by Pádraic Gilligan, Chief Marketing Officer, SITE & Managing Partner, SoolNua
One of my favourite words is zeitgeist.
Anyone who reads this blog with even irregular regularity will find the word keeps turning up, a bit like that stray cat you can’t shake off. And zeitgeist is a classic stray cat word too. It doesn’t belong in English, being a German term, and it’s strange sounding and beautifully mysterious.
It means “spirit of the age”. I came across it as a teenager, years ago, in album reviews on NME or Rolling Stone or Hot Press. It was a favourite term for rock journalists when they felt a single or album really channelled or defined an era – the way The Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK captured the energy, creativity and disruption of the epoch that became known as punk, for example.
But I digress. All of the above is by way of introduction to this post on new luxury, a term that’s been bandied about quite a bit lately as it relates to travel in general and incentive travel in particular, traditionally the bastion of “luxury experiences”.
Interestingly, in the Bangkok Manifesto, SITE’s 10 statements on the nature, purpose and direction of incentive travel, Statement 5 defines the “new luxury” as follows:
The definition of luxury has changed. The era of logos and brands is changing. Luxury in future will be defined by authentic, unique and personal experiences
These were the attributes that attracted me to Breac.House when I first read about in Monocle magazine in 2018. Perched on a hillside on Horn Head, overlooking Sheephaven Bay on Ireland’s north west coast there appeared to be nothing pretentious or ersatz about this place. Equally, the design ethos suggested something one of a kind, unique in its effort to access local craftsmanship and materials. With only 3 guest rooms it was fair to presume a truly personalised experience. And so it came to pass.
New Luxury at Breac.House
Breac.House is definitely zeitgeisty, offering an exciting alternative for discerning travellers who’re tired of the clichés of old luxury and now crave authenticity, uniqueness and personalisation. Here’s the story of our recent visit there.
Breac.House is the brainchild of Cathrine and Niall, two Dublin accountants who couldn’t cope with the excitement of spreadsheets and high-tailed it off to the Wild Atlantic Way in pursuit of the good life. Cathrine met us on arrival and explained the house protocols – the magnificently minimal lounge / library that overlooks the bay is open to all guests, happy hour starts around 5pm, there’s a boot / drying room for weather-wear and you might like a seaweed bath or a sauna in which case just let us know.
The guest rooms have unadorned pure white walls juxtaposed by one glazed wall that frames the Bay. Art is nature at Breac.House or should that be nature is Art? The furniture is handle-less, sheer light oak and when you look carefully behind the various doors and drawers you find all manner of treats from pick-me-up coffee or tea to a light snack or even a celebratory prosecco. Needless to say everything is carefully curated and, when appropriate, of local provenance. The bathroom is high spec with locally sourced amenities and great fluffy robes.
Cathrine explained the two-way, hatch system: at about 8:30 coffee / tea and freshly squeezed juice is delivered to your hatch from outside your room. Whenever you’re ready you retrieve the goodies from the privacy of your room with no requirements for early morning interaction. At 9am then the full breakfast tray arrives.
Full of excited anticipation, we left our haven and followed one of the 5 walks highlighted by Cathrine and Niall on a handy self-produced map of Horn Head. To the south east, Horn Head is quite heavily punctuated by holiday homes facing back towards Dunfanaghy, availing of the beautiful seaviews. The more north and west you go, however, the more isolation you find. This is wild Atlantic way country with a heavy emphasis on wild.
A windswept hour later we returned to Breac.House and met Niall who invited us for a pre-dinner drink in front of the fire. That’s where Rita – an unshakeable red wine connoisseur – encountered Dulaman Gin, a small batch local Donegal creation served by Niall with seaweed botanicals and a slice of organ. Niall then kindly dropped us to The Cove in Port na Blagh where we had a wonderful dinner.
A windswept walk and pure Donegal air ensured we slept like hibernating bears but somewhere in the windmills of my mind I did hear the click of the hatch and sure enough it was 8:30 and our early tray was there. Perfect coffee, tea and juice. At 9am, just as we were acclimatising to the day, there was another, now familiar rustle and click. The breakfast tray, accompanied by a personalised note and details of the fare:
Like all the furniture at Breac.House the breakfast try is customised and fits perfectly on a variety of surfaces – on the outside patio / terrace when the sun coaxes you out there, on its own specially fashioned easel-style base or simply on your bed. Yet another example of the extraordinary attention to detail that makes this such an extraordinary experience.
We planned our Saturday walk and headed off with our picnic lunch all loaded neatly into waxed cotton backpacks specially made for Breac.House at Atlantic Equipment in Sligo. On a particularly blustery day we found shelter from the wind at the designated Wild Atlantic Way viewing point and greedily ate our homemade soup, bread and treats.
A 12km loop brought us right down to the seacliffs at Coastguard Hill so we more than earned the soporific seaweed bath that awaited us on our return. Then Rita slept while I listened to music and browsed the eclectic magazine selection in the library lounge. Niall brought me fresh coffee and rich homemade fruitcake as we chatted about The Gloaming and whether they’d peaked in 2017! Before long it was time again for Gins and Tonic and dinner in Dunfanaghy at The Mill.
These days luxury is not about opulence or extravagance or bling. New luxury is about curated, personalised experiences, that are unique and real. It is also about time, time out, time away, time together in a setting that’s aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, relaxing, non intrusive. A setting that allows you to connect, re-connect, with yourself, with each other other, with creation. That’s what you get at Breac.House.
Pádraic Gilligan, Pat Delaney & Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, hotels, venues, associations and agencies on strategy, marketing and training for the Business Events / MICE industry.