The landscape of County Down is bearing fruit for a 19th century cottage which has been providing self-catering accommodation since its renovation ten years ago.
Glassdrumman Cottage in Saintfield is run by William Howard who planted an orchard beside the traditional farm building during its conversion in 2006. Originally intended as a landscaping feature so guests could enjoy the apple blossom, Glassdrumman now produces its very own cider savoured by visitors and locals alike. Currently in its third year of production, albeit on a tiny scale, the cider is a direct result of the landscape as well as the ‘place’, as accommodation provider and cider producer William explains.
“The idea to make cider came a few years after the renovation when I needed to find something to do with all the apples. The first cider was an experiment to test if there was a drinkable product with the idea just to use it for people staying in the cottage. However, it received such good reviews that I decided to make it available to friends and then locally in the Saintfield area here where we are based. This will be the third year of cider production, we produce approximately 1000 bottles, our production is very small scale and entirely seasonal.”
William encloses his very own news sheet with each case of cider covering stories that he hopes will be of interest to customers. These range from food matching pieces and seasonal recipes to the history of the orchard and the varieties it contains. He has also trialled a food and drink tour and is exploring the possibility of taster tours in the grounds of the whitewashed cottage, which is situated on top of a drumlin in County Down.
“We had a trial visit with a delegation from Dublin, but I didn't feel it worked that well. However, I am still hoping to do cider tasting for smaller groups sometime in the future, it’s a case of what is possible.”
The facilities at the Tourism NI certified five-star property provide all the comforts of modern living whilst retaining a period charm complete with antique furniture and paintings.
Situated around one mile outside Saintfield, the ‘place’ features prominently in William’s marketing of the self-catering cottage. He explains for instance how the original name for the village was Tullach-na-neve or Tonoughnieve, meaning ‘hill of the saints' and how the town came to prominence in 1798 after a brief skirmish between the United Irishmen and a company of York Fencibles, one of the few encounters where the rebels could claim success.
“Most of the buildings along the main street were built in the 18th century and although the village now caters for a modern society the original architecture is still visible,” explained William. “In terms of extending the Landscape and Places theme, we also have the National Trust’s Rowallane Gardens located on the outskirts of the village and within 10 minutes’ drive you can find golfing at Rockmount Golf Course, equestrian activities at Lessans Stables, and fishing at Carrickmannon Fishery.”
The importance of Landscape and Place is also compounded in the many paintings adorning the cottage walls, over 70 in total. Most of the pictures are traditional in context and many have an Irish connection, either through the artist or subject, and help to set the mood within the cottage, he believes.
“All of the artwork was purchased at local auctions while the renovation of the cottage was ongoing. Pictures within the living area generally have an Irish theme, mainly landscapes and locations and cover a wide range of styles and subjects including the Titanic. Hopefully these pictures will help visitors get a sense of what Ireland is like and inspire them to maybe visit some of the locations and see the actual landscape for themselves.”
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