“ Address: 20 Harbour Road / Carnlough / Co. Antrim / BT44 0EU / Northern Ireland „
On a recent visit to Northern Ireland,finely documented in a previous post, I was lucky enough to be shown round by someone born and bred in Larne. It was on her suggestion that we paid a visit to the Londonderry Arms, a 3 star hotel with two restaurants in the charming and quaint harbour village of Carnlough. Carnlough is about 15 minutes drive north of Larne along the very picturesque coastal road otherwise known as the A8.
The Londonderry Arms has a rich and interesting history proudly available in leaflets amongst a wide selection of magazines free for perusal.
The Londonderry Arms Hotel was built in 1848 as a coaching inn by Frances Anne Tempest, Marchioness of Londonderry.
Frances Anne was the grand-daughter of Randall William, sixth Earl and second Marquis of Antrim. He was the great great grandson of Sir Randall MacDonnell, the first of that branch of the MacDonnells to bear the title Earl of Antrim.
Frances Anne inherited from her mother, Anne Katherine, Countess of Antrim in her own right, land between Glenarm and Cushendall, including Carnlough.
At the age of 19 she married Charles William, Lord Stewart, the British Ambassador to Austria, later the third Marquis of Londonderry and sometime affectionately known as fighting Charlie. As Ambassador he assisted his half-brother Castlereagh, and afterwards the Duke of Wellington in the negotiations of the celebrated Congress of Vienna. Lady Londonderry was greatly admired at the Russian Court and the Russian Emperor, Alexander I, gave her some of the Londonderry family jewels - the Down diamonds and the parture and cross.
Conscious of their responsibilities as landlords, the Marquis and Marchioness of Londonderry were determined to provide assistance for the people of the area.
Ireland at that time was suffering one of the greatest tragedies in its history - The Great Famine, also known as the potato famine.
They initiated the erection of a town hall, lime kilns and the building of a protected harbour. Later a mineral railway line was built to connect the south pier with the limestone quarry in the hills rising behind the village.
The Marquis died in 1854 and on the death of Lady Londonderry in 1865 the Carnlough estate passed to her son Henry the fifth Earl. After his death in 1884, the estate passed to her grandson Herbert Vane Tempest who was tragically killed in a train accident in Wales in 1921. After his death the estate, including the hotel, passed to his second cousin, Sir Winston Churchill.
In 1934 Winston Churchill sold the hotel to the Lyons family. During the Second World War part of the hotel was commissioned by the Army to allow for the recuperation of wounded soldiers; after the war in 1946 Mr Lyons sold the hotel in several lots which considerably reduced its size.
For 60 years the hotel has been owned by the O'Neill family who are the longest established hotelier families in Ireland.
The hotel has 35 rooms, consisting of 4 exec rooms - one of which Sir Winston Churchill stayed in. 5 King Bedded rooms, 10 double bedded rooms 8 family and 8 and single. Prices vary but at time of visit the costs were £85 pps at weekends if staying 2 nights with breakfast and 2 dinners and £155 pps for 3 nights B & B including dinners. Now as I had free accommodation just along the road, I had no intention of staying at the hotel, but for pure voyeuristic purposes I asked to have a look at the exec rooms on the premise of staying. Unfortunately Sir Winston's room was unavailable to view but the room I did see was very tastefully decorated complimenting the Georgian architecture. The view across the harbour was stunning. Being able to wake up and gaze upon that emerald sea gave the accommodation even more credence. At this point I vowed that if I should ever return to Northern Ireland I would definitely stay here.
Our arrival at the Londonderry Arms hotel unfortunately coincided with a coach party filling the award winning restaurant so we were forced to eat in the coach house bistro. The Francis Anne and Tapestry room restaurant as it is known has been awarded the AA Rosette for culinary excellence and the Taste of Ulser award, so naturally I was disappointed not to have tried the local food there but the Coach house bistro contained plenty of local fayre and I promptly ordered the local sausages with champ - a creamy mashed potato with spring onion. The service was quick and the food good enough but certainly not award winning. The price for the two meals was reasonable too. Two main courses, with a recommended side order of wheaten bread costing £30. Drinks were a little pricey by local standards. A large coke costs £3.40.
The service was friendly and welcoming. There was a slowness to it which I could not work out be endearing emblematic of Irish ways or just slow. The popularity of the place ensured that the few staff there were constantly occupied and although the service was undeniably good, there could have been more staff on hand to feed the masses.
The hotel does have conferencing facilities and is able to hold functions and as i understand it, it is very popular for wedding receptioons
The Londonderry Arms Hotel.
20 Harbour Road
Tel: +44 (0) 28 2888 5255
Fax: +44 (0) 28 2888 5263
A charming little hotel with an interesting history and beautiful surrounding. It has good spacious, well decorated accommodation at reasonable prices with award winning restaurants to eat in. Definitely worth staying or just to pay a visit
Offering 35 tastefully decorated rooms.