by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
A radically altered landscape
The austerity years in Ireland were callous and cruel to those Celtic Tiger vanity investors who fancied themselves as hoteliers but had neither the relationships, the know-how nor the deep pockets to weather the storm. Now, following a furious flurry of financial finagling we have a radically altered ownership landscape. Brand new properties were sold for a fraction of what it cost to build them and while the vulture funds grew fat on the proceeds, much of our hotel stock, thankfully, has ended up in good hands, owned, leased or operated by families or individuals who are in it for the long haul. Arguably, the best example of this is the purchase of Adare Manor in Co Limerick by local man J.P. McManus.
Adare Manor – special memories
For most of us in the MICE industry in Ireland, Adare has a special place. For @Supergreybeard and myself, it’s very special indeed. In fact, it was the call of Adare Manor that enticed @Supergreybeard back to Ireland from the US in the late 80s. Under the ownership of the Kane family, Adare Manor was taking its first tentative steps as a “resort” property with a product for the US incentive sector and Patrick M. Delaney was the man hired to tell the story. A new bedroom wing was added, a Robert Trent Jones (Sn) golf track was planned and the Glyndebourne-style Adare festival was launched.
At that time, too, I was moonlighting from my teaching position as an Italian-speaking tour guide and often overnighted in Adare with my more upscale groups such as “Gli Amici dei Musei di Napoli”. When we started Delaney Marketing Consultants together in 1994 Adare Manor was part of our destination presentation – you were always sure of “ohs” and “ahs” when you showed pictures of a banquet in the Gallery. Throughout the subsequent Ovation and MCI years, Adare regularly recurred , always successfully and sometimes extravagantly (remember YPO, Anita?). And then there were the legendary after-parties in the Tack Room …
Adare Manor – creating new memories
For all these reasons, and many, many more, I’m bursting with excitement at the plans for the soon-to-be-re-opened Adare Manor. The SoolNua team was privileged to get a sneak preview of the extraordinary work in progress last week so here’s a flavour of what awaits you.
Adare Manor – the scope and scale
Firstly, the scale of the project is enormous with almost 1000 skilled workers on site last week on the day of our visit. This is way more than simply adding another bedroom wing to the hotel, it’s a re-modelling and re-positioning of the entire 840 acre estate including the golf course, the estate lodges, the extensive Carriage House development and the hotel itself which will have 104 bedrooms and significant meetings / banqueting space.
This project involves a level of financial investment that couldn’t possibly be recouped within the arc of a normal person’s life: it’s a gamble with the future, a bet that pays nothing for a long, long time but one wholeheartedly in keeping with the original visionaries and owners of the estate, the Earls of Dunraven, who planted tiny saplings in the 1830s that today have grown into majestic broadleaf trees.
The re-modelling of and extension to the “main house” has required the construction of a brand new “grand” entrance. It’s on the river side of the village and means that newly arriving guests from Shannon or Limerick don’t get to see Adare village until after they’ve checked in. For corporate or incentive groups this is wonderful as it allows the spectacular village to be discovered gradually, almost as an “extension” of the life of the Manor house. The entrance leads directly to the house itself which has been extended significantly with the addition of a spectacular banqueting suite that overlooks the River Maigue on one side and a limestone-clad bedroom wing on the other.
These additions alone would catapult Adare Manor into a Top 10 position in the World for organisers of incentive travel experiences seeking a truly unique history, heraldry and heritage experience – there are very few heritage properties anywhere with scope to seat 350 for a Gala Dinner and accommodate up to 200 under the same roof! Yet that’s only the beginning. Within the same building there’s the magnificently restored Gallery where breakfast and afternoon tea will be served, the high end gastronomic restaurant, the La Mer spa and, of course, the legendary Tack Room.
Carriage House & Golf Course
Elsewhere on the estate there’s the Carriage House. Primarily servicing the golf side of the business, this, too, has been give a complete make-over and now features more Crittal windows than your average fancy warehouse restaurant in Dublin! There’s a strong clubby feel here, a nice casual antidote to the sheer elegance of the main house. The terrace is capacious and can take 60 for dinner or more for a cocktail party. This would make an excellent 2nd night location for a small corporate group or for a pre-dinearound cocktail for a larger one.
The golf course has been re-designed by Tom Fazio and now includes best-in-breed Sub-air technology which enables play 365 days of the year, regardless of rainfall. This is the first such use of Sub-air on a golf track in Ireland and signals J.P. McManus’ ambitions for Adare Manor. The cream of the world’s golf fraternity knows Adare Manor well from the McManus Pro-Am. The Pro-Am is due at Adare Manor again in 2020 and, while the 2024 Ryder Cup has been confirmed for Bethpage, the European edition for 2026 remains unallocated! What this space.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a surge of personal pride as we were led around the site kitted out in our customised hi-vis vests. The extent of the work is radical – ancient panelling has been removed and restored, ceilings are being meticulously golf-leafed, period suites are being taken apart, retro-fitted with cutting-edge technology and then put back together so the technology disappears. It’s awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping and it’s adding something unique and precious, wholeheartedly Irish and uncompromisingly international to our country’s MICE offering.
You can keep up to date with work at Adare Manor by following the excellent and regular YouTube postings.
Pat Delaney, Pádraic Gilligan and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialised agency working with destinations, hotels and venues on strategy, marketing and training for the MICE sector.