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Review: Beech Hill Country House - a retreat to remember

By Claire Williamson

It was a rural treat to remember.

After the madness of Christmas and New Year and then the valiant attempts to get into a routine in January — being wrapped up in a blanket in front of a fire, paired with a pot of tea, was the perfect remedy.

Beech Hill Country House, given its name due to the many beech trees surrounding it, is a gem steeped in history stretching back more than 400 years.

Its history is etched on the walls — along with the impressive pictures of famous faces who have stayed and visited over the years.

From former Presidents to film and music stars — it’s clear the charm has rubbed off on many.

Located on the Ardmore Road, the first thing to hit you when you walk through the doors is the instantly calming scent of the fireside — which welcomes and urges  you to sit by them and switch off from the outside world.

However, despite its rural setting it is just two miles from the centre of Londonderry.

Which is hard to believe when you are enveloped in the tranquil surroundings.

The vast grounds are a treat for all the senses. Set in 32 acres of woodland and trails it’s a walkers paradise.

Whether you want a quick stretch of the legs before dinner or a proper trek, there is something for all.

Dinner in the Beech Hill Country House was beautiful and nothing was too much trouble. The ingredients are locally sourced and the fruit and vegetables are home grown in the walled garden.

Maintaining its Georgian characteristics, the rooms have a rustic feel and are built for comfort too - as well as providing stunning views of the grounds.

But my favourite spot was in front of the fire — and the drawing room has two!

The welcoming room is comfortable but maintains an air of grandeur.

There is a host of activities closeby including a range of things to see and do in Derry including a walking tour of the City Walls and the Peace Bridge.

Another is horse-riding at the City of Derry Equestrian Centre which is about a 6 minute drive from the Beech Hill.

It caters for all abilities — including beginners, intermediate and experienced riders.

The centre includes an all-weather outdoor arena, paddocks and stabling as well as an indoor school.

Now I’m definitely more used to travelling on two legs and am certainly not the next AP McCoy — having not been on a horse properly since I was a child.

Slightly apprehensive, ahead of the visit I had even been Googling top tips for horse-riding for beginners.

But, the minute I arrived I realised I didn’t have anything to worry about.

I was immediately put at ease when I met Pauline Lusby and her team. 

They really mean it when they say they cater for all abilities and it’s surprising how quickly your confidence grows with some gentle encouragement.

We met our ponies for the day — mine was the lovely Micky Finn — who I was assured was used to beginners - and he would have his work cut out with me!

They talked us through every part of the experience from how to mount the horse properly and how to react to certain situations, and it wasn’t long before we were out on the trail taking in the gorgeous scenery on horse back — of course carefully guided by helpers, who led the ponies and were on hand for any questions we had.

And if all that wasn’t enough — Pauline gave us a history tour which was perfectly illustrated by our surroundings.

She was a wealth of knowledge and made it such an enjoyable experience — while also offering gentle encouragement which was greatly appreciated and soon I forgot all about my nerves.

After we had said goodbye to our new pony friends — we retreated back to the fire at BeechHill Country House.

Which seemed the perfect way to warm-up and bring our rural retreat to a blissful and peaceful end.

For more information visit www.discovernorthernireland.com

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