The Old Inn stands on one of Ireland's most ancient highways leading from Holywood Priory to the Parent Abbey at Bangor, founded by St. Comgall as a University in 570 AD. So The Inn developed in a part of Ireland which contributed much to the founding centuries of Christianity in the County of Down. Here much of the music of the early church was written, some of which is preserved in Milan, where it was sent for safekeeping during the Viking raids of the 10th century. Part of the student's discipline in the ancient colleges of Bangor included the grinding of his own meal supply and for the this purpose he was given a quern grindstone carved from the sign of the cross, one of which is to be seen in the Hall of The Old Inn. Many other treasures from the past are preserved in Bangor Castle and Bangor Abbey.
The thatched portion of The Old Inn is the most ancient and was formed circa 1600 AD, about the close of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Records show this building to be standing in its present form since 1614. There is evidence that substantial additions were made in the middle of the 18th century involving kitchen quarters and several of the upstairs bedrooms. The East Wing is modern, based on Irish Georgian times. The buildings of The Old Inn fits well into the delightfully preserved village of contemporary Crawfordsburn, of which they have become and remain an integral part.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Donaghadee became famous as one of the principal cross-channel ports between Ireland and Great Britain. The mail coach making connections with the sailing packet, changed horses at The Old Inn at Crawfordsburn and so it came to be patronised by many notable persons who commuted between Britain and Ireland. Famous writers were much in evidence: Swift, Tennyson, Thackery, Dickens and Trollop knew of its charms. Literacy links have been maintained and The Old Inn continues as a meeting place for cultural events and meetings.
The Old Inn was also used as a sanctuary for those who were involved in the more "physical pursuits". For example, in the 17th century, a portion of William III's army under the Duke of Schomberg, marched through Crawfordsburn on the way from Groomsport to join the main body of the forces at Belfast. Smugglers down to the close of the 18th century used The Old Inn. Secret hiding places for contraband were discovered well into the 20th century. Of interest to the American visitor, the famous Paul Jones was familiar with this part of the country and is thought likely to have patronised The Old Inn. Even more intriguing, the famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, during a period of hiding in Ireland is also said to have been a visitor here. There remains a persistent tradition, that Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, called at Crawfordsburn during a tour of Ulster to study the latest developments in the manufacture of damask, a textile for which this province is renowned. Many famous names of the 1798 rising, including that of Henry Joy McCracken and Robert Emmet, are coupled with The Inn. Of more recent times, Lord Roberts and the First Marquis of Dufferin and Ava (of Bangor's Clandeboye Estate) stopped here; the present Lady Dufferin still visits The Old Inn.
For students and followers of the famous author and scholar, C S Lewis, "Jack", The Inn is very special. It was here that Lewis and his literary friends met on social occasions. In July 1958, Jack and his wife Joy stayed at The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, for what they called a "perfect fortnight" and a "belated honeymoon".
While The Old Inn today still enjoys a reputation for playing host to well-known literary artists, musical and visual art-fame, the true charm comes from the wealth of local colourful characters who frequent The Old Inn and enjoy its quaint atmosphere of beamed ceilings, open log fires and Ulster 'craic'.
Our recent addition simply called Lewis, brings together the previous dining areas and award winning food into one central area. We are bringing down the barriers between fine dining and bistro culture, shaking up the idea that quality is costly and offering you the best value for money in County Down for 2AA Rosette food.
For those of you that ask us if The Old Inn is Haunted, well... why not read The Girl Of Ballymullan and decide for yourself.