Previously: St. Albans Arms Hotel
8 Kildare St.,

Ardglass is undoubtedly a very small town with a great seafaring past. In mediaeval times, it was the busiest sea port in Ulster, and did a brisk wine trade with France. The Ardglass Arms has been a very popular inn since it opened for business way back in 1890.

Mine hosts for the last 9 years are the friendly husband and wife team, Brian and Angela Martin. Although it’s still called the Ardglass Arms Hotel, Brian was telling me it’s a boarding house with 5 bedrooms, a protected license dating back prior to 1923.

It was formerly called St. Alban’s Arms, and there’s a framed colourised postcard with a penny rfd stamp on it, with the name clearly above the premises. But why St. Albans?

Ah, thereby hangs a lovely tale. On the 19th green is the present Ardglass Golf Clubhouse, which was formerly Ardglass Castle, a historically listed castle dating back to the 13th here the story goes that century, Charles 11 dropped in. Not to play golf, of course, for the King had other games in mind with his famous mistress, Nell Gwynn.

Seemingly, she came to Ardglass some months earlier for the imminent birth of her son. When the King was here, the story goes, she threatened to kill her illegitimate son (named after his royal daddy) by throwing him over the banister of the circular staircase, if the King didn’t grant the child a surname and a title. The King eventually relented and granted the small lad the surname of Beauclerc, and the title of Baron Headington, Earl of Burford, eventually becoming the first Duke of St. Albans.

Our story turned full circle when Ardglass and surrounding townlands descended to Charles S. Beauclerc, a branch of St. Albans, when the Fitzgerald family sold their estate to him for the paltry sum of £26,000. Once you enter the Ardglass Arms, you will see a large motif of the old R.I.C. (unfortunately painted over) right in front of you. This is a reminder of the days when this old building was once the local Court house.

A door to the left will lead you into the small homely restaurant – a reminder of the old Commercial hotel restaurants that were once scattered around the province. To the right is the refurbished lounge built by Brian and a few friends four years ago.

Brian drew my attention to the lovely Belfast yard tiles around the bar area, whilst the reclaimed bricks below the bar counter and in the fireplace came from Wordie Cowan factory on the Falls Road. The wooden mantelpiece is made from a block of wood from the defunct Downpatrick Jail, the wooden beams from old houses in English Street, Downpatrick, and finally the bar counter is made from woodmaking benches from the old Ardglass Technical School. If you look closely, you can still see the graffiti on them.

Around the walls are large black and white prints of old Ardglass, concentrating on shots around the harbour, like the Gutter girls, who hailed from Donegal and Scotland, employed for seasonal work in gutting herrings down by the quayside.

I must say it’s a very pleasant and comfortable bar with lots of atmosphere, with an added bonus of a commanding view of Jordan’s Castle (just across the road) and the harbour beyond.