There’s something rather charming about Newforge House, based a forty minute drive from George Best airport, Belfast. There’s a gravel driveway leading up to a small yet grand house covered in ivy. It’s quaint.
Once in, it’s all antiques and creaky floorboards. John and Lou Mathers are the owners of the 17th century house which has been in their family for six generations. The furniture and artwork are therefor steeped in history. They’ve since made it a guest house and if you want a few days away from the hustle and bustle, you’ll find peace and quiet here.
My room, The Spence Room, is on the top floor, with views of the garden and drive. It’s opulent in an old school kind of way. More uneven, creaky floorboards and dark wooden furniture hark back to the old days – I love stuff like this. The bed is huge and there’s even a pillow menu to choose from, however I find the standard hypoallergenic super microfibre Homescapes ones provided more than suitable.
The bathroom is super modern which is a nice contrast. Thick fluffy towels are just what I need after a long soak in the stand alone bathtub.
Dinner, served in the small and cosy dining room, is served from Tuesday-Saturday and is available to non-house guests too (£44 per person). John uses local produce and even fruits from his own orchard. There’s a butcher, Peter Hannan, who’s quite a meaty celebrity in Northern Ireland – we have his sugar pit bacon ribs which are some of the finest pig I’ve tasted. Both cooking and quality are marvellous. We finish with a salted caramel chocolate tart which is impressively light considering its rich, and delightful, ingredients.
Breakfast is served in the same room and I can’t resist ordering the Ulster Fry. It comes with three different homemade breads; pancake, soda bread and potato bread. There’s black and white pudding too – this guy can cook.
Before leaving, we have a quick walk round the grounds and see the chickens whose eggs we ate at breakfast. Another reminder that they really care about what they serve.
Our stay at Newforge House was delightful – partly due to John being so likeable but also because the house has so much character. And if you haven’t been to Northern Ireland before, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Would we stay again? Yes.
We stayed as guests of John and Lou