Where tranquility beckons …
It is not quite clear how old this beautiful Georgian house is, as some architectural experts appear to think that parts of the building could date back to the 16th century. Viewmount House was originally owned by the Earl of Longford who, by all accounts, owned nearly the entire town of Longford. James and Beryl Kearney purchased Viewmount House in 1989 and since then have made it their lifelong task to lovingly restore, refurbish and update it so that now it has become a jewel of a Country House guesthouse. There are 12 guest bedrooms in Viewmount that could give some of the more luxurious hotels a real run for their money. Each of the twelve bedrooms are decorated individually with different fabrics and some incredible beds. Most of these beds, nearly all Four Posters, have been purchased over the years by James, who follows the auctions closely online and purchases furniture wisely.
Interconnecting Gardens: Situated on approximately four acres of landscaped gardens the property has a modest aura as one drives up to the front of the House. However, this feeling is quickly dispelled when the two ancient Lime trees come into view. There is nothing modest about their circumferences which are positively massive. I am guessing about 10 feet in the round. If these were Ents from one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings I am sure they would have a lot to talk about. James is a wizard at gardening and his design and layout of separate and yet interconnected gardens put this property at the top of the tree. The Blue garden is laid out with blue/purple colours as its theme with the same approach taken for the white garden, with its pond and white lilies. And then there is the Japanese garden with its azaleas and wisteria walk that surrounds a discreet stone building which houses the Restaurant. Here Chef Gary O’Hanlon presides over the kitchen and serves some wonderful food. Like some of Ireland’s top chefs Gary regularly visits other Restaurants across the country to make sure that his cooking is on a par with the finest – and it certainly is. This is not surprising as most chefs only get a break outside the back door amongst the bins but here they can sit in the Japanese flower filled gardens. I might even be tempted to take up cooking myself if I could do this.
I slept in No. 25, otherwise called the Kilkelly Suite, which was in the new wing. I did check the corridor several times as the new wing has been added so seamlessly that I really found it hard to believe it was the newer part of the House. Here the bed is situated at ground level with stairs leading to a mezzanine sitting room. This is a really cute way of practically doubling the size of a bedroom, if you make your ceiling heights high enough and it worked a dream in this instance. The furniture is all genuine antique (not a reproduction piece anywhere in sight), and it made for a perfect match with the House. All the bedrooms have really good modern televisions. Mine was situated in the mezzanine sitting room. It therefore didn’t intrude to spoil the ambiance of bygone years in the bedroom, which was an extremely restful place.
I was looking forward to dining in the VM Restaurant, of which I heard so much – all positive. I was not disappointed. For dinner I enjoyed scallops to start, followed by superbly cooked venison, that was tender and moist, as it should be. Desserts were ‘to die for’ – gently poached fruits, punctuated by glazed lavender and a white chocolate cone – absolutely divine. Cash, the Maitre D, who has been with James and Beryl since they opened the Restaurant six years ago, really enjoys his role and I wasn’t the only guest who felt cosseted. No wonder many of the diners are regulars. It is always a very good sign when you see local people in a restaurant such as the VM. It is obviously a real treat to dine there. Breakfast was served in the main house in an authentic vaulted room, synonymous with the grand Houses of the past. A very good Menu ensured that I was properly set up for the day.
There is plenty to do in this area, particularly if you like angling. There are several rivers to choose from for fishing including the Shannon and Camlin Rivers and of course Lough Ree is a fishing haven. Budding horticulturists might also wander over to Belvedere House, which is not a million miles away and take a look at the infamous ‘Jealous Wall’.
Viewmount places Longford firmly on the Irish tourism trail with no small thanks to the efforts of Beryl and James Kearney. It is a straightforward easy drive on the M4 from Dublin, or alternatively a hugely enjoyable meandering rural drive along the N63 from Galway. Either way Longford and Viewmount House is most definitely worth a proper visit in its own right whether one is going in either direction.