Our Story


The first house to stand on the richly wooded Ardmore site was built in 1622
and was known as Ballyshaskey.

It was commissioned by an Englishman, Alexander Skipton, who sadly did not live to enjoy it. The day before his family was due to move into the mansion Mr. Skipton was shot dead in a land ownership dispute with a local family.

His son, Captain Thomas Skipton, took up residence there in 1638. But in a period of rebellion three years later Thomas and his wife Charity were forced to flee under cover of darkness, narrowly escaping with their lives. Their home was burned to the ground.

Seemingly undeterred by these disasters, in 1661 Captain Skipton put up a new house. This he called Skipton Hall. It stood on the opposite side of the brook to the original building. The family remained there until the siege of 1688 when a retreating army, and a history repeat, reduced Skipton Hall to ashes. Thomas’s son and heir, Captain Alex Skipton, continued to live on the estate, in an out-house, until his death in 1704.

Years of Peace and Creativity

Captain Thomas Skipton was the man we have to thank for the present house.

It was he who built it in 1739 and, because of the large number of surrounding trees, gave it the name of Beech Hill.

Two generations later Thomas Skipton added a wing stretching out towards the brook and made some significant changes to the gardens. When he died the estate passed on to his cousin George Crookshanks Kennedy who immediately changed his name to Skipton. George continued a programme of improvements. He planted a substantial number of new trees and much improved the layout and appearance of the grounds which he believed would give people much pleasure. An impressive porch was added to the front of the house and also the big room that is situated over it and which is known as The Library.

A change in ownership came in 1872 when Beech Hill was bought by the wealthy Nicholsons of Newbuildings. They made a number of internal changes to the house during their tenancy but in general it remained their simple family home.


Take a walk down memory lane and discover
the interesting history of Beech Hill...

  • 1622


    Englishman Alexander Skipton built the first house. But he was murdered the day his family was to take up residence.

  • 1638


    Alexander’s son, Captain Thomas Skipton, took up residence. During a rebellion 3 years later he fled. The house was destroyed.

  • 1661


    Thomas built ‘Skipton Hall’. His family stayed until 1688 when soldiers leaving the siege of Londonderry burned the house down.

  • 1739


    Captain Skipton’s son Thomas built the present house, naming it ‘Beech Hill’. He extended it and enlarged the gardens.

  • 1878


    Advertised for sale as ‘fit for a gentleman of large fortune.’ Beech Hill was bought by the Nicholsons of Newbuildings.

  • 1942


    On February 5th The United States Marines occupied Beech Hill. They had been sent to protect Londonderry’s WW2 military installations.

  • 1989


    Beech Hill was bought by present owners, Patsy O’Kane and her brother Seamus Donnelly. They undertook 2-years of refurbishment.

  • 1991


    April 8, Beech Hill Country House opened for the first time.  Crowds of local people came to take a look.

  • 1998


    Former US President Bill Clinton arrived. He has been several times since, greeting staff and other guests with smiles and handshakes.

  • 2000


    Beech Hill had become so popular that 22 bedrooms were inadequate. A new wing created ten more rooms and suites.

  • 2011


    Restoration work costing almost half-a-million pounds was completed. It included new sash windows, extensive re-roofing and external and interior redecoration.