Éire B&B: Meet the next generation of Irish bed and breakfast owners – Independent.ie

Éire B&B: Meet the next generation of Irish bed and breakfast owners – Independent.ie

Until a few years ago, the building we’re being in, on the corner of Bridge and Shore street on the sea front in Donaghadee, Co Down, was a shabby previous chemist – all peeling peach paintwork and PVC windows. Now, with its charcoal outside, discrete signs and elegant sash windows, it looks more like a special personal members’ club. Definitely not the image a lot of individuals would create if you asked to think about a B&B … which is exactly what it is.

Welcome to a new period of visitor lodging in Ireland, where a next-generation wave of B&B owners is offering a fresh take on a time-honoured tradition of homely hospitality. Forget Vacancy/No Vacancy indications or outdated B&B clichés like floral wallpaper, net curtains and knitted toilet-roll holders; the sector has actually moved on with a focus now firmly on luxury bedrooms and craftsmen breakfasts using local, seasonal active ingredients.

That delicious coffee I can smell in One Shore Street is courtesy of the on-trend Belfast roasters, Root and Branch. The local Finnebrogue bacon served at breakfast (on Knead and Prove sourdough with avocado as needed) is nitrate-free. The colour on the walls, which easily matches the steely blue-grey of the sea-view beyond, is ‘slate 1’ from the high-end Paint & Paper Library. And the lucky guests who get to waddle off to among the B&B’s 5 bedrooms will be tucking themselves into goose feather and down duvets, on soft cashmere bed mattress with sumptuous, 200 thread count linen.

It seems like there must be an out of breath M&S voiceover declaring: “This isn’t * simply * a B&B …”

” It’s supposed to be a reward,” grins owner Karen Bolleboom who, along with her other half John, opened doors on One Shore Street at the start of this year.

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Karen Bolleboom of One Shore Street, Donaghadee, County Down. Photo © Press Eye/Darren Kidd
Karen Bolleboom of One Coast Street, Donaghadee, County Down. Photo © Press Eye/Darren Kidd




” I most likely see it more as a store hotel, not a location to crash for the night when you have actually had a few too lots of. It’s targeted at grownups who have actually taken a trip a bit and want something with a particular level of high-end and escapism, something distinct.”


Obviously luxury comes at a price and, depending on whether you choose for sea views and a gleaming, nickel-plated, free-standing bath or the romantic beauty of the top floor suite, prices for a room at One Coast Street begin at ₤140/ EUR 155.


However the demand exists. Bookings have actually been brisk, with guests already returning 2 or 3 times eager to enjoy not just the thrills of the B&B however also the covert gem beauty of Donaghadee with its stunning clubs like Grace Neills, its close-by Bird Observatory and the freshly opened Copeland Spirits distillery.

For all the talk of hip hotels and Airbnbs, the Irish B&B trade hasn’t disappeared. Reservations are up 2pc this year and profits increased 18 pc in 2018 to over EUR112 million.

This boost in need has been consulted with a boom in arrangement. According to Fáilte Ireland’s newest figures, 20 recently authorized B&B s went into the market in 2017, bringing the total of authorized B&B s in operation throughout the country to 1,100

” The B&B experience has been at the heart of Irish hospitality for a long period of time and it’s going to continue,” states Karen O’Connor, digital marketing manager for B&B Ireland. “Tourism numbers are up and there suffice individuals coming in to remain in all these accommodation alternatives – the demand is there.”

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All in the details: Sorcha Molloy of Heron's Rest B&B. Photo: Julia Dunin Photography.
All in the information: Sorcha Molloy of Heron’s Rest B&B. Image: Julia Dunin Photography


B&B Ireland has some800registered B&B s on its books, with 15 pc of those listings included in the past five years.” There’s been a big market development, “states Karen.” A lot of individuals are deciding’ I’ll attempt this’, I think Airbnb has actually opened the idea to individuals. “


It’s obvious that there are mixed mindsets to Airbnb in
the hospitality sector, however Karen sees it as healthy competitors- although she’s fast to point out the benefits that come with reserving a signed up B&B.


” The B&B experience we’re offering is around the Irish family home -a quality break, “she states.” In my viewpoint Airbnb is a little more casual- it may be somebody’s home, it might be a room outside, an annex. There are different standards. A registered B&B has approval behind it, you know there’s a great level of quality, the property has actually been checked, the owner has planning permission, a fire cert, all their regulations and, if there’s an issue, you have actually somebody to come back to.”

She says there’s now no such thing as a normal B&B visitor. “Ten or 15 years ago you would have said it was generally the older generation, today it’s young, old – there’s no stereotype.” The very same with owners – enduring hosts use a wealth of experience, while the younger generation bring enthusiasm, fresh energy and brand-new concepts.

Karen, originally from close-by Bangor, Co Down had actually been residing in London for 23 years, and working for the European bank, when she returned to Northern Ireland to open One Shore Street (which technically is branded ‘guest lodging’ considering that the couple live nearby, not onsite, the main stipulation for an ‘official’ B&B).

” We desired to try,” Karen says. “We were trying to find an opportunity to have our own company, live by the sea and we liked Donaghadee. When we saw the structure for sale it was a case of best time, ideal location. We desired an experience.”

That’s something that Tristan Fahy and his partner, Emma, can associate with. “I ‘d operated in marketing for 10 years and Emma in nursing and it was getting where we felt we could anticipate what we ‘d be doing for the next 30 years,” he explains. “We desired to take a leap into something more exciting and difficult.”

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Right at home: Tristan Fahy and Emma King run Hook Lodge. Photo: Mary Browne.
Right at house: Tristan Fahy and Emma King run Hook Lodge. Photo: Mary Browne



The couple opened Hook Lodge, on the Hook Peninsula in Co Wexford,18 months earlier, and it was included in the Irish Independent’s Fab50 list ofIreland’s50Finest Places to Stay in 2019.

” Our entire objective was to attempt and stick out,” states Tristan.” We identified that everyone is so hectic nowadays that when they take a break, why not produce a house far from home that has the amenities and small touches that all of us delight in?”

With costs beginning from EUR95 per space, their B&B concentrates on developed deals with. It’s adults just, Nespresso devices grace each of the four city-styled bedrooms and guests can nestle down in soothing spaces like the library or yoga room. As a fully-trained physical fitness instructor, Tristan plans to develop a work-out retreat element to the service, building on their ‘health’ ethos. This year they switched out the popular fry-up choice on their breakfast menu for choices like smashed avocado on eggs, smoked salmon and porridge.

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Caroline and Richie Foley of Roseville Guesthouse. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision.
Caroline and Richie Foley of Roseville Guesthouse. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision



” It was a threat but not one guest has actually grumbled or perhaps questioned the new healthier options!” laughs Tristan.

A B&B without the Complete Irish? Surely not. But it appears ripping up the menu, in addition to the guideline book, is a typical style with the new B&B generation.


” When I began out I believed the full Irish breakfast was a non-negotiable part of a B&B and vigilantly stockpiled on rashers, sausages, black and white pudding and the trimmings,” exposes Sorcha Molloy, a trained chef who, since2004, has been running the acclaimed, store B&B The Heron’s Rest in Galway. One day a visitor, looking for a lighter breakfast offering, encouraged Sorcha to only prepare the food she wanted to prepare.


” From that day forward we never cooked another rasher in the house,” she laughs.

” Nowadays we provide artisanal treated sausages from Gubbeen, honey-baked ham from our local butcher, fantastic smoked salmon and mackerel from Burren Smokehouse, farmhouse cheese, luxurious home-made museli with local natural yoghurt, in your area roasted coffee and fresh baking done in-house each morning.”

The best B&B owners will make it look easy – offering a cheerful welcome and the impression that all the fumbling with superking bedding and scrubbing of restrooms simply occurs by magic – however the hospitality trade can be a relatively inhospitable industry to survive in.

” We’ve had white-knuckle years, with a momentary closure, economic downturn and a home fire,” admits Sorcha.

” Pit against that the expansion of Airbnbs that fly under the BARREL radar, plus a 25 pc VAT increase this year … The only way we flourish is to keep our place a cut above the rest, with lots of thoughtful additionals – all at an excellent cost.”

Diversity is likewise important. The Heron’s Rest now operates self-catering options in the surrounding building, however with support from the primary B&B team who will schedule dining establishments, provide premium breakfasts and hand-crafted picnic baskets on request.

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Family affair: Second generation B&B owner Gemma Hill-Wilkinson of Ross House, Co. Sligo. Photo: James Connolly

Family affair: Second generation B&B owner Gemma Hill-Wilkinson of Ross House,
Co. Sligo.
Picture: James Connolly

Spaces in the B&B start from EUR129 and there’s on-site parking.

At One Shore Street, Karen is running pop-up dining events, hosted by award-winning Co Down chef, Will Brown. The very first night in April offered out with many customers choosing to likewise stay over. The 2nd already has a prolonged waiting list.

However modification can be a little bit more tricky when you’re quite actually a 2nd generation B&B owner.

For almost 60 years, Oriel and Nicholas Hill-Wilkinson have welcomed guests into their home, Ross Home, a conventional 19 th century farmhouse embeded in the rolling countryside of Co Sligo. Now the couple’s daughter, Gemma, is taking control of the B&B’s reins.

” Mum was a founding member of Irish Farmhouse Holidays,” exposes Gemma. “Someone asked her if she would do B&B for two or 3 months and that turned into 57 years! We have guests who have actually been returning for 30 years. They have actually seen my bro and I mature and now they’re seeing our kids grow up. My mum has developed a remarkable reputation, which is wonderful, however it likewise includes a lot of pressure to follow in those footsteps! Her and my daddy have grown the business and I know they are thrilled to see my strategies, but there’s definitely a balance to be struck between keeping the important things that have actually worked so well and putting my own stamp on it.”

To that end she’s been considering up the potential of the farm structures as self-catering homes and starting interior decoration updates in the 5 existing bed rooms, where a stay costs EUR45 per individual per night. But she has no desire to significantly alter a tried-and-tested formula.

” The home is a genuine homely home and I believe that’s why people like coming back – it feels like home,” she discusses. Oriel’s popular cooked breakfast is most definitely remaining.

In 2015 Richie Foley and his wife, Caroline, took over the running of the splendid Roseville House in Youghal, Co Cork, a B&B first introduced by Richie’s mom Phyllis in1987 The modification in ownership marked a brand-new chapter in the B&B’s life with the couple keen to take a more contemporary technique to the conventional B&B design. It was another inclusion on this year’s Fab 50

They got rid of a shared dining-room and guests now have the alternative of two roomy suites – not rooms – where, from EUR59 pp sharing, personalised breakfasts and freshly squeezed orange juice are hand-delivered each morning under shining silver domes.

Comfy, wing-backed chairs provide uninterrupted views of the garden and each suite also boasts a totally equipped larder – complete with fresh milk, not a container of UHT in sight.

The decision to concentrate on the day-time use of guest rooms – instead of entirely utilized for the ‘bed’ element of the B&B experience – was notified by the couple’s own experiences.

” We desired to provide something actually different,” explains Richie. “We essentially sat down and evaluated all over we had stayed over the past 10 years and chose the positives and negatives of our experiences – everything from small spaces in New york city to 5 star hotels in Ireland with breakfast buffets where someone has used the bean utensil and stuck it in the scrambled eggs!”

Their in-room breakfast service (guests fill in a card the night before) indicates no-one needs to rush down, or perhaps gown for breakfast. There’s also no dining space to clean. However when making changes to something as individual as a home-grown company it can be inevitable that sensations are slighted and modifications perceived as criticisms. Richie is frank about the fact that taking the reins was not completely without its challenges, however feels working towards a make over for Roseville House has proved a triumph and a terrific addition to Youghal town.

That’s not to say it’s constantly simple. “You require to be friendly and friendly, open to satisfying brand-new individuals and truly take an interest in them,” says Richie. “You also require to be hard-working due to the fact that running a B&B is hard and dealing with the general public can be challenging.”

” You’re dealing with guests,” includes Tristan from Hook Lodge. “You likewise require to keep in mind that yes, you are a B&B however also a small company so be prepared for all the aspects that go with that such as tax, accounting and returns, expense analysis, marketing, sales and – of course – cooking, bed-making and cleaning!”

He includes: “We’ve absolutely never regretted the choice however we have actually gained a great deal of viewpoint. The dream of moving to the countryside likewise includes long hours cleaning up toilets! There was a great deal of security in the corporate world …”

” I’ve a new discovered respect for individuals who own their own service,” agrees Karen of One Shore Street. “It’s a culture shock understanding no-one is going to pay me loan on a monthly basis, I have to go out and get it.”

She feels lucky that, aside from organizing ‘music and coffee’, John’s main work is his IT job in Dublin. At the moment every penny of revenue created by the B&B returns into the business and the build itsshoreelf was far from inexpensive – even with the help of a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant.

” I don’t even know what figure to provide,” says Karen grimacing slightly. “Half a million, probably more. The grant covered some, it allowed us to continue and do the building justice.”

And from conventional Bangor Blue slates on the roofing system, a staircase where the old perfectly mixes with the brand-new and stylish Georgian-style panelling, they have more than done it justice.

Modern accents like cool marble tabletops, a striking copper and glass lighting fixture and elegant crockery from the trendy Scandi-brand, Broste sit conveniently with the charm of the old building, traditional beehive door knobs and toggle light switches.

Atmospheric works by Causeway coast artist, Adrian Margey, all portraying regional landscapes, hang on the walls and beyond … those captivating views of the harbour, where two horseriders have actually just cantered along the surf, past the lighthouse, and a swimming group is about to start.

” I’ve no regrets,” smiles Karen. “Life is for living and this is the start of something for us, let’s see where it goes.”

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