GHAN House in Carlingford is the latest addition to Ireland’s Blue Book and is one of the smaller, more homely establishments on the list of great stately homes.
A group of us stayed there to mark a special birthday recently. The house is an 18th century Georgian structure, built in 1727 by William Stannus – a politician from Dublin who was of Scottish descent.
In the main house, there are four rooms, and eight further bedrooms in a garden annex. Rooms are decorated in muted, traditional fabrics and colours, but are more state-of-the-art than their setting, with iPod docking stations.
Carlingford reminds me of Kinsale – not only because of its picturesque streets and its focus on seafood in many eateries around the town, but also the influx of stag and hen parties to the area on weekends.
Following a brisk stroll around the town, we promptly made our way back to the warmth of the house and its open fires. It was early February, and everyone was in need of a hot toddy or something similar.
Dinner is served in a small dining room, mostly decked out for couples and a group of raucous women who were determined to have fun.
Starters included soft shell crab, scallops with chorizo and lightly cured Irish salmon pastrami with wasabi creme fraiche and beetroot meringue.
Mains include such fare as oven-baked fillet of cod marinated in mild Indian spices with curried yoghurt, crispy shredded duck with saffron and coconut broth, rice noodles and vegetables Julienne, sirloin of Cooley beef and 12 hour-braised beef cheek with carrot and cumin puree, chestnut mushrooms and rosemary jus.
This is simple enough home cooking with nothing too theatrical going on, but everything was tasty and staff were friendly, and good with the wine recommendations.
There is a lovely old-world bar, and another drawing room with an open fire where you can kick back after dinner. We made the decision to venture out and were lucky to catch a surprisingly good band in a packed local bar.
The Guinness is good, and the company good, as they say, and we quietly snuck in “home” at around 1am …
Next morning, and lots of tea and an Ulster fry sent us on our way back to Dublin, only an hour away.
For further information on Ghan House, see www.ghanhouse.com.