Rathmullan House: Sincere Donegal Hospitality


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The Fanad Peninsula in northern Donegal forms the western shore of Lough Swilly, a glacial fjord that in 1607 provided an escape route for the last Irish chieftains, the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, who eluded the British in what is memorialized as the “Flight of the Earls.” The earls embarked from the small town of Rathmullan, home to Rathmullan House. Dating from the 1760s, the imposing white building with three bays sits amid parkland bordering the sea.

In 1961, a young couple, Bob and Robin Wheeler, fell under the house’s spell and progressively transformed it into a hotel, adding a distinctive dining pavilion in 1969, an indoor pool and bedroom wing in the 1990s, and a new two-story Regency wing in 2004, bringing the room total to 32. Our Superior Room charmed us from the start with its most appealing feature, a semicircular window that arched around double doors leading out to a small patio. An eclectic mix of antiques, a comfortable couch and a gas fireplace made the room feel both elegant and homey. The large bath was equipped with an authentic claw-foot tub and a walk-in shower.

Downstairs, the public rooms embody a lived-in comfort, with worn (but not worn out) couches and chairs, plaster moldings and large fireplaces. The dining room — actually a series of interlocking hexagons with ceilings tented in dark blue cloth — is spectacular. Both the “Classic” and “House” menus are full of enticing dishes made from local ingredients, and produce from the hotel’s walled garden. I particularly enjoyed the diver scallops from nearby Mulroy Bay, which were served with squid-ink gnocchi in a clam broth; and a pork loin with a ham-hock terrine accompanied by black pudding and applesauce.

Aside from the pleasures of strolling through the grounds and along the beach, Rathmullan has the indoor pool, two tennis courts and croquet. The hotel can also arrange golf, fishing and horseback riding. Each room contains suggested touring itineraries, and the staff are only too happy to help guests plan their excursions. -A.H.

By Hideaway Report Staff

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