CLOSED – 2006
On the outskirts of Coleraine, on the Castleroe Road, sits one of Ulster’s oldest country inns, the famous, almost legendary, Salmon Leap, a hostelry whose site first attracted man in Stone Age times some 10,000 years ago, and whose reputation for quality, value and service still attracts man today.
The exact spot is about five miles inland from the open sea and no doubt early explorers from the northern shore were stopped in their tracks by an enormous rock of basalt, about 450 feet in length, which extended completely across the Bann and made navigation impossible.
This is the salmon leap, where hundreds of salmon would lie in shallow water waiting to make their do-or-die leap to freedom upstream. The banks along this place of abundance, became Stone Age man’s autumn settlement, the earliest known in these islands.
Salmon from earliest times have played a major role in the history of the Bann.
The O’Cahans carried three salmon on their coat of arms, and the O’Neills built a castle here, at Castleroe, to protect their fishing interests.
In 1609 John Rowley, the Irish Society’s agent in the north, was given the task of developing the new town of Coleraine, and he had cuts made in the river at this point to facilitate the floating of timber downstream for the new town.
The stone from this operation is said to have built the new “Stone Row” and the name “The Cutts” remained for this part of the river.
John Rowley, later to become the first mayor of Londonderry cast iron pillars that support them.
The parlour is a split-level, parquet-floored room, with wrought iron banisters leading to the lower level.
Stone walls, arched doorways, and rounded wooden doors complement the fine old original furniture and beautiful grandfather clock which furnish the pub to perfection.
It’s the conservatory, though, that stays freshest in the memory.
Exotic cascading plants tumble down from the high glass roof. Palms, creepers, ferns, vines, and beautiful hanging baskets merge with suspended brass candelabra and exquisite wall tapestries to suggest a mansion in the aristocratic Louisiana of the last century.
Amazingly, every one of the hundreds of plants is the real thing – there’s no room for the artificial or the phony here.
The black and white tiled floor, heavy floor rugs, and huge oval mirror, with its arabesque carved wooden frame, echo this sense of the deep South of pre-Civil War sensibility and style.
Like so many of the 26 places we have visited, Nelly’s Bar defies description to do it justice.
One five- minute visit is better than all the words in the world, or the grapes on a vine.