Houses of Character
“They offer considerable comfort, convenience, character and charm at budget rates”, Frommer’s Guide to Ireland
One of our objectives after returning to Derry from South America was to provide accommodation for visitors which would serve as an alternative to the modern, often bland, purpose-built hotels and guest houses now to be found throughout Ireland. With that in mind, we embarked on restoring a number of old, neglected properties in the city centre, adapting them, where necessary to modern requirements, but also retaining as much as possible of their original fabric, ambience, character and charm. Much of this restorative work had to be carried out during a period of political upheaval in Derry when visitors were few and optimism in the future was in short supply.
Our initial experiment was the Saddler’s House, named to commemorate the first owner who hand-crafted saddles in the 1860s and 1870s. This building forms part of the Clarendon Street Conservation Area. Some years later we purchased the building now known as the Merchant’s House, a listed historical structure dating from 1867, which had been the home of several prosperous city merchants in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We received an award from the Guggenheim Foundation for restoring and conserving the elegant features of this Irish Georgian building. We next tackled two small adjoining Georgian townhouses, within the Walls, in London Street (Cathedral Cottage and Darcus Cottage), which date from the late eighteenth century. These have been transformed into two distinctive self-catering properties facing St. Columb’s Cathedral, the oldest building in the city.
Our most recent endeavour has been to adapt a listed early nineteenth century heritage house in Pump Street (also within the Walls) into three self-contained apartments (The Pump House Apartments), which are available for visitors to rent for long or short stays. The renovation of this historic building has resulted in the creation of distinctive holiday rental apartments with charm and character in the old centre of the Walled City. For those of a more modern architectural bent, we also have a rental apartment in a 1950s block of flats (Crawford Apartment), overlooking a small private park, about 15 minutes’ walk from the city centre.
It is worth stressing that all of our properties, both B&B and Self-Catering are centrally located in the city, and all are within 15 minutes’ walking distance of the major tourist sites, museums, genealogy centre, shops, restaurants, pubs, tourist information centre and the bus station. Guests staying with us can explore the city on foot, without the need for a car. For those who want to experience living within the walls of the old city, Cathedral and Darcus Cottages, and the Pump House Apartments, are ideal locations. Furthermore, all our properties provide a convenient base from which to explore Donegal, the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim coast, and the North West of Ireland.
We have endeavoured to preserve these buildings for future generations by combining the best of the old with the new, and at the same time offering visitors to the city a distinctive and attractive base from which to explore the urban centre and its environs. These are the sort of properties we prefer to stay in ourselves when we visit other cities as tourists. We believe that we are not alone in wanting to experience, however briefly, the satisfaction that comes from residing in buildings that have the patina of age and exude charm and character, and which at the same time blend the ambience of a bygone era with the comforts and conveniences of the twenty first century.