From classic portraiture to urban graffiti masters, and contemporary sculpture gardens to iconic photographic collections, here’s to celebrating hospitality with aesthetic benefits on our doorstep …
A visual diet is very important and one which many culture vultures have lamented over the last few months. Missing that weekend browsing trip to the Louvre, Tate Modern or Albertina? There’s no need to travel very far in Ireland to find an impressive gallery wall. Pop into one of these hotels for coffee, lunch or an autumn staycation and enjoy their art collections, in most cases handpicked by specialist art concierges or owners for your enjoyment.
Lough Eske Castle, Co Donegal
When I stayed at Lough Eske back in March – a lovely spa break before lockdown – one of my most pleasurable discoveries was the vast collection of 200 photographs by Jesuit priest Father Browne. Known as “Father Browne of the Titanic” (he disembarked at Cobh before the fateful onward journey), Browne is generally considered to be Ireland’s most important photographer of the 20th century and his work is likened to Cartier Bresson. During his lifetime he made over 42,000 negatives, but only a small fraction was ever printed due to the high cost of developing and printing photographs. His work was discovered after his death in 1960 (in relative obscurity) by a fellow priest who recognised their importance and the works were repaired, conserved and catalogued by experts. Many are on display at the hotel, which also boasts two Lucien Freud copies. In the Father Browne Bar you can have a drink surrounded by one of the best photographic collections in Ireland, or combine a visit with a two-night midweek “Gourmet Getaway” package (the five-star hotel has just been awarded two AA Rosettes), starting from €499 per person sharing. Included is Afternoon Tea at and an indulgent three course dinner at Cedars Restaurant. Complimentary use of the swimming pool and fitness room at Cara Organic Beauty Spa is also included; www.lougheskecastle.com.
The Hendrick, Dublin
The Hendrick in Smithfield is Ireland’s only street art hotel. Curated by James Earley, there are over 250 pieces of art throughout the lobby, corridors and bedrooms. With names such as Maser, Aches, Joe Caslin, ADW and murals in the courtyard by David Booth and Atmos, there is a huge selection, making it a very Instagrammable resting place. Its current “Date Night” package starts from €160 and includes an overnight stay for two, contactless brekkie delivery (of coffee and pastries), and a two-course dinner in Oscars restaurant with bottomless gin and tonics; www.hendrickdublin.ie.
The Montenotte Hotel, Cork
Visitors and local residents are encouraged to visit The Montenotte Hotel Cork, where they’ll find the largest sculpture exhibition in Ireland, located in its recently rediscovered Victorian sunken gardens. In keeping with The Montenotte’s support of Irish art and culture, 39 sculptures by 18 Irish artists, including Bob Quinn, Stephanie Hess and Donnacha Cahill are spread around the garden which also boasts a wildflower meadow, a woodland walk and fountain. The works range in themes, scale and materials including ceramic, bronze, bog oak and copper steel. Hosted in association with the Kildare Gallery, the exhibition will run until September 26. The Montenotte also has a thriving artist in residence programme and currently Debbie Chapman’s work is on display and is a response to having our movements restricted and the opportunity to view the world through a new lens. Should you want to stay, there is a “Tale of Two Cities” offer which includes a night in The Wilder in Dublin, its sister hotel, home to many contemporary artworks including several by Roisin O’Farrell. The package starts from €600 per room and includes a one night stay in both The Wilder Townhouse and The Montenotte Hotel as well as lots of extra treats such as bottles of Bollinger and prosecco, a bouquet of flowers, choccies, pillow sprays and late checkouts; www.themontenottehotel.com.
The Hard Rock Hotel, Dublin
On check in at The Hard Rock Dublin guests are given its new “memorabilia map” to enjoy a self-guided tour around every priceless piece of music memento and art on show. Of particular note are works by Helen O’Higgins, whose drawings of birds have taken on the persona of some Irish musicians. One bird was designed wearing Bono’s signature while another bird channelled The Clancy Brothers wearing an Aran sweater, a flat cap and with a loaf of Brennans bread under its wing! There are also colourful mixed media works by Irish-Italian artist David Uda (Duda). His prints of U2 and other Irish artists can be seen in a number of the bedrooms in the hotel. Laura Buchanan’s collage work, combining bold colours with nostalgic patterns, can be seen in the hotel’s Rock Star Suite (pictured). Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova’s innovative paper quilling is also on display as is Sorcha O’Higgins bold abstract and figurative collages. Tempted to stay? Then try the “Dublin Rocks” offer perfect for music and art loving couples. Available as a one- or two- night stay with bed and breakfast and dinner on one evening in the hotel’s Peruvian-inspired Zampas Restaurant & Bar with a signature pisco sour to start the evening, the rate is from €285 per room and includes all the elements of the hotel’s Sound of Your Stay programme; www.hardrockhotels.com/dublin.
Enniscoe House, Co Mayo
Known as the “last Great House in North Mayo” Enniscoe House boasts a remarkable history and art collection. The renowned artist Patita Nicholson (1915-1998) was the mother of current owner, Susan Kellett. Nicholson was born and raised in Ballycastle, Co Mayo, before she and her family moved to Co Meath. She studied art at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin in the 1930s and exhibited there while still a student. In 1950 her husband inherited Enniscoe House, on the shores of Lough Conn, and she painted many scenes featuring the property. All of them show Enniscoe’s roughcast walls washed a gentle pink, the colour contrasting with the intense green of the immediate meadows and woodlands, at the foot of Nephin. Her paintings seldom come up for sale, which is why it’s even more special to view them in situ. An overnight stay with breakfast at Enniscoe House is €115 per person; www.enniscoe.com.
One of the first team members guests will meet at this chic Ballsbridge address is Valarie Keogh, the hotel concierge. She joined the team at InterContinental Dublin from the National Gallery of Ireland two years ago, and is delighted to show visitors the in-house art collection. This includes an impressive inventory of some 120 pieces including works by Louis le Brocquy and Percy French, as well as sculpture by Orla de Bri and Rowan Gillespie. I particularly like the Blaise Drummond artwork in the Lobby lounge (Island Painting Number 11). As for a staycation, the “Magical Moments” offer gives guests the choice of a luxurious deluxe bedroom or a one-bedroom suite (Dublin’s most spacious five-star rooms), with a bottle of prosecco on arrival, and lavish breakfast the following morning. There is also a discount on spa treatments and complimentary access to the wellness and relaxation areas with a late checkout until 2pm. Available from €279 per room per night; www.intercontinentaldublin.ie.
The Westbury, Dublin
Located beside Solomon Fine Art – its gallery partner, where Carol Hodder’s “Facing North” exhibition is currently on display – the art theme is reinforced upon check in at The Westbury, where guests can request a unique art tour in collaboration with the Irish Arts Review. The trail begins in the hotel itself, where there are 35 works by 29 different artists, including pieces by Patrick Scott, Louis le Brocquy, Barrie Cooke, and John Behan. I particularly like Sir John Lavery’s portrait of Miss Haslam in reception (pictured). Why not book Afternoon Tea in The Gallery (served with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé from the popular Champagne trolley) from which vantage point, guests can view artwork by Nora McGuinness, Anne Butler Yeats, Mick O’Dea and Elizabeth Cope. The Art Trail also takes in the city’s sculptures and galleries and is the perfect prelude to dinner in Wilde. To make an occasion of your visit, book the “Weekends in Style” package which includes 15 per cent discount on the best rate, accommodation for two in a luxurious bedroom or suite, à la carte breakfast each morning, late check-out, and a chilled bottle of Prosecco; www.doylecollection.com.
Clontarf Castle, Dublin
The artwork selected for the walls of this Irish castle hotel, built in 1172, has been bought from key galleries representing established and up and coming artists from Ireland and all over the world, such as Saatchi Art, Artfinder and London Art. Visitors will realise many of the new artworks have an element of mischief, humour and often a hidden layer of detail, chosen specifically “to make the viewer smile, linger and remember”. At check in guests are the art trail brochure – a map to take you through the background information on the varied collection, spread over four floors. Including candlelit dinner in Fahrenheit Restaurant, with a glass of bubbly, and options to upgrade your stay and gourmet packed lunches, “The Great Escape” is a two-night stay for two adults, from €150 per person sharing; www.clontarfcastle.ie.
Dylan Hotel, Dublin
If a hotel is the sum of many parts, at the Dylan décor and art are two of its many attractions for me. I love the Ruby Room bar for a pre-dinner aperitif and also loitering in the Library over coffee. The relaxing vibe is accentuated by the soothing sage colour palette and also Gerard Byrne’s oil of Dublin’s Botanical Gardens called Tropical Reflections. He’s just one of the contemporary Irish artists on show – other works by Cian McLoughlin and Kari Cahill are standouts too. To peruse the collection check in for two-night weekend staycation this autumn, which includes a complimentary room upgrade, a la carte breakfast in The Eddison each morning, and a €100 food and beverage credit to use for dinner or cocktails. You’ll also find unlimited in-room movies, with Butlers chocolates and Keoghs popcorn to enjoy.There is no need to rush on your last morning, as there’s a late check out of 3pm. Package prices start from €598 per stay; www.dylan.ie.
The Merrion, Dublin
The Merrion is home to an important private collection of some 75 pieces of 19th- and 20th-century art, to which the hotel’s interiors offer the perfect backdrop. The result is a dramatic and successful marriage of classical architecture and noteworthy Irish and European art. Works by Mainie Jellett, Jack B Yeats and Nathanial Hone are juxtaposed with those of contemporary artists such as Martin Mooney, who was commissioned to paint a series of works for the elegant neo-classical stairwell in The Merrion’s Front Hall. Paul Henry’s “Killary Harbour” is also in the front hall which celebrates the people and the landscape of the west of Ireland. Peruse the collection at leisure during a “Five Star Steal” overnight stay at The Merrion. This includes a bottle of champagne upon arrival, three course dinner in the Garden Restaurant and breakfast the next morning for €350 per night total stay (based on two people sharing; www.merrionhotel.com.
Ballyfin Demesne, Co Laois
Ballyfin houses an outstanding collection of paintings which traces the development of Irish art from the mid-17th century onwards. Works by many of the leading figures of Irish Art, as well as paintings and drawings of Irish subject matter by continental and American artists provide for a fascinating exploration of Ireland’s art, history, topography and social life, reflecting both the splendour of the Great House and also the humble life of the cottage. Downstairs, the bar and treatment rooms are filled with more modern works ranging from 20th-century Irish masters such as Mainie Jellett and Louis le Brocquy, to young artists at the beginning of their careers including Michael Canning and Blaise Drummond. Bed and breakfast is from €650 per person. www.ballyfin.com
The Mayson, Dublin
The Mayson has a collection of over 250 pieces of original Irish art by artists including Joy Gerard, Mark Francis, Colm Mac Athloaich, Stephen Burke, Richard Gorman, Deirdre Breen. Impressively, every piece was commissioned and is completely unique to the Mayson, right down to the neon light above the reception desk by Domino Whisker. Across the collection, particular emphasis has been put on representing male and female artists alike, from fine art printmakers, painters, sculptors to multimedia artists and urban artists. Some of these pieces can be seen within the newly launched Townhouse Suites (pictured), and also in the rooftop restaurant to the Power gym. Current staycation offers include the two-night “Dublin Can Be Heaven” package (with a €100 Press Up Gift voucher) or “Food Vibes Only” – a luxurious overnight stay where guests can enjoy dinner in the new Elephant and Castle restaurant, with breakfast and a late checkout the following morning; www.themayson.ie.
The Culloden, Co Antrim
Some of the hotel’s art on display was acquired by the late Sir William Hastings who was a connoisseur of Irish art who thought the paintings he liked were in keeping with the (former) Bishop’s Palace setting. Such is the import of the collection there is a keepsake guide to the artists. I stayed a couple of years ago and discovered works by Phyllis Arnold, Brian Ballard, Markey Robinson and Tracey Quinn – with whom I was at school. Con Campbell’s Morning Stag is another striking artwork and visitors will realise that stags are a recurring motive within the hotel. I recommend “The Finer Things” overnight stay with breakfast and a four-course a la carte dinner in Vespers Restaurant with a glass of wine from £150 per person; www.hastingshotel.com.
The Devlin, Dublin
Art is really important at The Devlin, where the walls have been turned into an accessible art gallery curated by Irish street artist James Earley. Like its sister hotel The Dean (the official hospitality partners of IMMA), guests and visitors are encouraged to go on a walkabout through the hallways and restaurant spaces to discover the 160 pieces of original Irish art. In creating the collection Earley’s aim was to promote up and coming Irish talent like Domino Whisker, Cian McLoughlan and Shane Dempsey, as well as more established artists like Richard Gorman and Chloe Earley. The “9 to 5” package is a mid-week stay with early check in from 9am and later check out at 5pm the following day; www.thedevlin.ie.
The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Co Galway
Finally, for those interested in channelling their creativity this autumn, artist, writer and presenter Don Conroy is hosting a weekend painting workshop from October 2 – 4 in which guests can learn how to paint or improve upon existing artistic skills. The surroundings, on the 350-acre Ashford Castle estate, couldn’t be more inspiring. The two workshops will be hosted in Wilde’s Restaurant at The Lodge, offering stunning views across Lough Corrib. All guests will be provided with materials for creating their masterpieces, which will be a lasting memory of their break. Post painting other activities to enjoy on the estate including horse-riding, fishing, zip-lining, cycling and Ireland’s first school of falconry. Prices for a two-night break including a drinks reception hosted by Don Conroy, dinner each evening plus the weekend painting tutorial, start from €765 for two people sharing a deluxe room; www.thelodgeac.com.
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