You need to read all of this. There will be a quiz at the end...
Last week I returned from a 6 night FAM trip to Ireland hosted by Celebrated Experiences. The itinerary (attached) was a very busy one and I travelled with 7 other agents from
all parts of the USA. I haven't been to Ireland in 8 years and the changes have been enormous. The past 20 years have been a time of unprecedented growth bringing in wealth
from all parts of the world. "The Celtic Tiger" is what these years have been titled as it was a time that sleepy Ireland suddenly became one of the most happening places on the planet. International companies came to Ireland opening offices and manufacturing plants attracting mostly younger workers. Ireland also became a part of the European Union
which has helped it modernize its roads and infrastructure.
Dublin's International Airport is just completing a multi million Euro expansion and the roads into the city are new and modern. As with the rest of the world the economic climate
has changed in the past year Ireland was hurt as much or more than any country. Dublin has changed in many ways since I last visited but the casual friendly atmosphere is
still very much in existence. The streets are alive with well dressed locals and tourists visiting the many shops, restaurants and other attractions.
Our first night was spent at The Fitzwilliam which is located right on St. Stephen's Green. The Fitzwilliam is a very comfortable combination of urban modern and traditional hotel design. The rooms are extremely comfortable with large bathrooms and many with balconies, some overlooking the park. There are 2 restaurants. Thorntons, the larger of the
two is considered by some to be the best restaurant in the country. From the front door of the hotel you can walk to many of the local attractions like Grafton St. and Trinity College.
Saturday night we stayed at the Merrion which is just around the corner but a world away in terms of experience. The Merrion is a traditional deluxe hotel with a warm comfortable
decor, furniture and a wonderful art collection displayed throughout the hotel. The hotel has gardens in the rear of the hotel that many of the rooms look out on. Other rooms
overlook Merrion Street. The lounges are warm with real fireplaces in almost every public room. The smell of the peat fire adds to the warm feeling. There is a pool and a small health club and several restaurants which I will not drone on about-they are excellent. By the way we had a site inspection on Sunday of Hotel Dylan which was named by the Times of London best modern urban hotel in Europe. This hotel is an ultracool, low attitude property that is becoming the place to hang out in Dublin. Check out their website:
Sunday we headed out to the countryside touring Glendalough with its historic monastic sites and the town of Kilkenny with its castle and design center. That night we stayed at
the Mt. Juliet which is a huge estate that includes a golf course (Jack Nicklaus), a horse stud farm and a well equipped spa. The approach to the resort is like you are in a movie with this giant home surrounded by some of the most beautiful grounds you will ever see. The rooms are large and very deluxe. This is one of the few places you can go on a fox hunt in Ireland.
On Monday we drove down to the coast of Ireland where we had a site inspection of the Cliff House in Ardmore. The Cliff House is one of the few hotels in Ireland that face directly
on the sea. It is a modern 39 room hotel built into the side of a cliff with all rooms looking on the water, Ardmore is a short drive from Waterford and the Cliff House is worth a visit
for its spa, its restaurant and the views That afternoon we had a tour of the Jameson Distillery and a tasting before heading down to Cobh to get a short tour of the immigrant experience. There are some very interesting exhibits in Cobh which was the final port for the Titanic before she sailed for New York. Next we headed to Cork which is
a vibrant city with a large university and many food and cultural festivals. Monday night we stayed at Hayfield Manor which was the one property that was a bit of a disappointment.
The building is relatively new but was designed to look hundreds of years old. First of all it is of a style that is not needed in a city like Cork. The rooms are large with some wear
showing. It feels strange to walk out of a Manor House and one half a block away you are on a college campus. Don't get me wrong the place is great but look where I had previously stayed...
Tuesday morning we drove to Kenmare stopping at a cheese and produce shop and a Chocolate shop called Lorge's operated by a relocated Frenchman. The afternoon was spent in Kenmare with a stop at Park Hotel Kenmare for afternoon tea. I think Kenmare was my favorite town of the trip and the Park Hotel was a really charming property
overlooking Kenmare Bay. This is a very traditional hotel that has a good deal of warmth and exceptional spa and indoor pool. It is walking distance from the town and
the rooms are all different and feel like you are staying at your very rich grandmother's house. About 3 miles away is Sheen Falls Lodge which is a grander version of the Park Hotel. The hotel is surrounded by the falls and most guests can fall asleep to the sound of the water. This is a very dramatic location with new 2-5 BR villas close by for families
who want a bit more privacy. Guests can fish in the river and have their catch smoked at the resorts smokehouse. Golf is nearby and the 2 restaurants are excellent.
It is Wednesday and I am tired, over-fed and slightly hungover. I wasn't aware that what I needed was a boat ride on a lake in Killarney with some Irish Coffee. Who knew?
A couple of sips of the coffee and an Irish band begins to play and I am back in business. Seriously, the scenic drive to Killarney via Molls Gap was an awesome experience.
The views are like a postcard and by noon I was at Adare Manor with a live Falcon eating chicken from my left arm. Adare Manor is a true castle experience. The grounds are
a piece of art as is the restored building itself. The guest rooms are huge with all the modern amenities you would expect. There is a golf course just outside the door was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and is the focus of many of its guests. Fishing, cooking demonstrations and clay pigeon shooting are some of the many other amenities.
After leaving with drove out to the Cliffs of Moher which are a dramatic sight. Finally we arrived at The Lodge at Doonbeg which is a 7 year old golf/resort that has a links course overlooking the Atlantic. This property is owned and operated by the same group that owns Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. This is a deluxe Manor style hotel with
a country club feeling. The golf course was designed by Greg Norman has ocean views from 16 or its 18 holes. The rooms are big and have either golf or ocean views.
There are many dining options from pub style to fine dining in The Long Room. The mattress here was the best of the trip and by now I have become a mattress professional.
Thursday begins and Shannon airport and home is just a hour away. Whew!
----------------------a word about Celebrated Experiences----------------------------
After a Fam trip agents feel that the host of the trip and the company they represent are the greatest
company you can use in the future. I really think that Celebrated can be viewed as a one stop shop for England, Ireland,
Scotland and Wales. This trip was a no nonsense fam. A true working fam attended by some excellent agents who know their
stuff and could be invited free to any of these hotels yet paid a fee to attend this trip. We were up at 8am daily and covered
over 900 miles on the trip.
Jonathan Epstein from Celebrated is a young guy was described by several of the Irish Hoteliers as more knowledgeable about their
country than they were. Every agent I spoke with who has used Celebrated said the feed back from clients is excellent.
They handle any kind of travel in the countries they deal with. They send documents with information and things to do for
even a single hotel night. They know all of their hotels personally and usually will suggest a particular room given
a description of the guest. They will do transfers, private touring, event tickets etc. They are located in Atlanta so you can speak
to them real time. I only suggest that you try them. They are a small but hard working team.