Of course, the drawing room mantelpiece has some rather fetching garniture. A pair of Staffordshire dogs are very on period. Books on steeplechasing ride high over the piano under a painting of ‘Beef or Salmon’, a past winner of the equine Hennessy Gold Cup. Framed like a moving triptych by the sliding panes of the canted bay window, ginger Freddie, one of three cats, nonchalantly meanders across the lawn paying scant attention to the chicken coop. Welcome to Oranmore House, a country estate in miniature.
Every Irish city or town has one: the best address. Dublin has Ailesbury Road; Belfast boasts Malone Road; Omagh’s got Hospital Road; Ballymena’s is Galgorm Road. Oranmore House is one of the late 19th century gentleman and lady’s residences flowering Galgorm Road. But with its single storey symmetrical frontage, it could just as easily be one of those low lying seaside villas in Monkstown or Killiney, south County Dublin. A taller two storey ancillary wing nicely inverts the usual architectural order of things. The drawing room is one of two principal reception rooms with deep coved ceilings flanking the entrance hall. There are two guest bedrooms on the ground floor and eight other guest bedrooms scattered across the first floor and a converted stable block to the rear.
Oranmore House has opened to paying guests, fast becoming a byword for sumptuous hospitality. The social scene of Ballymena rotates round Oranmore House on a Saturday evening. Birthday parties fill the major and minor dining rooms; the drawing room reverberates to the sound of clinking glasses and guests’ laughter. Outside, beyond the pools of light cast by the tall sash windows, a red squirrel energetically scrambles up the Victorian monkey puzzle tree.