Autumn at Ardara

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Autumn at Ardtara Enjoy a warm welcome and acclaimed food in the relaxed elegance of an historic country house


Thursday August 26 2021


truly special

Ardtara Country House offers a special location with its idyllic setting in the heart of Northern Ireland and so much more... its fresh, modern approach to period décor and celebrity chef Ian Orr's outstanding food make this an authentic foodie destination with a difference


Why staycation just anywhere when you can go somewhere truly special? Somewhere offering tranquil gardens with woodlands beyond and the elegance of a historic country house, packed with modern amenities and offering friendly, unstuffy service. Somewhere for celebrated chef patron Ian Orr to showcase his award-winning food bringing flare, skill and innovation to the best of local ingredients. Blue Book-listed Ardtara Country House, situated equidistantly between Belfast and DerryLondonderry in the small village of Upperlands, near Maghera, is that somewhere truly special. Marcus Roulston, coowner of the Browns Bonds Hill Collection with top chef Ian Orr, said: “There really isn’t anything else like it in Northern Ireland. While the hotel is peaceful and secluded, there is that unmistakable buzz that comes from having a full-service restaurant on site. Whether staying for a few days, or just dining, visitors are assured of a unique experience.”


Ardtara is very much a passion project for Marcus, who has extensively upgraded this elegant 19th century manor and as a result, guests are met with the fresh, modern features they would expect of luxury accommodation along with all the period charm and authenticity you'd want from a historic home. This delectable country house is sticking to its credentials and maintaining its focus on excellent but relaxed and unpretentious service. While plans are progressing to add more bedrooms in a converted courtyard, total room numbers will never exceed 19.


Visitors to Ardtara love the décor; 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. That homely elegance makes for a truly bespoke stay. “There is art in the great service, with lovely genuine people working in the place, and art in the great food. And then there’s an art in the house itself as a listed Victorian mansion, in restoring it properly by keeping any of the features that needed to be kept and adding antiques into it," said Marcus. The result is a bright, airy feel throughout the house. It's full of character and individuality, charm and heritage. The gardens, too, have undergone restoration over the last couple of years, and are the perfect place for a romantic stroll at any time of the year, or a tranquil spot to soak up the sun on a mild autumn day. Naturally, the gardens also provide some of the fresh local ingredients which are a hallmark of Ian Orr's cookery. With one of Northern Ireland's top chefs at the helm, Ardtara has become an instant foodie destination and the restaurant is in demand all


The stately Victorian property was built in the bookend of the 1800s by the once-prodigal son of a linen trade family after he returned from America. Charged with generating orders in the New World, he also managed to find adventure along the way, from bear hunting in Quebec to chancing his way into a White House reception with President Cleveland. Upon his return, Harry Clark built and lived out his days at Ardtara, gainfully employed in the local linen trade so notably evoked in the poetry of Seamus Heaney, celebrated at the HomePlace exhibition, just 15 minutes away. No longer in the Clark family, Ardtara had already evolved into a country house when it was bought by Marcus and Ian in December 2014.

year round with both guests and non-residents keen to sample Ian's creations. The result is a small country house with a vibrant buzz when the restaurant is full.


When guests are not dining or enjoying the relaxed elegance of Ardtara’s period rooms, they are free to ramble at leisure among the beautiful grounds and the estate is surrounded by acres of woodland and stunning countryside, dotted with lakes once used in the linen industry. Ardtara’s location, right in the heart of midUlster, means it is an easy drive whether you're in Belfast, Fermanagh, Newry or the Causeway Coast. There are dozens of places to explore in the vicinity and it's a magnet for those with a love of the great outdoors with hiking trails and scenic

walks galore. Immerse yourself in the autumnal beauty of a forest walk through the ancient woodlands of Drumnaph Nature Reserve or picturesque Portglenone Forest Park or hop in the car and soak up the scenery in these hinterlands of the unspoilt Sperrin Mountains. Described in the prestigious Blue Book of luxury hotels of Ireland as a 'charming house' with a plethora of original Victorian features Ardtara Country House has won many awards since it was taken over by the Browns Bonds Hill Collection. It's one of four properties owned by the Collection. They began with the multi-award winning Browns Bonds Hill and Browns in Town in Derry before launching Ardtara. Their latest venture is the prestigious Eighteen Ninety Four in Portstewart. Ardtara has won AA Best Guest Accommodation


Thursday August 26 2021

Ardtara Country House 8 Gorteade Road, Upperlands, BT46 5SA 028 7964 4490 #ArdtaraCharm #BrownsGreatFood

in Northern Ireland and Romantic Hotel of the Year and has been shortlisted as a Hideaway of the Year by Georgina Campbell. With staycations running rampant this summer, unsurprisingly, the property has been booked out by visitors from far and wide. Guests are drawn by the prospect of a relaxing few days away in a country house, Ian’s world class cooking and excellent service that offers a warm welcome whether you are staying in the hotel or dining in the restaurant. It's a winning combination that ticks all the boxes for anyone who seeks a restorative break. Marcus sums it up perfectly: "We provide a gourmet foodie break in a lovely country house that still looks and feels like a country house but with all the freshness and mod cons that you might expect from a luxury hotel.” ■


Thursday August 26 2021

Ian Orr, chef patron at Ardtara Country House

Fresh local ingredients,


At Ardtara Country House, TV star and celebrated local chef Ian Orr is indulging his passion for seasonality and the best of local produce while also making sure his guests enjoy the experience


ou may have seen him cooking up a storm on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen Live and Great British Menu, or perhaps you’ve had a memorable experience at one of his acclaimed restaurants in Derry and Portstewart. Chances are, if you’re into food in any way, you will have heard of Ian Orr. Just adding his name as chef patron of Ardtara Country House in 2014, made it an instant foodie destination. The Derry native has fantastic credentials.

Trained under Robbie Millar at Michelin-starred Shanks, he worked at the Michelin-starred River Café in London before returning home as head chef at Rathmullan House in Donegal. Since partnering with Marcus, his reputation has only grown with their first two restaurants, Browns Bonds Hill and Browns in Town, widely credited with putting Derry on the food destination map. Both have been Michelin Guide recommended every year since opening. Browns Bonds Hill has also impressed its peers, being named the


Restaurants Association of Ireland’s (RAI) Best Restaurant in Ulster twice while the RAI has also named it Best Restaurant in Co Derry~ Londonderry for eight consecutive years. Browns Bonds Hill went on to win Best Food Tourism Experience in Northern Ireland in the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards 2017. The accolades have continued to roll in since Ardtara opened in 2014, with AA rosettes and listings in the Michelin Guide. In 2020, Ardtara was commended in Georgina Campbell’s Hideaway of the Year, Ireland. As diners can tell, Ian’s passion for cooking is as strong as ever and his dishes celebrate quality seasonal produce, sourced as locally as possible. “There are lots of good chefs out there, but passion is the one thing stands out with Ian,” says Marcus. “It instils a passion in the team and particularly the younger chefs to be led by someone who cares so much. “He is still very passionate about the food and and genuinely wants every diner to enjoy their experience.” The style of food at Ardtara Country House

is modern Irish fare. The dinner menu changes daily, with fruit, vegetables and herbs from the gardens bolstering Ian’s enthusiasm for local, seasonal produce. And reflecting the unstuffy ethos of its food, expert but warm and welcoming service is a focus for the team at Ardtara with many longstanding staff members on board. With Ian’s reputation and the restaurant open to the public as well as guests, Ardtara attracts a wide range of diners from all age groups creating a convivial buzz. The property features two dining areas. The Clark Room, which seats 54 guests, is lit by two roaring fires in original fireplaces and the Garden Restaurant in the conservatory offers private dining for up to 26 guests. Dinner, Sunday Lunch, Afternoon Tea and Lounge menus are open to the public and guests Wednesday to Sunday and seven days a week in peak season. ■ For current menus, visit:


Thursday August 26 2021

Browns Bonds Hill Collection Ardtara Country House is one of four properties in Marcus Roulston and Ian Orr’s high-end hospitality group. Other venues in the Collection include Browns Bonds Hill and Browns in Town in Derry~Londonderry and Eighteen Ninety Four in Portstewart.

Browns Bonds Hill

Listed in the Michelin Guide every year since opening, Browns Bonds Hill is hailed as putting the North West on the foodie map. The first in the Browns Bonds Hill Collection, it set the tone for Marcus and Ian’s focus on high-quality local food and service in smart yet unpretentious surroundings. Browns Bonds Hill offers a range of dining experiences throughout the seasons with a la carte tasting menus and vegetarian/vegan menus. Browns Bonds Hill has been named Best Food Tourism Experience in Northern Ireland by Tourism NI. Further awards include Best Restaurant in Co Londonderry for many consecutive years and twice Best Restaurant in Ulster from the Restaurant Association of Ireland, while the restaurant has also been listed in the Top 101 Great Irish Restaurants in the Business Post and Sunday Times Ireland Top 100 Irish Restaurants. 1 Bonds Hill, Derry – 028 7134 5180 –

Browns in Town

Browns in Town and its sister site Browns Bond Hill are the only two Derry restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide. Situated in the heart of Derry City, Browns in Town offers a casual dining experience in modern, comfortable and welcoming surroundings. As the second addition in the Browns Bonds Hill Collection, the restaurant has proved a hit since its opening with foodies enjoying Browns’ great quality food combined with excellent service and exceptional value. As with all the restaurants in the Collection, chef patron Ian Orr focuses his menus at Browns in Town on seasonality and local produce. The restaurant offers a modern menu featuring perfectly plated starters, mouth-watering mains and delicately prepared desserts. As well as speciality cocktails, Browns in Town offers a wideranging gin and local craft beer menu. 21 Strand Road, Derry – 028 7136 2889 –

Eighteen Ninety Four

The most recent addition to the Browns Bonds Hill Collection, Eighteen Ninety Four opened in early 2020. This elegant restaurant boasts an enviable location featuring full-length windows offering spectacular views across Portstewart Strand. Bringing fine dining to Portstewart, the restaurant is modern but not too formal. Eighteen Ninety Four offers an à la carte lunch and evening menu and a set Sunday lunch menu featuring the freshest seasonal, local produce alongside fine wine pairings. Chef patron Ian Orr and his team bring modern twists to classic cooking and, in line with the values and ethos of the venues in the Browns Bonds Hill Collection, the focus is on top-notch but friendly, unstuffy service. 117 Strand Road, Portstewart – 028 7087 8211 –


Thursday August 26 2021

Garvagh Forest

Woven into Northern Ireland’s industrial and literary history


rdtara Country House’s history is as intriguing as the Victorian property and its grounds are beautiful. It weaves in the story of a linen baron’s son resisting the family trade but, after quenching his thirst for adventure in the New World, ultimately drawn back to Upperlands where he built and happily lived out his days at Ardtara. When the elegant country house was built, around 125 years ago, the Clark family had already been in the linen trade for more than 150 years, acclaimed for producing fine linens from flax using the ancient process of beetling. In the glory days of local linen production in the 18th century, almost a third of all flax spinning mills were located in Belfast with the two biggest mills at York Street and Brookfield producing over half the linen output for Ireland and a third of the world’s flax supplies. While John Clark of Maghera, a farmer and brewer, had spotted an opportunity for linen production on the land he worked, he never acted on it. His son, Jackson Clark, followed up on his father’s dream, building a mill on the river Clady on land he referred to as his ‘Upper Lands’ in 1735. In 1740, the first beetling engine began turning in what is now known as Upperlands. Jackson’s business, WM Clark, would become one of the oldest continually running businesses in the world, exporting Irish linen to this day. Fast forward to 1888 and our restless hero, Henry ‘Harry’ Jackson Clark runs away at the age of 18 to seek his fortune in America. His father pursues him to Liverpool and agrees on the trip only if Harry will act as a salesman for the family linen business in the New World. Harry did manage to fulfil his agreement, booking hundreds of orders, and sated his rebellious spirit with adventures as varied as visiting with an Indian chief and going bear-hunting in Quebec, collecting a bad debt in Chicago and inveigling his way into a White House reception where he shook hands with President Cleveland. On his return, Harry was put in charge of a newly formed American Department which would go on to be the driving force behind the business and would ultimately become its chairman. Having been brought up in Ampertaine, Harry began building Ardtara as a family residence around 1896, happily returning to his roots and raising his own family in the beautiful house. By the early 20th century, linen works associated with the family business had expanded to 20 buildings with a workforce of 220 and Upperlands had become a fully fledged community with the mills as the focal point. And thanks to the return of the prodigal son all those years ago, anyone can now enjoy the elegance and tranquillity of Ardtara.

Ardtara Country House

Banagher Glen Drumnaph Wood

Upperlands Mill & Dam Trail Seamus Heaney Homeplace

Map not to scale

Ardtara hits the spot, at the heart of the country


ith its central location, Ardtara Country House is only a short drive from any corner of Northern Ireland, making it both easy to get to and an ideal springboard for visits to attractions around the province. Ardtara boasts a wide range of attractions right on its doorstep, whether you’re looking for a relaxing stroll in the autumn leaves, a more arduous hike in the Sperrins or a visit to one of Northern Ireland’s leading cultural attractions.


Upperlands Mill & Dam Trail This scenic walk is accessible on foot from the grounds of Ardtara; just ask one of the team to point you in the right direction. There are four man-made lakes or ‘dams’ in Upperlands, which once served the linen mills: Craig’s, Island, Green and Lapping-room dams. The walk circumnavigates the old mill dams, which are now disused, but very picturesque. Drumnaph Wood A beautiful ancient woodland less than 10 minutes’ drive from Ardtara and one of the few

remaining fragments of a great forest that once covered much of mid-Ulster. Throughout the year Drumnaph Wood’s varied mix of habitats is a joy to explore. Banagher Glen Banager Glen is reached by car, approx 20 minutes from Ardtara. This short walk is approx two miles through the steep wooded Banagher Glen, one of the oldest ancient oak woodlands in Ireland to Altnaheglish Reservoir and Banagher Dam. Garvagh Forest The forest is less than 10 miles from Ardtara and home to a range of walking, cycling and mountain bike trails to enjoy. There are four different grades of cycle trails within the forest each offering a different experience, and walkers can avail of waymarked walking trails. Portglenone Forest A stunning ancient woodland, only 20 minutes’ drive from Ardtara, with waymarked trails leading down to the River Bann (approx 1.3 miles). The ground flora contains extensive colonies of ancient woodland indicator species which

Inspiring Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney One of the most famous poems of Seamus Heaney features a flax dam near Ardtara. “All year the flax-dam festered in the heart of the townland; green and heavy headed flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods. Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun. Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.” © 1966, Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist – Publisher: Faber & Faber, London.


Thursday August 26 2021

Eighteen Ninety Four Eight Portstewart Po

Browns Bonds Hill Derry-Londonderry Browns in Town

Ardtara Country House Upperlands


take centuries of woodland cover to establish. Visitor facilities include picnic tables, toilets with wheelchair access.


Sperrin Mountains Tours and Hikes Savour the rugged natural beauty of this dramatic mountainous area, choose up to four primary scenic driving routes around and through, or enjoy a myriad of way-marked hiking trails up and down valleys or over the crests of mountains. Nine thousand years of civilisation has left megalith tombs, standing stones, stone circles and alignments plus more ‘modern’ 18th century castles often perched on and near the picturesque Rivers Roe, Moyola and Bann. Water-based activities Only 20 minutes from Ardtara, Lough Neagh Tours are available from Ballyronan Marina. Lough Neagh captivates visitors with its tranquil atmosphere, unspoilt scenery, secluded bays, wildlife, history, flora and fauna. If fishing is more your idea of a relaxing time, ghillies are available by request for fly fishing

on the River Bush or course fishing on the River Bann. For guests hoping to cover more ground (and sea), Ardtara is well located for a trip over to Donegal on the 10-minute Lough Foyle Ferry from Magilligan Point to Greencastle. Why not stop off in Derry-Londonderry (see below) on the way there or back? Or head the other direction and catch a ferry out of Ballycastle to Rathlin Island, the only inhabited offshore island in NI. Site of the first Viking landing, the island features an RSPB Bird Centre, pub, restaurant, mini bus tours, bike hire and easy walks along spectacular cliffs with vistas of Scotland.


Seamus Heaney Homeplace With the dams around Ardtara inspiring one of the Nobel Prize winning poet’s most famous works, any visit to the Seamus Heaney HomePlace takes on a new dimension. Visit the HomePlace before or after strolling the Upperlands Mill & Dam Trail and feast your eyes on the very inspiration for Death of a Naturalist. The fantastic


visitor centre in Bellaghy (a 10-15-minute drive) celebrates the life and literature of the Nobel Laureate, one of Ireland’s greatest writers, and is well worth a visit. Journey through the life and works of this literary giant, and experience the place, people and landscape inspiring his work. HomePlace has its own café, and hosts a series of cultural events. Walled City of Derry-Londonderry The historic Walled City is an excellent example of a European walled city remaining virtually unchanged since it was built in the 17th century. You can walk on top of the wall and look down into the Bogside, the scene of modern Irish history, taking a guided walking tour to learn the history of this culturally vibrant city. Visit the Tower Museum to see the remnants of the Spanish Armada ships, which sunk off the coast in their desperate attempt to sail home after disaster. Derry is also home to a vibrant hospitality scene including two sister venues to Ardtara, Browns Bonds Hill and Browns in Town, both listed in the Michelin Guide. ■

Autumn/Winter packages at Ardtara Country House*

B&B from £159 Dinner B&B from £229 Two-night stay with Tasting Menu & afternoon tea from £450 *Prices are per room, based on two people sharing

8 Gorteade Road, Upperlands, BT46 5SA Phone: 028 7964 4490 Email: W: