Above: Adare Manor. Photo: Jack Hardy
Hotel & Catering Review checked in to a new-look Adare Manor to discover a prestigious property that comes with plenty of grá.
When one of Ireland’s most luxurious resorts closes its doors for a 21-month period to undertake an extensive restoration programme, you know the results are bound to be special. That’s exactly what took place at Limerick’s Adare Manor ahead of its reopening in November 2017 and the outcome does not disappoint. Six months on, it can be safely said that the hotel – purchased by businessman JP McManus for an estimated €30 million in 2015 – takes its place among the top luxury destinations not only in Ireland but around the world.
“Am I proud of what we have achieved here? Of course,” says General Manager Paul Heery, who came on-board in June 2017 having previously managed hotels of the calibre of The Gleneagles in Scotland. “There has been a lot involved in opening a property of this scale. We opened in November so Christmas was upon us. We have done a lot and as I said we are proud, but there is still so much to do. It’s a special property and I think we can create something magical down here in Adare Manor that I’m not sure is elsewhere in the country. That’s the exciting journey that we’re on at the moment.”
The newly-designed resort boasts a new 42-bedroom wing, bringing the total number of bedrooms at the property to 104. The entire extension has been clad in limestone in a bid to complement the architectural detail of the original manor house. A new ballroom with a capacity for 350 guests has been added, catering for weddings, events and conferences. Indeed, when we visited, the property was playing host to a wedding group of 180 guests, whose glitz and glamour fitted right in. The interior of the original manor house has been fully refurbished with a new La Mer spa, pool and relaxation area. That’s in addition to a boardroom and cinema for guests and delegates to enjoy. Some new walking trails and walled gardens have also been added to the 842-acre estate.
The resort employs 320 staff with plans to increase that to 350 in the weeks ahead. “It shows the commitment to the service and the detail that we are trying to achieve,” says Heery. “If I was to put a percentage on it, I’d say 70 per cent of them are coming from the local community. We currently have around 60 employees who sleep on-site so we are providing accommodation for key groups of people, and we feel that within hospitality at the moment there is that need.”
Heery also notes that recruitment has been key to maintaining the high customer service standards set at Adare Manor. One of the values that the hotel adopts is ‘grá’, the Irish word for ‘love’. “When we’re sitting down interviewing people we always want to know that they have the love for the job so, no matter what that job in the business is, they actually have the love and the commitment for it, because we can’t give them that,” he explains.
“They have got to have that love. Any of the iconic hotels throughout the world, those top 15 or 20 hotels, it’s always about the people. The soul and the culture is all down to the people. We want to do that with our people here.”
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
One of the most striking features throughout Adare Manor is its exquisite attention to detail, from silk wallpaper to Ballyhoura ceramics. Brendan O’Connor, newly appointed resident manager, tells us that, as part of the refurbishment process, a huge amount of thought and effort was put into the décor.
“Every part of the detail involves telling a story or connecting things,” he explains. “For example, Bernardaud from Limoges in France do all our crockery for us. In the Oak Room, we used the ceiling pattern and it is reflected as a white pattern in the tableware. It’s very subtle. One in a million people will cop that it is a reflection but it’s great for us to be able to tell people that that’s the effort we went to. When they see it, it puts a smile on their face.”
The restoration and construction programme, which involved up to 800 people, included upgrading and completely restoring all internal and external finishes, furniture and woodwork, and repairing all external stonework, windows and doors. That saw many of the old traditional tradespeople working on-site, such as stonemasons and French polishers; families who have specialised in such work for generations. “They work in places like Trinity College Dublin or many of the older buildings [in Ireland] so it was great to get them down to the country and work on this project,” says O’Connor. “That set the tone for restoring one of the most important architectural buildings in the country.”
The openings and additions at Adare Manor have been coming thick and fast since our visit. In May, the Carriage House Restaurant, Terrace and Bar – where guests can enjoy an artisan grill experience in a stylishly relaxed atmosphere – was opened. Additionally, in late April, golfers Rory McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry cut the ribbon on the new golf course at Adare Manor. Designed by renowned golf course designer Tom Fazio, it’s a course capable of hosting the world’s most prestigious golfing events and will be the venue for the high-profile JP McManus Pro-Am in 2020.
Adare Manor plays a key role in the local community and it is estimated that the resort will contribute in excess of €15 million to the local economy annually. With the revamped hotel now in immaculate condition, the Adare Manor team hopes to welcome around 60,000 visitors per year. For now, it’s simply a case of spreading the word.
“I think if Adare Manor can become known throughout the world for exceptional services and creating memories with great, warm Irish hospitality, we’ll be very happy,” says Heery. “If we can make a little bit of money along the way and ensure that there is profitability then it’s a win-win. But it’s a special place and when you stand and look at it, it’s a piece of magic. Not everyone knows about it and that’s key to it finding its feet on this journey.”
If you’re planning a stay at Adare Manor, make sure to book yourself in for a spot of falconry. Set within the ground’s walled garden, you can get up close and personal with some of the world’s most majestic birds of prey. Resident falconer Liam Ford is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to his feathered friends and will provide you with ample opportunity to get photos with the likes of Olaf the snowy owl, Flash the peregrine falcon or Oscar the Eurasian eagle owl.