The aim of this qualitative study was to explore rural family carers' experiences of the nursing home placement of an older relative. The study was undertaken in a large Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland using a grounded theory approach. Purposive sampling was used to initiate data collection and thereafter theoretical sampling was employed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 29 relatives of nursing home residents and the resultant data were recorded, transcribed and analysed using constant comparisons. The software package, QSR NVivo, was used to facilitate data management and retrieval. Older people had deep attachments to their homes and entry to care was a last resort. Rural family carers had close relationships with health- and social-care practitioners and felt supported in the decision-making process. The choice of home was a foregone conclusion for carers who had a strong sense of familiarity with the nursing homes in their area. This familiarity was influenced by the relatively rural communities in which respondents resided and by an efficient ‘grapevine’, which seemed to thrive in these small communities. This familiarity, in turn, influenced the choice of nursing home, timing of the placement and responses of family carers. The findings indicate that issues such as rurality and familiarity warrant a more detailed exploration in future research on entry to care.