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Ireland

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MINIVIEW: Lough Eske Castle Hotel, County Donegal, Ireland

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MINIVIEW: Lough Eske Castle Hotel, County Donegal, Ireland

Guest reviewer Stuart O’Brian checks in to the only five-star hotel in County Donegal…

The first indication of the attention to aesthetic detail that runs through the entire Lough Eske Castle hotel site is the six-foot bronze dragon that greets visitors at the top of its long, winding, forest driveway entrance.

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The hotel has experienced a recent change of ownership away from the Solis brand, but thankfully the new owners have seen fit to keep this magnificent beast on its staff roster, along with a dozen or so other animal (and human) sculptures dotted around the grounds.

This corner of Ireland’s North West coast is abundant in natural beauty, something the Lough Eske Castle hotel’s original architects, and its current custodians, kept front of mind when considering exterior and interior décor. On this visit in December 2018, with the mist hanging in the woods around the site and the outdoor winter wonderland Christmas lights outside, the sense of seclusion was palpable.

The ‘castle’ building itself has some history, built as it was by the local O’Donnell family in the 1400s, rebuilt in the 1860s, burned to the ground in the 1930s and then renovated in its current form in the mid-Noughties.

Aesthetically, the exterior has the feeling of two personalities – the restored grandeur of the castle building and the more contemporary dining/function rooms, plus courtyard and garden accommodation that sit somewhere between the two. In fact, if you approach from the ‘alternative’ rear entrance and its views of the new-build accommodation building you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally stumbled into a different hotel.

Internally, the same merging of classic and contemporary styles, plus Gaelic flourishes, is to the fore. The public spaces are a mix of high-ceilinged larger rooms and cosy nooks, while the 98 guestrooms contain bespoke furniture and commissioned artworks, with décor neutral with wood panelling and space (especially in the huge MEPA-appointed bathrooms) in abundance. All rooms have oak furniture and the majority feature dramatic four poster beds.

freestanding bath in the middle of a modern bathroom

Image credit: Lough Eske

There are actually multiple room styles on offer, each sharing the same design cues but managing to feel very distinct – the Castle Suites are all regal flourishes, bare stonework, antiques and lead-lined windows, the Courtyard Rooms are converted stables, while the Garden Suites were built in 2007 during the renovation with a more modern touch.

Spas are a given in the world of five-star and Lough Eske Castle has a well-appointed annex in its gardens dedicated to wellbeing, with a glasshouse waiting/relaxation area, indoor pool with hydrotherapy/sauna facilities and secluded treatment rooms – all flooring here is either sandstone or wood, adding to the sense of class and closeness to the natural world.

And, of course, being in Ireland the hospitality on offer in the contemporary Cedars Restaurant (clean lines, floor to ceiling windows, views of the castle grounds) and Gallery Bar (floor to ceiling drinks cabinet, leather seating, oak tables) is casually exceptional.

Main image credit: Lough Eske

Adare Manor

Adare Manor in Ireland announces expansion, new GM

1000 553 Daniel Fountain

Adare Manor, one of Ireland’s most renowned resort hotels with a list of prestigious accolades nearly as long as its history, has announced a multi-phase transformation to restore the property.

To maintain its commitment to providing guests with unrivalled facilities and services, Adare Manor closed its doors in January 2016 for an 18-month intermission and will debut its new look in Autumn 2017.

The transformation, spearheaded by acclaimed architects RSA will honour the building’s architectural heritage as a Neo-Gothic masterpiece and embody the hotel’s signature style, while incorporating the contemporary luxuries and technological conveniences necessary to meet the needs of today’s luxury traveler.

Paul Heery

Paul Heery

The restoration involves internal finishes, furniture and woodwork, and repairing external stonework and windows. Most notably, the expansion will include a new 42-bedroom wing, bringing the total room count to 104 guestrooms including the existing Manor House accommodations. An expansive ballroom will also be added, with capacity for 350 guests for weddings and special events. Both structures will be clad in limestone, a tribute to the detail of the original Manor House.

Plans are also in place for a complete redesign of the golf clubhouse by David Collins Studio London. In order to complement the significant improvements to the manor house and overall resort experience, world-renowned golf course designer Tom Fazio has been engaged to oversee a comprehensive redesign of the golf course, which when complete will take its place among the finest golf courses in Europe.

In addition, the existing Manor House will enjoy a new state-of-the-art spa, pool and relaxation area, boardroom and cinema, while Adare Manor’s 800 acres of beautiful parkland, walled gardens and walking trails, will be enhanced for guest enjoyment.

Meanwhile, the hotel also announced the appointment of Paul Heery as general manager; Paul comes from being GM at Gleneagles in Scotland (from 2014-2017)

www.adaremanor.com

The Ascott Limited (Ascott) has expanded its global footprint to Ireland, one of the fastest growing economies in Europe...

Ascott makes foray into Ireland with acquisition of Dublin property

1000 644 Daniel Fountain

CapitaLand’s wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), has expanded its global footprint to Ireland, one of the fastest growing economies in Europe.

It has acquired an operating hotel in Ireland’s capital city Dublin, the 136-unit Temple Bar Hotel, for €55.1 million (£46 million). Located within Temple Bar, the vibrant cultural heart of Dublin’s city centre, the property is close to museums, boutiques, restaurants, cafés, galleries and attractions such as the famous Dublin Castle, Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery.

The Ascott Limited (Ascott) has expanded its global footprint to Ireland, one of the fastest growing economies in Europe...

Mr Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Europe is a key market for Ascott’s global expansion. Ireland’s pro-business environment has attracted some of the world’s biggest companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and LinkedIn to establish their European headquarters in Dublin. Ireland is also used as a launch pad to the European Union (EU) by many US companies and US is amongst Ascott’s top source markets globally. Ascott’s entry into Ireland will cater to this rising demand for accommodation by corporate and leisure travellers. The acquisition will boost Ascott’s €1.2 billion (£1 billion) portfolio in Europe and bring us closer to our target of 10,000 units in the region by 2020.”

Ireland is rated by The World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ Report as amongst the easiest places in the EU to start a business. Post Brexit, Dublin has stepped up efforts to woo multinational companies to site their EU-based operations in Ireland.

The Dublin property sits on Fleet Street, minutes away from Dame Street, a main thoroughfare in the Irish capital where many financial institutions such as the Central Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and Ulster Bank are situated. It is also within walking distance to the International Financial Services Centre that houses more than 500 companies including global financial institutions, law firms, audit firms and taxation advisors. Its central location offers guests convenient access to Grafton Street and Henry Street, the two main shopping streets in Dublin. In addition, major event facilities such as the Convention Centre Dublin, the 3Arena and Aviva Stadium are nearby.

The Ascott Limited (Ascott) has expanded its global footprint to Ireland, one of the fastest growing economies in Europe...

The property also benefits from key transport services that are within easy reach from its door step – the Dublin Area Rapid Transit and LUAS (Dublin’s light rail tram system) lines as well as extensive bus network provide guests with swift connection to the airport and the rest of the city.

Ascott achieved record growth this year with more than 10,000 apartment units added globally. It also launched LYF, a new brand designed for and managed by millennials, which will complement its other existing brands to accelerate Ascott’s growth to achieve its 80,000-unit target globally by 2020.

Wandsworth at Ballyfin Demesne

Project Spotlight: Wandsworth’s designer switches, sockets in number #1 hotel

559 300 Daniel Fountain

The ‘Best Hotel in the World’, according to voters in the Conde Nast Travellers’ Readers’ Choice Awards is Ballyfin Demesne in County Laois, Ireland.

The hotel opened in 2011 after 8 years of renovation and is located in the foothills Slieve Bloom. The Regency mansion, set in 614 acres, has 20 five-star rooms with every room within the magnificent building fitted out with Wandsworth Electricals’ light switches and sockets.

Wandsworth at Ballyfin Demesne

 

Fitted with Wandsworth’s Classic Collection, which is a signature collection that features a sleek, flat plate and provides a stylish design that can complement a wide range of styles, these elegant electrical accessories help provide the finishing touch to the hotels design.

Wandsworth at Ballyfin Demesne

Selecting a wide variety of finishes including polished brass, each carefully selected finish ensures the designer switches and sockets blend beautifully into the decor.

You can download Wandsworth’s brochures here to view their seven hand-crafted premium collections of electrical accessories that are perfect for every setting, from commercial to hotels to residential.

Hilton Bankside Lobby

Hilton launches architecture, design podcasts for select hotels

1000 616 Daniel Fountain

Hilton Worldwide is for the first time launching a series of podcasts that will act as audio guides to landmark hotels within its European portfolio.

With a focus on architecture and design, the podcasts tell the hidden story behind five hotels from a variety of Hilton brands to encourage guests to see the buildings as more than a place to lay their heads.

Hotels selected for the podcast project have been hand-picked by Hilton’s in-house architecture and design team. The collection includes iconic restoration projects in Paris and Hamburg, a refurbishment inspired by a little known corner of Dublin, a London conversion on the city’s artistic South Bank and a first of its kind, design focused concept in Reykjavik.

Curio by Hilton Reichshof-Hamburg lobby

Over the past five years, Hilton has significantly expanded its dedicated team of experts focused on the architecture and design of each property. The team works collaboratively across the entirety of Hilton’s portfolio covering a diverse array of locations, brands and projects. The team’s philosophy is centred on creating a sense of place that reflects the destination – not just the city or country, but the hotel’s district, neighbourhood or even street.

By working with local designers and consultants, Hilton’s design and architecture team ensures that each hotel not only encapsulates an all-important sense of place and the DNA of its brand, but showcases the very best of each location. This can range from commissioned artwork to mark an important moment in time, the inclusion of furniture and soft furnishings from celebrated local workshops or the preservation of historical artefacts for the public to enjoy for decades to come.

Curio by Hilton Reichshof-Hamburg lobby

Gordon Coles, ‎Senior Vice President, Architecture, Design and Construction, EMEA, Hilton, said: “Whilst our hotel guests are excited to explore a city’s architecture or its design hotspots during their visit, the hotel itself can be overlooked – it is sometimes seen as just a place to lay your head or enjoy a nice meal after a long day of sightseeing or business meetings. We want to challenge this misconception by revealing the hidden stories of five very special European hotels. Each podcast tells a very different tale reflecting the diversity of our projects, but we hope listeners will be inspired to take a closer look at their hotel after learning a little bit more about its history and hearing one or two secrets.”

Canopy by Hilton, Reykjavik

Chris Webb, Senior Director, Interior Design, EMEA, Hilton, said: “Every project is unique, so we approach each hotel with a blank canvas. Creating a sense of place is our core aim – it enhances our guest experience by making their stay more authentic, but it also makes people feel more at home. There is a risk that this could become pastiche, so we spend a lot of time getting under the skin of each location to identify lesser known or quirky flourishes that are still true to the building itself. Each of the five hotels featured in the podcast series are a testament to this approach, from preserving historical features for future generations in Paris and Hamburg to creating interiors that reflect and celebrate a particular neighbourhood in Dublin, London and Reykjavik.”

The five hotels profiled in the new audio guides are Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre (Iceland); Hilton London Bankside (United Kingdom); Conrad Dublin (Ireland); Hilton Paris Opera (France); and Reichshof Hamburg, Curio Collection by Hilton (Germany).

Dominic West to convert Irish castle into boutique hotel

Actor Dominic West to convert Irish castle into boutique hotel

711 347 Daniel Fountain

Renowned TV and film actor Dominic West and his family are to convert a castle in Limerick, Ireland into a boutique hotel.

The 700-year-old Glin Castle, the ancestral home of West’s wife Catherine Fitzgerald, was on sale for £5.5 million, but the family changed their minds.

“Selling up was absolutely heart-breaking for all of us, especially my mother-in-law and my wife and luckily, we’re reopening it as a hotel, all going well, some time next year,” said West.

“I’m going to manage it. I want to be in charge or as much as my schedule will allow. Obviously there will be someone in place far more experienced and qualified than I coping with the day-to-day. But we want to be there. We’re going to be heavily involved. That’s why we’re moving home to Ireland. We spend a large amount of time there already. It is for all intents and purposes home for us.”

The castle has previously been rented out in its entirety to clients including Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful and Talitha Getty.

UK hotel investment hits £2 billion in H1 2017

ISHC: The impact of Brexit on tourism industry

949 541 Daniel Fountain

The International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) is the leading source of global hospitality expertise and counsel, represented by some two hundred of the industry’s most respected professionals from across six continents.

ISHC also functions as a key industry figure, providing a resource for expert opinion on timely and topical matters facing the hospitality industry. With the vote for Brexit now a reality, ISHC have put together a panel of experts to give their opinions on how Brexit will affect the hospitality and tourism industry.

Brexit Viewpoint from Ireland – by Weldon Mather Founder & Director of WM Consultancy Ltd and ISHC Member

The Brexit result stunned most of the European business community, and has had some immediate consequences. While sterling has weakened, inbound visitor arrivals to the UK should increase and while London’s performance has been positive up to April, year-to-date May RevPAR was down 3.0% to £99.88 (US$146.63), as a result of a 2.7% decline in occupancy. Regional UK saw RevPAR increase by 2.2% to £46.87 (US$68.80). Britons may be less inclined to travel overseas however initial indicators have not shown any decline in the pace of overseas bookings. However, the outbound tourists to the Republic of Ireland (in particular from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland which is divided by a 300 mile land border) may be threatened by weaker sterling and potential border restrictions.

Dublin - effect of Brexit
No other country will be affected more that the Republic of Ireland as a result of Brexit, which accounts for more than 50% of all exports to the UK. Over 43% of inbound visitor arrivals to the Republic emanate from the UK and it is estimated that the Republic’s GDP could be impacted by up to 2% when, and if the UK separates from the UK. On the positive side, as the only English speaking and Euro denominated country in the EU, Ireland stands to gain greater FDI as a beachhead into the EU that may see City of London financial services relocate to Dublin, attracted by a more benign 12.5% corporation tax.

Short Term and Long Term Consequencesby Herbert Mascha, Managing Partner of MRP Hotels and ISHC Member

In the short term devaluation of the BPD makes the UK more attractive to tourists and shoppers, especially from US. The devaluation of the EURO against US$ makes EU destinations more attractive to tourists from outside EU. Tourists from UK could be less in destinations like Spain, Greece depending if people cancel their trips because they are facing reduction of value of BPD or reductions of their incomes in the near future.

For me most importantly, investments into new hotel developments or renovations may be put on hold because of uncertainty; we still have a lot of projects on hold because of the latest crises. The long term effects really depend on how the EU and UK agree on their future relationship. If Brexodus of agencies, banks and companies happens, this could cause a shift in business travel to other destinations as well as investment in hotel infrastructure in the new destinations.

post-Brexit
Long Term Implications
By Aris Ikkos Research Director INSETE and ISHC Member

Considering long term implications, one has to think what will be the impact of Brexit on the EU (and the world at large), not just Britain. Should the EU dissolve (fully or partially) by similar –exit referendums in other countries as well, we will be living in a completely different world and it is anybody’s guess what it will look like. My guess is that it will be much more uncertain and much more autocratic. In this sense the impact of Brexit may be more important outside Britain than inside the country.

Immediate Effects – by Christophe de Bruyn Director of TOURISM & LEISURE Indra Business Consulting and ISHC Member

Immediate effects are and will increasingly be cancellations of booked but unpaid holidays by UK citizens and a lower volume of last minute bookings from UK citizens.
In the midterm until Brexit procedures are clear and currency stabilise we could see a reduction of UK trips abroad and lower spending, which should lead tourism destinations, hotels and resorts to look for substitute clients to cover UK clients’ reduction. There was a similar situation last year with Russian tourists and several years ago when Germany went through a minor internal economic crisis of minor growth.

Greece - impact of Brexit
Tourism from the UK to Greece
– by Aris Ikkos ISHC Research Director of INSETE and ISHC Member

We did some analysis for inbound tourism from the UK to Greece and the euro/pound exchange plays a crucial role, while the level of UK GDP measured in pounds is less important. Our analysis has shown that the average spend, in UKP terms, is remarkably stable. If you add to this the uncertainty surrounding the British economy at the moment and the fact that many Britons book their holidays at a maximum 2 months before departure, we expect a significant negative impact this year.

ishc.com/

Micro Hotel

‘Micro hotel’ on its way for Dublin visitors

460 246 Daniel Fountain

Andrew’s Lane Theatre is set to become a ‘micro hotel’ after investors revealed plans to build a seven-storey development containing 115 pod rooms of between 10sqm and 12sqm – in a style similar to Japanese pod-hotels.

According to the Irish Times, Ireland has generally been slow to embrace the concept of so-called ‘micro hotels’ that offer tiny rooms at tiny prices, but the concept is well-developed elsewhere.

Japan has led the way with its capsule hotels; the first capsule hotel opened in Osaka in 1979 and has spawned a large number of imitators, both in its home market and elsewhere, with the first European version opening in Antwerp, Belgium in 2014. While they might be small, with prices as low as £15 a night, they are popular with those travelling on a budget.

Ireland isn’t immune to micro hotels altogether. The Dean Hotel in Dublin for instance, offers so-called ‘mod pods’ and ‘punk bunks’ that measure 12.6 sq m (135 st ft).

Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Ireland

Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Ireland (Patrick Goff)

1000 667 Daniel Fountain

The English aristocracy didn’t just build their country houses in England. Scattered across the whole British Isles are grand houses that remind one of the divide between a land owning aristocracy and the rest of us. Nowadays we still see trappings of wealth in large houses but few on the scale of the English country house. These country houses have become famous as the basis of fine hotels, frequently charging such expensive rates that they become the playground of latter day aristocrats.

When a country house is used as the basis for an hotel it often stands apart from the new build sections. At Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa, the aristocratic mansion first became a home for nuns; then for a while it served as farm buildings before a six year planning battle (perhaps more English than Irish for its lengthy disputation) finally saw the house incorporated in a new hotel. Incorporated because it is indeed incorporated, not separate from but embraced by the modern structure that hugs its side and rear walls.

Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Ireland
The hotel sits in 100 acres of ground next to newly developed commuter homes for Dubliners. The landscaping is a little bleak and the new estate is kept apart through fencing from a rear ‘garden’, an area with a sunken pond and meandering path that sits in a piece of unattractive grassland and car park. More life and vitality, along with possibly more custom for the hotel, might have been generated if the community had been embraced. Instead very formal front landscaping reinforces the separation achieved to the rear. The overall effect is a rather crass new building sitting in a very institutional piece of imitation country house parkland, with the country house standing uneasily alongside.

The institutional feel carried through into an interior spoiled by a mania for cost cutting (see also Irish Hospitality pts 1 & 2) has led to understaffing and other operational ‘savings’. These lead to a visual destruction of good design and poor guest experience alike.

The country house is not central to the interiors, but sits on the side of the modern interiors. Much of the lighting was turned off, creating an uninviting feel which serves to help keep the country house section feeling closed. Its rooms are beautiful and deserve to be fully utilised, instead of which they are kept for weddings and the smaller business meetings. Most of the new building extends to the rear with a magnificent and very large spa. Function rooms and exhibition areas are centrally placed continuing to one side whilst the bedroom block goes off on the other side. From the front the old mansion house is treated with grace and sensitivity but from the back it is lost, its Georgian proportions hidden by the new buildings.

Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Ireland

Internally the junction between old and new is again handled well architecturally but is let down by the lighting. I find it difficult to make up my mind whether the lighting is badly designed in the public area or whether management practices which dictate leaving lights off are to blame for the lack of sparkle in these area. The corridor alongside the bar lounge and the old mansion is top lit by daylight, but the lighting in the adjacent spaces is left off it seems in daylight, making the whole area uninviting. I have heard some Irish operators blame the green hotel policies of the Irish government, but this is hotly disputed by the agency concerned and seems more to do with management using any excuse in a difficult market to keep lights off to cut costs. It makes the spaces very unattractive to guests, robbing them of life as the comparative images of the reception area show.

In the old house, with its glorious public rooms, the lack of lighting is a deterrent to guests using the spaces. However the impact of this approach is shown in the bar operations. With so much of the income generated for the hotel now coming from functions, I noted one evening when there was a large wedding reception on the lower bar/bistro closed as staff were seemingly diverted to service the wedding and its bar upstairs.

The physical separation of the bedrooms from the function area does not insulate them from noise either. The outside terraces into the function rooms allow noise transmission and a number of guests commented on this happening in the early hours of the morning when presumably the terrace doors are thrown open to encourage function guests to leave quickly. The artwork is all reproduction Vettriano prints – love’em or loath’em this is the 21st century equivalent of Trechikov, supposedly the most reproduced artist of the 20th century. Like the artwork, the colour scheme is bland and inoffensive but rooms are well lit, all the switches in the right place, and many with balconies and opening windows.

Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Ireland
There is a good sized work desk and large mirrors, together with a dining table and chairs meeting criteria for five star rating (unlike some hotels in the UK I have seen recently which fail to meet Visit Britain five star standards yet are given a five star rating – I wonder how?).

Here where inspection is tight and a hotel has to meet certain criteria before it can even be called an hotel, the generous room size would embarrass many London hotels who are second rate by comparison. The UK is increasingly out of step with European rating practise and moves now adopted by nine countries to harmonise standards. The suggestion by UK ministers that TripAdvisor should be used is risible. These rooms are well sized and fitted out and offer free WiFi too.

I say the bedrooms are almost the best part of this hotel, because they are second to a beautifully designed sumptuous Seoid (meaning Jewel) spa area over three floors. It claims to be one of the most luxurious spas in Ireland, and this I can believe. It has all the usual therapies, but also includes a full razul experience. The whole area is well lit and doesn’t suffer from the cheap ‘energy saving’ approach characterising the rest of the hotel. Instead it creates the ambience and luxury to be expected in a top quality spa. The lighting sparkles where it needs to and is subtle where warmth and relaxation are the key. The location of the hotel, close to Dublin but out in the country, makes the spa a good draw and there are also several leading golf courses within a few minutes drive.

Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Ireland
The spa reaches over three floors and includes a slightly bleak outdoor whirlpool. The indoor pool is nicely designed (apart from the intrusion of the columns). Interior designers really should whip the architects and structural engineers into line as so many interiors are spoiled by columns being unnescessarily visually intrusive. The outdoor areas really don’t work here. It is almost as if they are awaiting further development. More planting would help keep down noise and add colour to the rear, sorely missed in the views from the bedrooms. For such a luxury spa the outdoor whirlpool is functional rather than indulgent.

Treatment rooms are well designed and offer a range of treatments, whilst relaxation areas are warm and womb like, supporting the therapies offered. There are stylish touches throughout the hotel that combat the slightly institutional feel created by the architecture and landscaping. For example, the staircase down to the sports bar/bistro has been turned into a seating area by simple addition of a sylish throne chair and a small banquette seat. The lighting is the key to all these areas and with it turned off there is a gloom pervading that robs the hotel of the theatre and sparkle it deserves.

Couple this with understaffing (and the staff here are very, very good) and the whole guest experience is downgraded. The sports bar/bistro staff appeared to be transferred to service a wedding bar on my second night so it was closed. The second bar, a snug Irish pub, was deserted – like the Marie Celeste abandoned to voyage alone.

Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Ireland

This is a well designed hotel, seemingly caught up in the recessionary pressures that characterise so many Irish hotels and which management is fighting with desperate measures. The ‘coming out balls’ are a great saviour of hotels all over Ireland at the end of the school year it seems, but the view of many in the industry is that there are 30% too many hotel rooms in Ireland.

With over 100 of 900 hotels basically in the hands of the receivers, tourism here will need to recover a long way to turn the hotel economy around. Dunboyne has the location and the Spa, plus nearby golf courses which will makes this one of the flourishing survivors if the short term management solutions being applied don’t deter the well-heeled punters it needs to attract.

© Words & Pictures Patrick Goff. From a visit in August 2011

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland (Patrick Goff)

1000 666 Daniel Fountain

The owner lives on the other side of the bay, looking on to his hotel, or at least the Victorian seaside hotel that was there. When he saw the proposed plans for its replacement, he didn’t like it. Refusing to spend his evenings looking at something unsightly, he bought the site and had Cliff House Hotel built. Wouldn’t we all do the same?

The result is a beautifully located stylish new five star hotel with architecture that spills down the hillside and cliffs, belying its seven floors with a roof line the same as the surrounding villas. Its location places the hotel in close contact with the sea. I was there in calm weather and I would imagine during a storm with high seas it must provide a wonderful experience. In calm weather it is possible to follow the path through the gardens to stand on the rocks and if the weather is warm enough, to even go swimming off them.

The link with the sea is followed through by the layout of the building which gives all the rooms sea views, some with seating areas in windows or on balconies overlooking the water. From across the bay, where the owner lives, the hotel is discrete. Interestingly, just a little further around the bay in which Ardmore is situated is a group of mobile homes, apparently places where rich Dubliners bring their families for the summer, giving the hotel large groups of ‘ladies that lunch’ to fill its bistro and Michelin starred restaurant.

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland
During my trip to Ireland I saw many hotels that were in trouble – indeed NAMA, the Irish national ‘bad bank’ has nearly 100 of Irelands 900 odd hotels on its books (see articles). In the rotten economic climate Irelands bankers contributed to, it is all the more remarkable that the Cliff House became profitable in its third year and now in its fourth year it is becoming even more successful.

Part of the hotel’s success is its emphasis on service and the food offering, something enabled by the architecture which includes a greenhouse for the cook as well as a small garden area. Ireland is predominantly an agricultural nation and this hotel, unlike many, makes maximum use of local sourcing of both the produce from the land and the sea. It has a Michelin star for its restaurant but judging by difficulty in securing a table there, its bistro offering is enormously popular too.

The bar bistro shares a large terrace with the restaurant running along the sea front of the hotel, which more than doubles the available seating in summer and looks across the bay. Below the restaurant terrace are the gardens which provide intimate little ‘secret’ seating areas, but also hold part of the Spa which is on the floor below, with both the whirlpool bath and the seaweed treatment baths sitting out on their own terraces. Internally the bistro mixes formality and informality well. There is a comfortable seating area in front of an open fire and bar stools to the bar as well as more formal dining. Dining tables look out through the windows that fill one wall floor to ceiling maximising the view again.

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland

The planning ensures that the kitchen and wine cellar service both the main restaurant and the bistro. The placing of all the service areas, delivery points and other non-guest areas on the rear, inland, side of the hotel ensures that guests enjoy continuous uninterrupted views of the sea from virtually everywhere they go in the hotel. It also preserves the striking architectural area that follows the cliff face down to the sea entirely for guests. The site planning has been meticulous and has served both hotelier and guest well.

Entering the hotel the guest is presented with a view to the sea immediately, looking right through the reception area. The reception area is part of a large atrium space which reaches from the top of the hotel to the restaurant floor, over three floors. On the top floor it forms a guest library lounge giving access to bedroom corridor. Here the lounges of suites are on the rear of the hotel but the suites all are over two floors with balconies off the bedrooms providing space for loungers and private dining as well as spectacular views.

The hotel interiors were done largely by the owners and they have amassed the largest collection of colonial campaign furniture in Ireland which are used as feature pieces throughout the hotel. However, it is the architecture and layout that are the strengths of the interiors. Colour is used cleverly throughout and reinforces the sense of movement through space, such as in the changing hues on the stair carpets, but always it is the views, changing light and sense of contact with the ocean that dominates. The duplex suites are a clever use of the space at the rear of the reception floor, making the guestroom lounges quiet to the rear and keeping the bedrooms with the views, adding deep terraces where dining and sun lounging in privacy are enabled.

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland
The beds are positioned so that the view is seen easily through the large balcony access windows and the bathroom puts the shower in the window too, whilst bathrooms throughout deliver both shower and soaking tubs. The resulting glass walls flood the bathroom with light. This is the case with the glass wall in the bedroom too, but the blackout is effective at night. Rooms in the duplex are large and have their own dining and lounge areas. The campaign furniture works well in these, and specially commissioned artwork graces their internal staircases.

Interestingly the hotel has gone back to brass keys on large key fobs as they found the €8 cost of replacing the smart cards used in the electronic proximity locking system prohibitive as many guests still erroneously believe the cards encode personal details and take them away with them. The weight and presence of the brass keys leads to them being returned rather than remaining secreted in purses or wallets.

In the standard bedrooms there is variety of room layout and colour and all deliver a good sized desk (with free Wi-Fi of course), bay window with window seat or a fireplace, where on rainy days (and there are many in Ireland) guests can enjoy the views or relax without the temptations of the superb gourmet food experience the hotel offers. With all the bedrooms on the seaward side of the hotel, all guests are guaranteed a sea view. I was there in the summer, but a part of me wanted to stay during an Atlantic winter storm as the position of the hotel on the cliff edge must make this a spectacular experience for a guest – with the reassurance and comfort of Michelin food and wines and open fires in the public areas! The appeal of this hotel must, in part, be down to the ability to be on the large terraces in the sunshine and fresh air, but to retreat into comfortable internal spaces with all the cosseting by staff and service within seconds. This warm, encompassing, physical comfort is also a hallmark of the spa and leisure areas.

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland

The entrance to the Spa and its reception are at the bottom of the spiral staircase that runs throughout the atrium. Here the space is internal, creating the initial calm controlled environment that every spa wants to exude on entry. From there it leads to the leisure and spa treatment areas.
The design of these areas then maximises the views of the ocean. Treadmills look out through picture windows to the sea. Similarly the pool has one end of glass to give clear views of the ocean. Treatment rooms, which need no daylight, are positioned to leave corridors with the views and the relaxation zone gives the couches different heights to view the ocean. Only here are there problems, with changing floor levels creating trip points marked out by hi-vis tape, a jarring note in an otherwise harmonious set of interiors.

As with the restaurants and bedrooms, the spa and leisure areas spill out onto the terraces with the spa pool and some treatment areas being places on sun-trap terraces. Despite their locations below most of the hotel it is surprising how private many of these areas are. Running below them all is the path through the gardens, again with secretive little areas for taking in the sun and views.

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland

The hotel makes magnificent use of its location. The architectural layout has maximised the relationship with the sea. Location is more than just a seaside hotel in this instance, as Ardmore is a place of pilgrimage, being closely linked with the history of Christianity in Ireland. Within a few hundred metres are some of the earliest Christian sites, making the hotel visibility in the village a critical factor in how the architecture has been treated. Whilst visible from the water, the a fact that most of the site tumbles down the cliff means it has a low profile visually and a low roof line that all relate to the village cottages.

Communities are sensitive to large scale hotel developments which can sometime despoil a community. Here the 39 bedroom hotel has brought employment to the village and enhanced it as a destination, without being destructive visually. Maybe more hotels would benefit from the owner living with it in the vista from their houses…

Words and Pictures ©Patrick Goff. From a visit in August 2011