The Portaferry Hotel, Portaferry, County Down
A ratio. A certain ratio. Often, it’s a ratio that determines if something feels right. You walk into the bedroom in The Portaferry Hotel, for example, and the room feels just right: bright, welcoming, snug, cosy, inviting. And the reason why it feels so good is that ratio: the size of the seaward-facing windows proportionate to the width of the room. Spot on.
The rooms work because they chime perfectly with the archetype of a classic coaching inn that is embedded in our subconscious. But what is good is the fact that the decoration is so apt: restrained, cool, like the best early Victoriana (all it would take to ruin this room, Number 9, is to hang an abstract painting on the wall.)
The thing about the Portaferry Hotel is that this feeling of just rightness is everywhere: in the bar; in the dining room; in the sitting room and, above all, in the bedrooms. It’s the reason that this south County Down destination has always been a landmark. And now, with new owners in the shape of the well-known Arthurs family, the PH is all set to be a significant culinary landmark for Northern Ireland all over again.
What’s to like? The lot. The staff are superb – chatty, calm, helpful, funny, on top of things. The cooking – we had a brilliant dinner, and then breakfast was even better than dinner, one of the best breakfasts of the year. And the comfort: understated but apt, the sort of space where you plant yourself in a chair and happily waste hours staring out at the ferry crossing over the 66-metre deep channel to Strangford.
The main dining room opens at the weekends, so our mid-week meal in the bar featured a pitch-perfect ham hock terrine which framed a perfecctly cooked egg, the sweet porkyness offset by a sublime piccalilli. There was a perfect half lobster, crisp onion rings, great mash and textbook roasties, a fine creme caramel with rum soaked raisins. All the ratios of flavour and texture in each of the dishes was spot-on and that sums up our happy visit to the Portaferry Hotel: spot on.
10 more seafront getaways
The Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co Clare
With chef Peter Jackson in the kitchen, and the glorious Johnny Burke’s bar for a drink before or after dinner, the Armada is a cracking County Clare hideaway.
armadahotel.com and check our other coastal destinations on our Wild Atlantic Way Online Map!
Blair’s Cove, Durrus, West Cork
Ann and Chris have really upped the ante in the beautiful Blair’s Cove, for many people one of the most dream-like destinations in West Cork and the Wild Atlantic Way.
blairscove.ie and check our other coast destinations on our Wild Atlantic Way Online Map!
Castlemurray House, Dunkineely, Co Donegal
The views of the bay at St John’s Pont from the dining room at Castlemurray House are jaw-droppingly delightful. Mind you, you may only have eyes for the lovely food on your dinner plate.
castlemurray.com and check out other coastal destinations on our Wild Atlantic Way Online Map!
Cliff House, Ardmore, Co Waterford
The Cliff House team have just taken over the Lyons Villlage in County Kildare, but their Ardmore getaway remains one of the best loved coastal properties. The views are to die for.
The Connemara Coast Hotel, Furbo, Co Galway
Owner Charles Synnott is one of the great Irish hoteliers, and his crew at the Connemara Coast match the boss’s skills at every step of the way.
connemaracoast.ie and check out other coastal destinations on our Wild Atlantic Way Online Map!
Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, Clonakilty, Co Cork
Bring the surf board, because the waves at Inchydoney are just peachy. And Des O’Dowd and his team just get better and better with every year.
inchydoneyisland.com and check out other coastal destinations on our Wild Atlantic Way Online Map!
Kelly’s Resort Hotel, Rosslare, Co Wexford
We have to be honest and tell you that at one point in the middle of summer a couple of years ago, Kelly’s was averaging 99.6% capacity, so it’s not always easy to get into this beachside classic. But persevere, becuse it’s one of the defining Irish hospitality getaways.
Renvyle House Hotel, Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway
Manager Ronnie Counihan and chef Tim O’Sullivan are one of the great double acts in Irish hospitality, and their work animates the sublime Renvyle House. A couple of days here and your mind and body enter a new zone of relaxation.
renvyle.com and check out other coastal destinations on our Wild Atlantic Way Online Map!
Stella Maris, Ballycastle, Co Mayo
Frances Kelly is a truly special cook, and her food is the cherry on the cake of the lovely Stella Maris. And make sure to pay a visit to Polke’s Bar in wee Ballycastle.
stellamarisireland.com and check out other coastal destinations on our Wild Atlantic Way Online Map!
Strand Hotel, Kilkee, Co Clare
Johnny Redmond’s smashing cooking is reason enough to go to Kilkee, but the views from the rooms out across the bay are another good reason to make the most of Kilkee and the Strand.
thestrandkilkee.com and check out other coastal destinations on our Wild Atlantic Way Online Map!