like a home. That’s how guests describe it to us, because they feel so comfortable here,” says Roulston.
Ardtara is proud to be part of The Browns Bonds Hill Collection
Since establishing Browns Bonds Hill in 2009, Ian Orr and Marcus Roulston have opened Browns in Town, Strand Road, Derry ~ Londonderry and Ardtara Country House & Restaurant, Upperlands.
The restaurant dining experience offered by Ian, Marcus and their team is unrivalled, each of the restaurants within The Browns Bonds Hill Collection is recommended by the Michelin Guide every year, in addition to that, they boast prestigious AA stars for culinary excellence.
The Browns Bonds Hill Collection have a wealth of experience, demonstrated by the countless awards adorning their restaurants such as the Restaurant Association of Ireland ‘Best Restaurant in Ulster’ 2013 & 2016 and winner of Tourism NI’s ‘Best Food Tourism Experience’ NI 2017, the Browns Bonds Hill Collection is firmly established as the best in the Northwest.
As a team they work hard at creating unique experiences and champion local and seasonal produce on their menus to provide customers with a variety of dining options, all with excellent food, genuine hospitality and unpretentious service.
Ian Orr has become an ambassador for the NorthWest, named Best Chef in County Londonderry five years in a row by Restaurants Association of Ireland and being instrumental in developing Tourism Northern Ireland’s new signature dish in the Year of Food and Drink, Ian frequently appears on local and national television showcasing his culinary skills, most recently BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and UTV Life.
Ian has represented Northern Ireland in New York, appeared on the Great British Menu, has been named five times in Bridgestone / McKenna Top Ten Chefs to Watch and was awarded Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Chef of the Year in 2013. Despite all the accolades,
Ian’s favourite place to be is in the kitchen cooking.
Find out more about Browns Bonds Hill Collection CLICK HERE