Meet the Locals:
The Londonderry Arms has seen some of the most important developments along this coastline in the past 200 years. It was completed soon after the Antrim Coast Road came through Glenarm, built as a coaching inn by Frances Anne Tempest, Marchioness of Londonderry. It was inherited by her great-grandson, Winston Churchill, in the 1920s. He sold it to the Lyons family in 1934. It was commissioned during the Second World War as a retreat for wounded soldiers.
The current owners, the O’Neills, took it over in 1947. Frank and Moira O’Neill became two of Northern Ireland’s most renowned hoteliers, helping to build the tourism industry in this region. Moira, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 94, was awarded an MBE for her services to the hospitality industry.
Today, the hotel’s operations are run by Denise O’Neill, Moira’s daughter-in-law and her dad, Raymond. If you manage to get a chat with them (they’re very busy) they’ll give you an insight into the life and times of this extraordinary place.
They’ll tell you the story behind Lady Londonderry building the hotel in the 1840s, the long seat in the Churchill Lounge that had been destined for Titanic and the deeds framed on the wall that confirm Winston Churchill’s ownership of the hotel.
Stories in every corner
They’ll also tell you the story behind the Arkle Whiskey Bar itself. Back in the 60s, this was the meeting place for the Arkle Club, formed in 1964 to follow the exploits of the famous steeplechaser. Arkle’s jockey Pat Taafe and trainer Tom Dreaper attended celebratory dinners here, donating the shoes Arkle wore in the second of his three consecutive Gold Cup wins, now displayed at the bar. You must sample the hotel’s exhaustive collection of the best of Irish whiskeys, like Bushmills from just around the coast, Ireland’s oldest continuously licensed distillery.
Try a pint of the flavoursome Hillstown ales here, we visit this award-winning brewery on this itinerary.
Dining in the Londonderry Arms is an event in itself. Not formal or stuffy, though you could be eating in the Frances Anne Restaurant (named after Lady Londonderry) whose Georgian splendour is enhanced by period antiques.
The ambience couldn’t be friendlier but the O’Neills take their food very seriously. A founding member of Taste of Ulster, their dedication to local produce is such they even use the famous local harvested seaweed of the area.
But if you want a steak burger with a difference, try their Glenarm Shorthorn steak burger, served in a toasted brioche bun with dry cured Northern Irish smoked bacon. Often touted as the world’s finest beef, produced from cattle reared just up the road, it’s typical of this inn, and this area, to serve such a culinary gem in such an accessible way.