We recently chatted to El Fegan, owner of Slievenagarragh B&B, about why you should check out her Mournes-friendly accommodation.
So El, how did your place come about?
One Friday afternoon, in the summer of 2014 I landed in London and headed straight to Greenwich Center where the World Pole Sports Championships were taking place (I run a B&B by day and Polercise by night, encase you’re wondering at this point).
Being the free spirit that I am I hadn’t booked anywhere to stay for the weekend and figured I would find somewhere close by when I got there. Boy was I wrong! The event had attracted people from all over the world, hotels in the local area were booked out and London being London at the time I couldn’t find anywhere less than approx £300 / night for a last-minute booking.
I got chatting to a lady at the event and she said “have you tried AirBnB?”. I’d never heard of it before, so I logged on right away, signed up and found myself somewhere close by to stay for the weekend, which wasn’t costing me my arm or leg.
I arrived back home on the Sunday night to my 3-bedroom house which I shared with my 2 dogs and cat. I started to think a little more about this genius concept of AirBnB and the possibility of it being my side hustle. I loved the idea of meeting and hosting real travellers from all over the world, and so I put my thoughts into action and the following week I had my first booking as a host. This was going to be an exciting and interesting experience for me – I looked forward to opening my mind and world to this new concept and haven’t looked back since.
What does your place offer to those wanting to explore the Northern Irish outdoors?
Slievenagarragh B&B is situated in Hilltown, a lovely little village in the heart of the Mournes. Hilltown has six public houses on the main street, a legacy from 18th century smugglers who shared out their contraband here. The village has a livestock market on alternate Saturdays, and a large sale of rams in September.
A short drive will take you to Spelga Dam and the magic hill. On the Sandbank road you will find Santa’s cottage, Ireland’s official residence of Santa, as well as walks at the foot of the Mournes from Leitrim Lodge, Yellow Water and Hen Mountain.
Goward Dolmen is an impressive megalithic monument two miles from Hilltown on the road to Castlewellan in Cabra. It is known locally as Pat Kearney’s Big Stone or Cloughmore Cromlech.
A 15/20 min drive will take you to Castlewellan, which lies between the Mourne Mountains and Slieve Croob.
The town was designed by a French architect for the Annesley Family, then owners of what is now Castlewellan Christian Conference Centre and Forest Park. It is unique within Ireland due to its tree-lined squares both in the old town (upper square) and new town (lower square) as well as its very wide main street. The old market house in the upper square was built in 1764 and now houses the public library. At the forest park you can walk around the castle and lake or take a short hike through the forest to Slievenaslat mountain viewpoint. The park is a popular spot for mountain biking, paddle boarding, kayaking and fishing.
Bryansford sits at the northern side of Tollymore Forest Park, roughly halfway between the towns of Newcastle and Castlewellan. Popular with Game of Thrones fans, the park offers the most enchanting experience with a walk along the Shimna River that is complimented by 16 bridges, outcrops, caves and grottos. The Hermitage, Kings Grave, Horn Bridge and White Fort are other attractions. Fallow Deer, Pine Martens, Grey and Red Squirrels and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are abundant in Tollymore Forest Park. The Arboretum with Redwood, Birch, Spruce, Oak and many more exotic trees will also charm you along the path.
Newcastle is a scenic seaside resort which lies on the Irish Sea at the base of the Slieve Donard the highest mountain in N.Ireland.
It is famous for its sandy beaches at Murlough and world-renowned Royal County Down Golf Club (host of the 2007 Walker Cup and 2015 Irish Open)
With gourmet restaurants, charming pubs and exquisite boutiques, galleries and amusement arcades, there is something for everyone in Newcastle.
Kilkeel is one of the southern-most towns in Northern Ireland. It lies within the historic barony of Mourne. Kilkeel town is the main fishing port on the Down coast, and its harbour houses one of the largest fishing fleets in Ireland. The town contains the ruins of a 14th-century church and fort, winding streets and terraced shops. It lies just south of the Mourne Mountains.
Rostrevor lies at the foot of Slieve Martin on the coast of Carlingford Lough, near Warrenpoint. It is home to Kilbroney forest park which offers the glorious Fairy Glen river walk, the popular Narnia Trail, forest trails and mountain top ascents. It is also a mountain bikers haven with one of the best trails in Ireland.
Warrenpoint is a small port town. It sits at the head of Carlingford Lough, south of Newry, and is separated from the Republic of Ireland by a narrow strait. The town is beside the village of Rostrevor and is overlooked by the Mournes and Cooley Mountains.
Warrenpoint is known for its scenic location, the Maiden of Mourne festival, the Blues on the Bay music festival, the passenger ferry service between Warrenpoint and Omeath and the nearby Narrow Water Castle. Warrenpoint port is second in terms of tonnage handled by ports in Northern Ireland.
Newry is a city of two counties: its west half is situated in ambient County Armagh and its eastern half lies in timeless County Down. It is united by the 19th century town hall that traverses a bridge crossing the river Clanrye. It is home to two premium commercial shopping centres, as well as local independent traders along the shore of the canal. Entertainment can be sought at the cinema and numerous quirky bars and restaurants.
From Newry you can also visit the Ring of Gullion in County Armagh that is host to Slieve Gullion forest, and dates back to the pre-Christian era.
Banbridge lies on the River Bann and the A1 road and is named after a bridge built over the River Bann in 1712. The town began as a coaching stop on the road from Belfast to Dublin and thrived from Irish linen manufacturing. Similar to Newry offering shopping, cinema complex, bars and restaurants.
Is it pet-friendly? Would families love it?
The friendly furry residents at Slievenarragh welcome other furry kinds to stay in their home and share their garden. They are also pretty fond of children and welcome families, especially those willing to pay them attention and in return they will show their affection, particularly Mimi the pug, pictured here with Rolo at Castlewellan Lake. We have 1 family room that sleeps 5 and a separate double room with travel cot also available.
And how private is it?
The detached house is situated in quiet development at the edge of the village with ample onsite parking. You have access to a private bathroom and living room with open fire, TV, music & board games. Guests are welcome to use the kitchen and on warm sunny days can make use of the garden and BBQ area.
As the owner, what’s your favourite thing about it?
Slievenagarragh is the perfect, central place to stay for adventurers wishing to explore the Newry & Mourne area. It is also a great place to stop over a few days for those road-tripping the east coast of Ireland.
Operating as an Air B&B host allows for a more personal, open & relaxed approach.
It literally is a home-from-home experience. Through profile reviews both guests and hosts have an understanding of each other, making both parties feel more comfortable and at home throughout the stay.
As a host I enjoy meeting like-minded, interesting people, sharing travel experiences and providing guests with honest, local advice on things to do, places to eat, etc, rather than the touristy things to do.
Find out more about Slievenagarragh B&B here.
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