Exploring a Traditional Walled Garden in Northern Ireland

Exploring a Traditional Walled Garden in Northern Ireland

I often hear from hotel owners that they use their own organic produce. It seems to be part of the farm-to-table trend. Occasionally, we may get a peek into the garden, or we see the garden in the distance, to validate this assertion. While in Derry, though, we were able to explore a traditional walled garden, one that actually supports a country house hotel. The Beech Hill Traditional Walled Garden One afternoon, at the Beech Hill Hotel in Derry, we walked  through the small gate and into the garden. Robert, the keeper of the traditional walled garden, stood at the far side. He was not what I expected. He wore dark brown pants, and a brown, thick sleeveless vest, with no shirt underneath. We offered to shake hands, and he apologized about the layer of dirt. I tried not to be girly, and grasped his hand firmly. After all, he was taking time out of his day to show us around his garden.  The garden is a good size, all nestled within a curving stone wall at the edge of the original plantation property. To one side is the original gate house, which currently has residents living there. Over the eastern edge of the stone wall it’s possible to see over the Derry countryside. Part of Robert’s job included knocking back the layer of moss that covered the walls, and occasionally repairing them to make sure they continue to stand, sheltering the garden from the winds. The current garden only occupies about a third of the available space. Even so, there were rows upon rows of vegetables and flowers, all neatly...
Best Scones in Northern Ireland

Best Scones in Northern Ireland

I have never been a huge fan of scones. When in the States, the few times I had them, they were dry, crumbly, sometimes tasting stale. So, I avoided them. Until three years ago, when visiting family in Limerick. Sinead, a family friend, invited us along with the cousins over to her country house near the water in County Clare.  Sinead made home made scones, which were warm and just out of the oven. I was in scone heaven. I easily scarfed down two, and they were giant. I don’t know whether Sinead realizes how she single-handedly ruined me for scones. Upon our arrival in Northern Ireland, I was craving a good scone. But, I realized it couldn’t be just any old scone.  We hit up some cafes and lunch spots during our first few days in Belfast and Portrush. I often saw a plate of scones on the counter, some of them looked good. But, I looked at them with a skeptic’s eye.  I didn’t want my first scone back on the island to be a disappointment.  So, I kept passing them up.  I wanted a good scone. I wanted a scone that would make me exclaim, these are the best scones ever! Scones at Beech Hill Hotel While staying at Beech Hill Country House Hotel in Derry, the owner, Patsy, offered us tea one afternoon while we sat in the morning room.  She asked if we wanted a scone or something. Having already enjoyed a lovely dinner at the hotel restaurant, and having scarfed down an obscene amount of their Irish soda bread during breakfast, I wanted to ask “how good are your...
Exploring Derry from the Beech Hill Hotel

Exploring Derry from the Beech Hill Hotel

We tend to collect mothers around the world, women who take care of us, treat us like members of their family. They dote on us, worry about us, even if only for a few days or a week at a time.  We have a Vietnamese mother, a Brazilian mother, a Czech mother. Now, we have a Northern Ireland mother, after our stay at the Beech Hill Hotel in Derry. We almost didn’t make it to Derry.  A week before we arrived, our plans were to head early to Limerick, after our stay in Belfast and Portrush. But, suddenly, our schedule worked out to spend an extra four nights in Northern Ireland, all of them at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel. Looking at the Beech Hill Hotel website ahead of time, it was not really the type of place we usually stay. We generally favor city center hotels, so that we can walk everywhere freely. We generally favor more modern, contemporary hotels too, you know because we are so cool and hip (insert chuckle here).  But, here we found ourselves, just a bit outside of the Derry city center, pulling up the winding driveway, and approaching a large 18th Century plantation. Although a historic hotel, and one with traditional country furnishings in the common areas, our room was recently refurbished, with brand spanking new carpet, and bright red arm chairs. Most importantly, our room at Beech Hill hosted the largest bed we have seen in quite some time. We have been staying in some pretty small beds, including one set of twin beds where Eric’s feet hung at least...
Learning About Northern Ireland History in Derry

Learning About Northern Ireland History in Derry

As someone who identifies with my Irish heritage more than any other, including perhaps American, there was a gaping hole in my understanding of the Irish. We’ve traveled to Ireland numerous times, mostly to spend time with family in Limerick. I feel that I understand the people, the culture, and the history of the island. Despite this, though, I was quite ignorant of one topic: Northern Ireland history. The Troubles was always a phrase that I just heard in passing. It was a topic that rarely came up in conversation with family, either in Limerick, or even with Eric’s mother. She left Ireland when she was 19, over 60 years ago. After all, she left Ireland well before The Troubles began.  The topic of Northern Ireland history, particularly over the last forty years, seemed almost taboo.  Not something talked about.    I understood the basics of The Troubles, the political conflict lasting almost 40 years, and costing the lives of many people in Northern Ireland. I’ve seen the movies, like In The Name of The Father, and listened to U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday about a hundred times. But, I really didn’t know the details. It was a conflict I didn’t seriously understand other than at a superficial level. It was the main reason why we finally ventured north.  Like I have said about other sensitive topics, like the division of Korea when we visited the Korean DMZ, I have no intention of discussing the politics of the situation. I only want to share our experiences, as two people of Irish descent, learning about Northern Ireland history. What We Knew About...
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