Hotel Hub: Brown Trout Golf and Country Inn, Aghadowey, Coleraine
Three new bedrooms have just been opened in time for Christmas at the Brown Trout Golf and Country Inn, while all 15 existing rooms have been upgraded to a four-star standard.
“This year’s business has seen a slight increase in food and beverage, but also an increase in costs across the board so margins are tighter,” says Jane O’Hara, manager of the Brown Trout Golf and Country Inn.
“One highlight of this year was celebrating 50 years’ service of our bar manager and host Gerry McIlwaine who started with us at 15 and is still going strong.
“Another highlight has been the success of our chef Alex Taylor and his commitment to his own garden, and we are aiming to develop another area for him this year to provide as much home-grown produce as possible.
“Our ethos is to create lifetime customers and we continue to do this by building a relationship with our customers who return to us both personally and with their next generations.
“We are blessed with a local work force who are friendly and caring by nature and seem to like sticking around so staff turnover rate is incredibly low as working here is a way of life.” Brown Trout is part of the Original Irish Hotels collective of three- to five-star properties. “All of us found the effect of the threat of Brexit cost us about 20% of French and German business last year,” says O’Hara.
HOTEL OPENED: Jane’s father Bill O’Hara took over the Inn in 1958 and it opened as a hotel in 1993 under Bill Junior.
OWNERSHIP/REFURBISHMENT HISTORY: 1940s – farm with McAleeses bar run by Jane’s Aunt Cissie O’Hara (next to American air base during war); 1950s – became The Brown Trout Inn; 1960s – one of Northern Ireland’s first grill bars serving chicken in a basket and t-bone steaks, and a popular dance venue with live music every night; 1970s – Golf Course opened on site, destroyed by terrorist bomb; 1980s – reopened as inn/bar and wedding venue; 1990s – opened as three-star golf hotel, sister Jane returns from London to run operations; 1999 – Northern Ireland’s first five-star cottages; 2000s – complete kitchen upgrade, all rooms on second upgrade and new rooms added, extra dining space created; 2020 – planning to create more dining space and upgrade carpark to take more camper vans.
EMPLOYEES: Nine full-time, up to 20 part-time casual
ROOM NUMBERS: 18 bedrooms and four two-bedroom cottages
STYLE: People describe it as going back to happy memories with a modern twist.
GUEST PROFILE: Guests are from every walk of life and social status; it seems to work.
USPs: It is not just dog friendly, it is people friendly.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: Food and beverage service is casual but professional, and served every day of the year. Real produce and great flavours, inspired by chef Alex, are carried through by his team. Breakfast served every day to noon is a people pleaser.