Tuesday 16 January 2018

A family affair

Four generations of the Henry family have resided at Ardtarmon House

Emma Gallagher

Husband and wife team Charles and Christa Henry are behind Ardtarmon Guest House in picturesque Maugherow.

The 19th Century house has been in the Henry name since its foundation.

Charles explained: "My great-grandfather, who was from Strandhill, bought a thatched cottage on the site.

"Originally it was a traditional cottage with six rooms, then when my great-grandfather took it over, he began extending."

The idyllic house is set among 20 acres of mature ground overlooking Drumcliffe Bay, with Knocknarea on the other side.

At the time his great-grandfather, and latterly his grandfather were running the house, Charles said that life was much different for people in the area.

"We're talking 100 years ago or so. Most people were farming, without any machinery.

"The majority left areas such as Maugherow and emigrated to New York."

His great-grandfather did the opposite, moving back to Sligo from the UK.

The house takes its name from the townland upon where it sits.

"Ardtarmon means 'high sanctuary'.

"Closeby to us is the Ardtarmon Castle, also in the same townland," Charles added.

The area is lush with greenery. There are five self-catering cottages on the property, in traditional old style accommodation.

These include a Gate Lodge, Barn Cottage and converted farm buildings.

Guests can also stay in Ardtarmon House itself, where the decor and furnishings have not changed much since its foundation.

Charles added: "Our visitors are generally one third Irish, one third British and the rest are from elsewhere.

"The recession has affected us. Business is about half of what it had been leading up to 2008. Anyone in a similar line of work would tell the same thing."

The couple run the house and accommodation entirely on their own.

"We simply couldn't afford to employ people.

"We have young people, who help out with volunteering in the house and gardens."

He admitted that it is a great pity for the area that Lissadell House is not open.

"In Sligo we have some of the more beautiful landscape in the country, however we are short on man-made landscapes, and Lissadell is a perfect example."

Despite his time-consuming work looking after Ardtarmon House, Charles has begun another initiative that is reaping rewards.

He is the only harvester of Willow trees in Sligo, which are then used to heat the home, saving approximately €5000 every year, he says.

"The Willow project has been going well. I heard about it through IT Sligo, as a way of using other energy for heating.

"We are the only people growing Willow trees in Sligo; there is nobody else within 50 miles, there are a few in North Donegal and Enniskillen."

He said that is hasn't been as simple as it sounds however.

"I took on the challenge but it has been testing. We use eight acres for the crop.

"The main thing is the harvesting of it. The rods are light but long, once cut they are then dried out and used in a wood chip central heating boiler."

"We save about €5000 per annum so it's not to be sneezed at."

Charles stressed the importance of Ireland better using its renewable energy resources such as biomass, which includes willow and wood generally.

Wind, wave and tidal energy also come under this category.

"We should have sufficient wood in every square mile of rural areas, for heating and some energy rather than burning oil.

He added that more assistance is needed from the State to get it going.

"We started the Willow crop in 2007 and our first crop came in winter 2010.

"It is a lot of extra work and time as it is still largely at an experimental stage for smaller users."

As well as regular visitors, Ardtarmon House also caters for groups, private parties and weddings. "We have about one wedding a year, in accordance with the level of demand.

"The scenic location here in North Sligo is perfect for pictures."

Sligo Champion

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