On Friday, February 24, the National Trust at Castle Coole hosted the Basement Banquet – a brand-new event offering guests the opportunity to experience what life was like below the stairs in one of Ireland’s finest neo-classical mansions.

As dusk fell, guests arrived at the manor house, entering through the servants’ entrance – a tunnel atmospherically lit up with fairy lights, which led to the basement kitchen.

On entering the basement kitchen, guests were welcomed with a drinks reception by local craft beer company Inish Mac Saint, where they enjoyed a guided tasting session of three different beers.

Aptly named with Fermanagh colloquialisms in mind, the beers provided by the Derrygonnelly-based brewers on the evening were ‘Pure Foundered’, ‘The Cure’ and ‘Little Dog IPA’.

The beer was accompanied by delicious canapés from Tully Mill Restaurant – a delicious little taster of what guests could expect later at the banquet.

Following the beer tasting, guests were given a short tour of the manor house led by Castle Coole guides Thomas and Noelle, who shared an insight of what life was like below the stairs for the servants, housekeeper and butler.

During the engaging tour, the guides pointed out significant features of the basement such as the servants’ bells, the butler’s staircase and the wine and cider cellar.

The evening concluded with the banquet in the Servants’ Hall, a truly unique experience.

With tables laden with antipasti platters, including a range of breads, cold meats and cheese, it was a true feast from the offset.

A warming beef bourguignon followed as the main, with sides of vegetables and potato normandy. The banquet ended on a sweet note with an assiette of desserts featuring a miniature chocolate mouse, rhubarb crumble and lemon meringue pie.

Traditional musicians on fiddle and guitar performed throughout the banquet, filling the hall with music and allowing guests to absorb the atmosphere of life below stairs in times gone by.

It was a magical evening of delicious food and drink, engaging living history and fabulous live entertainment in a most unique setting.

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