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  • by Robert La Bua

Ireland In High Style


Special Places to stay to make your Friends Green with Envy

Apart from those in the know, few people would traditionally associate Ireland with fashion, yet the Emerald Isle can certainly hold its own as a place where Beautiful People dress to the nines in beautiful clothes. Whether decked out in Armani for a black-tie gala or casually attired in country chic, well-heeled locals can be seen everywhere in Ireland, especially in the country's top hotels where special occasions are celebrated these days with effervescent extravagance and sartorial splendour in equal parts.

(above): The Shelbourne, Dublin

After a VIP welcome at Dublin Airport's Platinum Services terminal, travellers who prefer a traditional hotel environment head to the luxurious Shelbourne Hotel right in the middle of the action, with grand museums around the corner, trendy bars and restaurants just out the door, and the expanse of Dublin's beloved St. Stephen's Green just across the street. Now that The Shelbourne's recent renovation has been completed, the spacious rooms and suites are welcoming guests to enjoy the fresh decor and new services offered in the hotel, which nevertheless retains its air of urbane elegance and courteous tradition. In consideration of the many visitors to Ireland who come for research of family history, The Shelbourne employs the services of a genealogy butler to help guests trace their Irish ancestors. The preparation is done before the guest's arrival and presented when in residence at the hotel.

Irish hero Michael Collins looms large in the history of The Shelbourne, where he stayed on a number of occasions.

The Michael Collins Suite is one of the largest in the hotel; among the various items in the well-appointed suite are several biographies about the independence fighter who shaped Ireland's history in the 20th century. The Shelbourne is one of the few hotels in the world to have its own museum and, though small, this repository of hotel history is a fascinating glimpse into Dublin's and Ireland's past. Michael Collins' chair is there, along with dozens of hefty ledgers meticulously documenting The Shelbourne's guests and events over the decades. Aside from such sights as the brand new EPIC Irish Emigration Museum and the Trinity College Library with its famous Book Of Kells, (below) The Shelbourne is also within easy walking distance of L'Écrivain, one of Dublin's most exclusive restaurants, where patrons dress to the nines to enjoy the supreme creations of the kitchen under the meticulous supervision of celebrated owner-chef Derry Clarke and his gracious wife, Sallyanne, who oversees the front of the house.

Hayfield Manor and The River Lee, Cork

Culinary travellers to Cork, Ireland's second-largest city, will delight in the area's exceptional food scene. Cork was once the biggest butter exporter in the world and its Butter Museum, the only one of its kind in the world, gives some insight into the history of butter and its role in the development of Cork. Today, Cork butter can be found alongside the best of local products at the English Market, the city's covered food hall that is a mecca for shoppers seeking the best of the best. The best is also found at Hayfield Manor, a country house right in the middle of the city. (below: The entrance to Hayfield Manor).

Hayfield Manor is the type of place where jodhpurs and boots mingle with tweed and brogues; every guest seems to have an interesting background. After dining in the restaurant or drinking in the bar, the hotel's large guestrooms are the private spaces to which guests retreat after a full day and a full stomach. (below: Hayfield Manor Master Suite).

(below: Hayfield Manor afternoon tea).

(above: Hayfield Manor Executive Suite).

The polished staff makes sure everyone is having a good time. A more urban experience can be found at The River Lee, a five-story hotel in a modern complex right on the riverfront within walking distance to central Cork. The River Lee, while less luxurious than Hayfield Manor, still offers a high-quality hotel experience with an expansive bar and atrium lobby appealing aspects of the building itself, while (once again) the staff does the utmost to make a stay happy and memorable. (below: Hayfield Manor Perrott's restaurant).

Cork makes an excellent base for exploring the many beautiful and interesting towns and villages of County Cork. The picturesque town of Kinsale is well known for its annual Gourmet Festival; Cobh is one of Ireland's most scenic, famous as the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic before its demise; Ballymaloe is the home of Darina Allen, celebrated chef and mistress of the Irish culinary universe whose cooking school welcomes visitors for lunch and dinner. (below: Hayfield Manor Master Suite Lounge).

(below: Checking in at the Hayfield Manor is always a warmly welcoming experience).

The g Hotel, Galway

Galway is one of Ireland's most traditionally atmospheric cities, so it comes as something of a surprise to find one of the country's most avant-garde hotels here on the west coast instead of in Dublin. The g Hotel, located on the edge of central Galway, was designed by Irish milliner Philip Treacy, hatmaker for the British royal family. The high style is immediately apparent upon entrance into the all-black lobby, where specially created black Swarovski crystals glisten under the glass of the Reception desk. The various public rooms are all intentionally decorated in totally different colour themes to suit the mood of the guest at any given time of day. Throughout the hotel are artworks related to the fashion industry, with famous faces like Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Lisa Fonssagrives (the world's first supermodel―and shame on those who don't know her) showing up in various locations.

(above: The g Hotel boasts its own portrait of legendary supermodel, Ms Linda Evangelista). The guestrooms are more neutral in color but no less impressive in comfort. Linda Evangelista, a friend of milliner Philip Treacy, was the inspiration for the dramatic Linda Evangelista Suite, (the hotel's top category of accommodation). Like the supermodel herself, the suite is understated in elegance yet delivers an overall impact of dazzling beauty. (below: The Linda Evangelista Suite at the g Hotel).

This suite has a private terrace with view of the water. Unlike supermodels, guests at the g Hotel can eat to their hearts' content, which is not difficult to do when seeing all the delicious choices on the menu at gigi's,The g Hotel's restaurant. In town, the hip and happening Tribeton bar and restaurant is a great place for all-day drinks and dining. Make sure to try the gin; Tribeton bottles its own gin and takes great pride in the preparation and presentation of its gin drinks in particular. The g Hotel makes an ideal base for visiting the many attractions in the area around Galway such as the famous Cliffs Of Moher, The Burren, and Connemara on land and the Aran Islands off the coast of western Ireland. (below: Afternoon tea at Sheen Falls Lodge).

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare

Ireland is famous for many things―writers, Guinness, and greenery among them―but it is the country's hospitality industry that makes stays for international visitors so special. Nowhere is the Irish gift for a warm welcome more evident than at Sheen Falls Lodge, a discreet five-star property located just outside the tiny town of Kenmare in the west of County Cork. (below: The Sheen Falls Lodge Terrace Suite).

Kenmare's reputation as one of Ireland's culinary capitals beckons a sophisticated set of visitors to come experience fresh local produce prepared in ever more novel ways thanks to the originality and creativity of Irish chefs who have discovered that food on plate is as much an artistic medium as paint on canvas.

Sheen Falls Lodge, (above), a member of Relais & Châteaux, is an independently owned property situated next to the rapids that give it its name. Like Hayfield Manor, Sheen Falls Lodge feels more like a country home than a stereotypical hotel, with the grand entrance hall reminiscent of a manor house and the guest bedrooms exactly that, bedrooms for the host's guests. Sheen Falls Lodge's general manager, Mr. Séamus Crotty, is the personification of Irish hospitality, an example followed assiduously by the entire staff only too eager to ensure every guest enjoys the time spent in house. Or out of it. Sheen Falls Lodge can arrange a variety of outdoor activities which include horseback riding, falconry experiences, and photography shoots. (below: A spot of falconry at Sheen Falls Lodge).

Indoors, the large house has numerous rooms for social gatherings or private reflection. The library is well stocked with books ranging from the latest releases to historic tomes; the drawing room, the lounge, the bar, and the various corners where conversations take place are all perfect for their purposes. The Lodge's peaceful setting is one of the most appealing aspects of a stay here. If traveling with family or friends and seeking complete privacy in accommodation, Sheen Falls Lodge maintains private villas on the property with full hotel services.

(above: Relax in the Sheen Falls Lodge cosy interiors).

The K Club, Straffan

The small village of Straffan is home to a church, a pub, and one of Ireland's most esteemed private estates. Having hosted The Ryder Cup as well as numerous celebrities and heads of state, The Kildare Club, universally known as The K Club, is one of the foremost golf resorts in the world. (below: Aerial view of the K Club).

The grand entrance hall is a harbinger of the luxury and artistry found throughout the property, which is home to a highly regarded art collection and an equally valuable wine cellar, not to mention Mr. Michael Davern, the most debonair of general managers. The K Club is a prime destination for Dubliners wanting a country weekend escape less than an hour from the city.

(above: Straffan House Hall).

For the ultimate in luxury and privacy, The K Club's Straffan House, a private mansion set in a secluded area of the grounds, is a self-contained resort unto itself complete with cinema and indoor swimming pool. The same excellence in cuisine enjoyed by guests at The K Club's famous restaurant, Byerly Turk, can be had by guests staying in Straffan House. (below: Straffan House swimming pool).

The importance of horses in the area's history, as reflected in the restaurant's name, continues to this day; the Irish National Stud is a short ride away, making The K Club a favourite place to stay among the world's top horse breeders. (below: Absorb the opulence of the Straffan House Cinema).

(below: The Entrance to the K Club Hotel).

Number 31, Dublin

Returning to Dublin, travellers may wish to experience a special place to sleep before they leave Ireland. Neither hotel nor guesthouse, Number 31 transcends categorisation, a fact that adds to its charm for guests looking for sophisticated accommodations in a serene environment.

The former home of celebrated (and controversial) Irish architect Sam Stephenson, Number 31―the name alludes to its address at 31 Leeson Close―is today one of Dublin's most distinctive places to stay. (below: Robert La Bua at Number 31.)

As a heritage-listed building, Number 31 (above) maintains the distinguishing atmosphere that prevailed when Stephenson, ever the bon vivante, hosted a plethora of celebrities and dignitaries like Grace Kelly, Henry Kissinger and the paragon of Swinging Sixties fashion known as Twiggy, in his avant-garde residence. (below: The gorgeous hallway at Number 31).

The star of the show is the expansive living room with a large, sunken conversation pit warmed by an aromatic peat fire. (below: Intimate. The living room at Number 31).

The room's double-height, floor-to-ceiling glass wall looks out to an intimate garden, across which is a classic Georgian townhouse also owned by Number 31 where fifteen bedrooms offer a more traditional ambience enhanced by contemporary style details and a refined colour palette. The townhouse's front door opens onto Fitzwilliam Street, home to some of Dublin's most outstanding examples of Georgian architecture. Attractions appealing to the urbane traveler lie a short walk in every direction―the tranquillity of St Stephen's Green and the boutiques of Grafton Street shopping to the north, chic Ballsbridge to the east, the lovely and historic Grand Canal to the south, and the National Concert Hall just a couple of blocks to the west. Not many Dubliners are even aware of the existence of Number 31, holding true to its status as a member of "Hidden Ireland," an eclectic association of the country's most discreet manor houses and hotel establishments.

Flying To Dublin In Style

Aer Lingus, the national airline of Ireland, has been expanding its route network in recent years in addition to upgrading its Business Class inflight product in order to elevate the inflight experience even higher than it was before. Taking arrivals and departures in Ireland to another level is Dublin Airport's Platinum Services, a separate Terminal that provides VIP service with typically enthusiastic Irish hospitality. Platinum Services provides an oasis of calm in the busy airport. For travellers journeying onward to the United States, Dublin Airport is one of the very few in the world where US border pre-clearance on departure makes arrival back in America as easy as a domestic flight. For easy arrivals and departures at the Platinum Services terminal itself, Ireland Chauffeur Travel provides gracious service on the ground, with highly knowledgeable drivers and luxury automobiles making the drive to or from the airport into Dublin (or anywhere else in the country) very pleasant. Ireland Chauffeur Travel can create a customised itinerary to make a visit to Ireland an extra-special personal experience. (below: Dublin Airport Platinum Services keep things nice with Ireland Chauffeur Travel.)


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