On Bridge Street in Bawnboy, Co. Cavan, stands a unique guest house called The Keepers Arms, owned and operated by Bryan and Sheila McKiernan. A bright red façade greets those who enter and serves as a welcoming sight to weary travellers. The handsome two-story building, originally constructed in 1852, newly renovated now, looms large in the surrounding small village. Window boxes with bright red, orange, and pink geraniums add a cozy flavour; fine craftsmanship, a touch of elegance.
And then there is Sheila.
Bubbly, full of energy, generous with smiles and stories, a wellspring of knowledge, Sheila is a people person, involved with her two children, Amy and James; a continuous stream of guests; several employees; and of course, her husband, Bryan who, despite long hours of working as a farmer and hay wrapper, comes through the door with a cheerful greeting and hearty laugh.
Sheila's sense of style and grace shines in every room. On the ground floor guests enjoy the bar, the poolroom, the dining room, and the reception hall, all heavy with wooden furnishings and decorated in complimentary hues of terra cotta, coral, brown, and burnt orange. But the busy hub of the ground floor is the modern, pristine kitchen where Sheila spends the majority of her day preparing food for staying guests and locals who can't resist either her or her delicious homemade brown bread, jams, marmalades, and sauces.
A chef in her own right, Sheila studied for seven years with Neven Maquire, renowned Blacklion master chef. She has brought to her own kitchen a touch of fine cuisine: delicate aromas of salmon with butter sauce, chicken with sweet chiles, Irish stew, and pork with black beans waft through the ground floor, proving irresistible to even the least hungry of the lot.
The second floor houses spacious, modern cottage-style bedrooms, 14 in all, offering comfortable beds, fluffy pillows, contemporary en suite baths, internet connection, a roomy work desk, coffeemaker, and hair dryer. Whatever else a guest might need is only a few words away: "Sheila, can you help me...." Problem solved. No matter what, Sheila will get it done. She is an amazing and invaluable resource. Upon leaving, you'll swear you've known her all your life.
So, come to Ireland. Treat yourself to a few days at The Keepers Arms in Bawnboy, and most importantly, to the delightful company of the perfect Irish hostess: Sheila McKiernan. "It's all good fun," she says. "Just good fun."
The Keepers Arms
Bawnboy, Co. Cavan
Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007