As hotels open their doors today to welcome guests and VIPs (Very Important Pooches) some of Ireland’s leading hoteliers reflect on lockdown while looking ahead to a summer of sunshine and staycations. Let’s do our bit to kickstart tourism by supporting the hospitality industry. After a challenging year Irish hotels have never looked so good, or offered so many different amenities and tempting treats in lush, safe surroundings …
Mark Dunne, General Manager, Mount Juliet Estate, Co Kilkenny
“In 2020 Mount Juliet Estate was absolutely delighted to win AA Hotel of the Year, in the same year the Lady Helen won four AA Rosettes (only the second restaurant in Ireland to achieve the accolade) and retained its Michelin Star, but Covid put a halt to any celebrations. We took the lockdown time to create what we hope is a wonderful destination. We have redesigned the Golf Academy which now boasts Trackman and Skytrak simulators making it a world class facility. We’ve also welcomed our new PGA professional to the team, so our guests can enjoy expert training no matter what their skill level is. The championship golf course has never been in better condition and hosting the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this year is such an honour for the team. Wellness is going to be a focus for all guests in the future, and we have fully renovated our pool, thermal suite and fitness suite within our health club. Our state-of-the-art gym is equipped with the latest Matrix cardio, strength, and conditioning equipment for our guests to enjoy. There’s also a new programme of classes and personal training for our members and guests. Our new Executive Head Chef, Cormac McCreary, has put his culinary stamp on the dining experiences throughout Hunters Yard, Manor House, and the Golf Club. Chef Cormac has installed a Montague grill in The Hound Restaurant which now features a delicious signature steak menu. The new menus can be enjoyed outside on our Terrace at the Hound. Ultimately, we aim to create a vacation experience that will be safe and allow our guests to escape to the country to relax and enjoy themselves with those they love.” Rooms start at €215 per room bed and breakfast, subject to availability; www.mountjuliet.ie.
Peter Borralnan, General Manager, Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa, Co Wicklow
“While we have missed the daily interaction with our guests and team members, the last year provided the opportunity to complete several projects. These included bedroom refurbishment works and landscaping improvements. Mindful of the change in customer, from 35 per cent international guests to a largely domestic audience, we have added new activities such as falconry and invested in more amenities, such as hotel bicycles, for guests to explore Powerscourt Estate. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery and a great choice of walking, hiking, and cycling routes. As with many businesses, our focus has been on developing our digital assets with new photography and video and undertaking a website redevelopment project. Ultimately, we are most looking forward to reopening our doors on and getting back to doing what we do best – providing a warm welcome and hospitality to all of our guests.” The “Powerscourt Dining Experience” comprises overnight accommodation, dinner in Sika restaurant and breakfast the following morning from €233.50 per person sharing; www.powerscourthotel.com.
Peter MacCann, General Manager, The Merrion, Co Dublin
“Two of the most important parts of lockdown were keeping in touch with our staff and our guests. We sent monthly e-zines throughout the year to our guests with special additions. For St Patrick’s Day, we welcomed the world-renowned Wexford Festival Opera and filmed baritone Rory Musgrave singing Danny Boy so that people could enjoy the performance in their own home. The hotel remained open to essential travel and for weddings. Our wedding business really increased as our private salons are ideal for small weddings. We were delighted to be awarded both the Failte Ireland Covid-19 Safety Charter to give comfort and reassurance to guests, and be recognised with the GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation certificate as verified by The Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association. We also launched a successful takeaway menu, especially our takeaway afternoon tea, which we plan to continue, while also adding it as a gift voucher option too. In anticipation of high demand for outdoor dining we augmented our Terrace dining experience with six specially commissioned cabanas complete with individual heaters. We also had time to refresh our Garden Room restaurant and a specially designed carpet will be laid in early June and new upholstery of our restaurant chairs will take place incrementally over the coming months.” The Merrion “Five Star Steal” overnight stay is from €185 per person; www.merrionhotel.com.
Donal Cox, General Manager, Lough Eske Castle, Co Donegal
“We are really looking forward to reopening Lough Eske Castle. During the lockdowns we spent our time refreshing our restaurant, the bedrooms and also ensuring the castle continues to be a safe haven for our guests and our team. In terms of bookings, there has been an incredible demand for our “Discover Donegal” package which incorporates a three-course dinner for two at our award-winning 2 AA Rosette Cedars Restaurant, complimentary use of our bicycles and indoor pool, as well as tickets to one of Donegal’s highlights – Oakfield Park – which is renowned for its beautiful gardens. We hope people who have never visited Donegal before will use this summer as an opportunity to do so. Our team is here to give a five star service and a warm Donegal welcome to Lough Eske Castle.” The Discover Donegal package is from €320 per room midweek, or €335 per room at the weekend, based on two adults sharing; www.lougheskecastlehotel.com.
Peter White, General Manager, Ballyfin Demesne, Co Laois
“I arrived in Ireland during lockdown on a beautiful frosty Easter Sunday to take up my new role. Driving through the gates of Ballyfin and winding my way up the magical drive was a slightly surreal experience. Having travelled from Thailand, I spent my first two weeks in isolation, getting to know every corner of the 614 acres on the estate. It was a sign of the times that it felt somewhat normal to meet all my new colleagues by Zoom. Since then, the time has gone by very quickly. There is so much to know about the workings of a property like Ballyfin, and so much to learn about its history, the quiet time afforded me an unusually deep immersion, which I really appreciate. Like all properties of this age and size, work had to continue to ensure we are ready for a busy season ahead. From today, the fire in the hall will be lit and the team and I will be lined up to welcome back the missing ingredient of Ballyfin: our wonderful guests. I am excited to experience the hotel through their eyes.” An overnight stay with breakfast is from €600 per person sharing; www.ballyfin.com.
TH Mulcahy, General Manager, The Park Kenmare, Co Kerry
“Lockdown was really hectic. We had the task of starting our restoration of the ground floor, which was led by John Brennan with interior designer Bryan O’Sullivan [who was born in Kenmare]. When we open, on June 8, guests will find a new dining room, cocktail bar, champagne bar, outdoor terrace and much more. Bryan O’Sullivan’s Art Deco concept retains the heritage, charm, service and personality of the hotel; there is an emphasis on the careful curation of custom furniture in sumptuous shapes. Behind the scenes a new Morrone Srl kitchen, the first of its kind in Ireland, has been designed under the direction of Head Chef, James Coffey. James is also introducing new menus featuring all of our wonderful local food producers. Guests will also discover Bamford products in all bedrooms, as well as in the Spa. In December John and Francis [Brennan] purchased another iconic property, The Lansdowne Kenmare, and that is also under restoration and will open on July 1. All of these new projects were really inspiring for the team in what was a challenging time for everyone. We open full of hope and smiles and we can’t wait to do what we do best – looking after guests and creating special memories.” Room rates start at €550 per night, including bed and breakfast for two and inclusion in the Daily Lifestyle Programme; www.parkkenmare.com.
Nicky Logue, General Manager, InterContinental Dublin, Co Dublin
“While it was tough closing the hotel each time we had a lockdown, fortunately we had some life in the hotel with apartment owners who reside on site coming and going. We also looked after a small number of essential workers or those attending hospital appointments nearby. During the first lockdown we took the opportunity to completely refurbish our ground floor including the Lobby Lounge, The Whiskey Bar, Reading Room and main corridors. We were delighted with the work our interior designers Millimetre Design did, and the feedback from our guests has been fantastic. Millimetre is currently working on a new outdoor covered dining area which will add to our outdoor dining options in our courtyard and Garden Terrace. Our team has been fantastic during these past 15 months and we are all now ready and excited to welcome back our guests. We are fortunate to be seen as an urban resort in the city with lots of space, outdoor grounds, spa, pool, and some of the largest bedrooms and suites in Dublin, which is appealing to guests as they make their choice for a much needed break post lockdown”. An overnight mid-week break for two is €395 per couple which includes a suite upgrade, breakfast and access to the wellness centre, pool, and gym; www.intercontinentaldublin.ie.
Ger Alley, General Manager, The Heritage, Co Laois
“We were really busy during lockdown. We opened a coffee truck which was really popular with walkers in the area, and we offered takeaway afternoon tea. We really can’t wait to welcome guests back to the hotel as we’ve made a lot of changes that we know they will love. We continued to update the property during lockdown, including refurbishing many guestrooms, adding five stunning luxury two-bedroom apartments, perfect for families or groups, who want to enjoy some relaxed self-catering. We are particularly excited about our Terrace; we are lucky here to have so much outdoor space for guests to explore, both on-site and nearby, so we will also continue to offer an option to enjoy our Afternoon Tea as a takeaway picnic. The team here have also been working hard on our green credentials, signing up for the Green Hospitality Programme. We have made some significant steps including spending €150,000 improving the infrastructure to make it more efficient and reduce waste, and we are aiming to eliminate single use plastics in guest bedrooms. The Heritage has never looked better – bookings have been brilliant for the summer months so we’re very excited for a great summer.” The Adrenaline Adventure mountain biking package includes two nights accommodation, breakfast each morning and dinner in Blakes restaurant on one evening. From €275 per person sharing; www.theheritage.com.
Adrian and Geraldine Noonan, Owners, Knockranny House Hotel, Co Mayo
“It’s been a long road, but we’re over the moon to be opening the doors again to our guests. The team has all been busy preparing for today and it’s great to see a buzz around the place again. We’ve got a gorgeous new outdoor terrace overlooking Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay for guests and locals to enjoy. All of the team are really looking forward to a great summer ahead, taking care of all our guests.” Summer experiences start from €85 per person sharing for bed and breakfast. Suite prices start from €125 with children under three staying for free; www.KnockrannyHouseHotel.ie.
Vincent O’Gorman, General Manager, The Westbury Hotel, Co Dublin
“The past year has undoubtedly taken its toll on our amazing team and their families. To ensure employee wellbeing, we stayed in constant communication through Zoom meetings, online updates and newsletters alongside various other activities including online cooking classes, to keep everyone on the team engaged and ensure they felt supported. During lockdown, we also came up with new ways for guests to enjoy a taste of The Westbury at home or share those special experiences with loved ones, such as our Sidecar Gin At Home Experience, Bubbles and Cake or Balfes To Go, where click and collect and delivery orders were available. While the hotel was closed for staying guests, a lot was going on behind the scenes to prepare for when we reopened. This included the complete refurbishment of our fifth floor rooms and suites, as well as training and upskilling to ensure the team were ready to welcome back guests. One of the key training programmes the hotel management team took part in was a bespoke course entitled ‘Leading in a Changing World’, where modules included mental health first aid. The team could not be more excited to open our doors once again. We truly miss our guests, and look forward to showcasing the results of everyone’s hard work over the last several months.” Try the “Make a Break Of It” two-night package, available Sunday to Thursday which includes accommodation for two in a luxurious bedroom, dinner for two in Balfes on one evening, Afternoon Tea for two in the Gallery once during your stay, and a sumptuous à la carte breakfast each morning. From €570; www.doylecollection.com.
Stephen O’Connor, General Manager, Limerick Strand Hotel, Co Limerick
“We are so excited to re-open and are thrilled to unveil our €400k new look River Bar & Restaurant to our customers. Last year we launched our new contemporary bedrooms, suites and corridors, as a result The Limerick Strand has never looked so good and we cannot wait to show her off. During lockdown we launched our very successful Strand at Home takeaway service which proved really popular. We also completely rebuilt our new website, which is very much focused on our leisure guests and is a mine of information for anyone using Limerick as a base for exploring the Wild Atlantic Way. We kept in touch with our team through fun newsletters and bingo nights and thankfully we were able to welcome back over 100 team members last week. We cannot wait to begin welcoming back guests to our wonderful hotel.” The “Explore a little More” two-night package is €189 per person sharing and includes three-course dinner in the new River Bar & Restaurant, discounts at the hair salon, spa and local attractions as well as complimentary access to Energize Health Centre, including a 20-metre swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi; www.strandlimerick.ie.
Fergus O’Halloran, General Manager, The Twelve Hotel, Co Galway
“We adapted really quickly in March 2020 and moved to takeaway from the first weekend. This worked really well and allowed us to keep the team intact here at The Twelve. Our amazing mixologist Simon King and I then came up with the idea of doing vac-pack cocktails that we could send all over the country and so our now infamous Brown Bag cocktails were born! They were such a huge success and kept us in touch with our guests from every corner of the country who were missing their regular trips to The Twelve. We even launched a cocktail subscription box and saw so many people sign up or gift it to loved ones they were missing. Last summer we launched our outdoor terrace, Nóin, and we’re looking forward to having another busy season catering for diners outside from June 7. We have some fun things coming up for the summer including Twelve picnics for guests to take while spending an afternoon on the beach or discovering Connemara for the day. Of course we have every system in place to keep all our staff and guests safe during their stay. The whole team at The Twelve can’t wait to open the doors and welcome our guests and their pooches: hospitality is in our blood and having a busy, buzzy atmosphere is crucial.” The #InterConnected getaway at The Twelve starts from €1,030 for a two-night stay with breakfast each morning, four course dinner in West and Brown Bag cocktails at your own private bar based on four people sharing; www.thetwelvehotel.ie.
Evander Brennan, Deputy General Manager, Hayfield Manor, Co Cork
“We have received tremendous support at Hayfield Manor from our loyal community since we announced our re-opening date and this really means everything to us. Continuous investment into the property and improving the guest experience is a top priority for us and while the hotel has been closed it provided the perfect opportunity for renovation projects to be completed. These have included a full refurbishment of a selection of bedrooms and our spa; we have also launched a new relaxation area at The Beautique Spa. It has been incredibly exciting to see the renovations unfold. We are now looking forward to a summer of sunshine, staycations and warmly welcoming our guests back to Hayfield Manor.” The “Celebrate Missed Moments” package includes an overnight stay with breakfast, a four-course dinner and complimentary bottle of wine, with accesses to the indoor swimming pool, outdoor Jacuzzi, steam room, gym. From €376 per room per night; www.hayfieldmanor.ie.
Ali McHugh, General Manager, Harbour Hotel, Galway
“We have been busy welcoming back and retraining our great team members whom we haven’t seen in a while. We have just completed the final phase of our refurbishment programme so our luxurious guest rooms are ready to welcome guests back to Galway, while our award-winning kitchen team are getting creative with a few new twists to our menus and yes, our infamous brunch will be back. The Harbour Hotel is a great base to explore Galway; hotel guests can use of a free, interactive audio tour of our city. With the new Aran Ferries departing daily right around the corner from the hotel, you can also enjoy a full day excursion to the Aran Islands, or get an authentic Wild Atlantic Way experience aboard the Galway Bay Boat Tours operated by local Galwegian, Ciaran Oliver.” The Harbour’s “Rekindle” package includes two nights in an executive Room, a bottle of prosecco on arrival, a three-course dinner for two at Dillisk on The Docks plus à la carte breakfast each morning. From €412 per couple; www.harbour.ie.
Guy Thompson, General Manager, Castleknock Hotel, Co Dublin
“We are delighted to be welcoming back leisure guests to Castleknock Hotel, after what has been the toughest year in the hospitality industry’s history. This is a crucial step to kickstarting tourism in Ireland, as well as a meaningful recovery for the sector. We’ve been busy while our guests are away, working on new menus for our spacious outdoor dining area The Patio and opening up a new outdoor dining area The Terrace at the front of the hotel and we can’t wait for our guests to see the results. We’ve also created a new travel package called ‘Generations’ which is a bespoke travel experience tailored at extended families who want to travel together and reconnect this summer.” The Generations experience is available from €700 total price for two nights for a family of four and two adults in a family room & couples room; www.castleknockhotel.com.
Liam Moran, General Manager, Faithlegg, Co Waterford
“Myself and the team are very much looking forward to welcoming guests back to Faithlegg for a memorable summer. We have been busy refurbishing the Red Cedar Lounge in our golf club which will offer guests and visitors a casual dining experience. The culinary team, led by Head Chef Jenny Flynn, has been busy working with our local producers to create new seasonal menus for the Red Cedar Lounge, The Aylward Lounge and our AA Rosette Roseville Rooms Restaurant. During lockdown we offered local residents a taste of Faithlegg at home producing a range of seasonal hampers filled with products made in Waterford. Recently we added The Busy Bean coffee truck which has taken up residence at the front of the hotel overlooking the first tee on the golf course. Already a welcome spot for walkers, visitors to Faithlegg can now pick up a coffee, sandwiches and a treat at the bespoke trailer, which we are delighted to be keeping as an additional offering to our guests this summer and beyond.” “Wander Through Waterford” at Faithlegg is available from €385 and includes a two-night stay in luxurious accommodation, breakfast on both mornings and dinner in Roseville Rooms Restaurant and a Faithlegg picnic prepared for you; www.faithlegg.com.
Ronan O’Halloran, General Manager, Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate, Co Galway
“Lockdown has certainly challenged us all, both from a personal and professional aspect. Professionally speaking, we were very fortunate to work through the various levels of restrictions. Our owners, John and Marie Lally, continued to invest in yearly enhancements and developments, adding a very successful take-out food service, Glenlo at Home, for our valued local customers while spending time planning, renovating and adding to the Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate customer experience.
We completed refurbishment of The Tapestry, The Abbey and our Corrib Room, along with numerous new additions such as a new restaurant – Palmers Bar & Kitchen – adding new bedrooms and a glorious new boutique spa (Glo Spa & Wellness) plus investing heavily in the grounds and gardens, including the gorgeous golfing greens. We cannot wait to welcome our guests back to Glenlo, and with over 138 private acres to explore, and some new onsite outdoor activities to enjoy, there’s plenty of space for all our guests to roam safely and freely while indulging in some five star luxury too”.
The “Summer on the Estate” package is a choice of either an overnight or three-night stay. The one night stay includes dinner aboard the iconic Pullman Restaurant, with breakfast the next morning in the elegant surroundings of The River Room. In addition, the experience also includes a choice of activities either a 25-minute relaxation treatment in the new Glo Spa & Wellness, a round of Golf or Glenlo’s Classic Afternoon Tea for two. From €550 per room for one night; www.glenloabbeyhotel.ie.
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