Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, Michael Ring TD today presented second generation owners and husband and wife team Simon Haden and Frederieke McMurray of the world class Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare with the award of ‘AA Ireland’s Hotel of the Year’ for 2011/2012, the most prestigious prize in the Irish Hospitality Industry.
Run by the Haden family since 1967 significantly Gregans Castle Hotel is the first ever AA Three Red Star property in the long and respected history of the AA Ireland Accommodation grading scheme to be named ‘AA Ireland’s Hotel of the Year’. Judged on the basis of its performance within its chosen field, the Burren retreat fought off tough competition from Ireland’s finest properties including five star resorts to be crowned the ultimate winner.
On its journey to becoming ‘AA Ireland Hotel of the Year 2011/2012’ Gregans Castle Hotel was also awarded the ‘AA Ireland Courtesy and Care Award’ in 2006 in acknowledgement of their passion and commitment to excellent Irish Hospitality. It was also awarded AA Red Star status in 1994, a standard it has retained ever since making it a consistent leader within the Country House Hotel category and an ‘AA Inspectors Choice Hotel’.
A highlight of any stay at Gregans Castle Hotel is a visit to its restaurant, ‘The Dining Room’ which was awarded 3 AA Rosettes in 2010 making it one of only six restaurants in Ireland to hold 3 AA Rosettes or higher. The awarding of 3 AA Rosettes is a true mark of culinary excellence and a salute to the extraordinary cookery of their acclaimed Finnish Head Chef, Mickael Viljanen. Mouth watering specialties at ‘The Dining Room’ include organic Burren lamb and beef and fresh Atlantic fish and shellfish. AA Hotel Inspectors described Viljanen dishes which display a high level of intricacy and imagination as being served with real panache. They also commended the use of fresh produce sourced from local artisan producers and lots of woodland foraging for fungi and herbs. Breakfast with its freshly baked breads, stewed fruits, local yoghurts and selection of hot dishes are also a real highlight at Gregans.
Speaking at the ceremony Minister Ring said “Hospitality professionals such as Simon, Frederieke and their award winning peers here today are true ambassadors for Irish Tourism. It’s essential for Ireland’s tourism industry, and for our wider economy, that Irish hospitality continues to be seen as second to none, and that we continue to do ourselves proud in this area. Well done to the staff at each of the award winning establishments on their excellent achievements.”
A country house hotel at its best, Gregans Castle Hotel which is located at the foot of The Corkscrew Hill with breathtaking views of Galway Bay and Ballyvaghan Valley, offers its guests an oasis of comfort where they can unwind, soak up genuine hospitality and enjoy mouth watering cuisine.
To claim this year’s title of ‘AA Ireland Hotel of the Year’ Gregans Castle Hotel faced the dual task of demonstrating both excellence and improvement within the 18 months leading up to the awards.
While already celebrated for its superior hospitality and outstanding modern European cuisine the constant investment by Simon and Frederieke in the tasteful upkeep of this gracious country house was one of the key factors in their success this year according to inspectors.
Guests at Gregans Castle Hotel are greeted by elegant antique furniture, welcoming open fires, candle light, generous jugs of fresh cut flowers, modern art and individually decorated bedrooms which are named after areas of The Burren countryside. Each bedroom boasts an enchanting view of Gregan’s delightful grounds and gardens which include a woodland trail. An Art Gallery showcasing works by local artists has also recently been added at Gregans Castle Hotel for guests to enjoy.
Despite noticeable sacrifices throughout the hospitality industry, stylish refurbishments have been lovingly overseen by Frederieke at Gregans Castle Hotel. Fredericke’s stylish artistic talent in design and colour is mirrored in the natural and wonderful colours of the Burren throughout the bedrooms and lounges. Rugs and carpets from the world famous and long established McMurray family business in Clifden which were set up by Fredericke’s father in Moyard in the 1970’s are lovingly chosen to match the colour schemes.
The environmental policy at Gregans Castle Hotel is another aspect which sets the Ballyvaughan property apart according to AA Hotel Inspectors. A special ecotourism package is available to guests which encompasses walking, bird watching, gardens and food. Bicycles are also provided free to guests and a local walking guide can be made available for walks in The Burren. In addition, Gregans Castle Hotel are a founding member of ‘The Burren Ecotourism Network’, members of ‘Slow Food Clare’, ‘The Burrenbeo Trust’ and ‘Leave No Trace.’
AA Hotel Inspectors also took note of the well judged, knowledgeable and attentive service provided by Simon and his friendly team of staff many of whom have worked there for years.
Simon Haden, Proprietor and General Manager, Gregans Castle Hotel: “Myself, Freddie and all the team here at Gregans Castle Hotel are extremely proud to be named AA Ireland Hotel of the Year 2012. We have and have had the extraordinary good fortune to have a small committed team who are each imbued with the genuine desire to deliver the best possible product no matter how much effort it takes. Our stunning location is a lucky given but our deep felt passion and that of our staff to take the concept of a simple Country House Hotel and develop and deliver an all round world class product is what makes a proud achievement like today’s possible. This incredibly prestigious award is further evidence that developing a holistic ethos of quality, respect and customer care and an infinite commitment to improvement, innovation and environmental awareness should be the practice of any hotel or hospitality business striving to keep ahead and succeed in today’s difficult climate”.
Brendan Nevin, CEO of AA Ireland: “Gregans Castle Hotel is a superb example of intrinsic Irish Hospitality passed on from one generation to the next. Their delivery of excellent yet environmentally sustainable tourism is truly commendable. It’s an absolute pleasure to single them out as the first ever AA 3 Star property to win the illustrious title of ‘AA Ireland Hotel of the Year’. Our heartfelt congratulations go to the whole team.”
In addition to the ‘AA Hotel of the Year 2011/2012’ the AA today announces the winners of the ‘AA Courtesy and Care Award’, ‘AA Guest Accommodation Award’ and the ‘AA Bean an Tí of the Year’ award.
OTHER AWARD WINNERS
AA IRELAND COURTESY & CARE AWARD 2011/2012
The AA 4 Star Ardilaun Hotel and Leisure Club, Taylors Hill, Galway wins the ‘AA Courtesy and Care Award 2011/2012’. The Award, linked to the AA’s motto of Courtesy and Care, is awarded annually to the AA hotel, which offers nothing short of excellent Irish Hospitality.
One of the key criteria of this award is that staff are true and genuine ambassadors for the hotel something which is abundantly clear at the second generation run Ardilaun Hotel and Leisure Club which next year celebrates its 50th anniversary. Many of the staff have worked for current proprietor and manager John Ryan and his family for many years and AA Inspectors noted an outstanding team spirit and passion for hospitality throughout the business.
The resounding philosophy among the cheerful staff at the Ardilaun Hotel is that “nothing is too much trouble” something which has deservedly won them a tremendously loyal following of repeat guests’ year in, year out who liken the property to a ‘home from home.’
The team’s commitment to customer care is consistent across every facet of hotel from the immaculate housekeeping of their luxurious bedrooms, attentive yet unobtrusive table service at their award winning Camilaun Restaurant and warm and friendly staff at their fantastic leisure club which offers an 18 meter pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, exercise classes plus all the latest gym technology.
The Ardilaun Hotel and Leisure Club also boasts a choice of two banqueting rooms ideal for weddings, excellent conference and banqueting facilities plus a full beauty salon. The Ryan family also continue to invest in the refurbishment of their luxurious hotel so its guests can continue to enjoy the finest quality of comfort and hospitality as it enters into its next half a century.
AA IRELAND GUEST ACCOMMODATION OF THE YEAR AWARD 2011/2012
‘Gorman’s Clifftop House and Restaurant’, Glaise Bheag, Ballydavid, Dingle Penninsula, Kerry wins the ‘AA Ireland Guest Accommodation of the Year’ for 2011/2012, an award which is given to the best in the AA’s Bed & Breakfast, Guesthouse and Farmhouse category.
Owned and run by husband and wife, Vincent and Síle Gorman, who are true devotees of the hospitality and cuisine business, Gorman’s Cliff top House and Restaurant which is perched on a cliff top at the extreme end of the stunning Dingle Penninsula boasts breath taking views through wide windows of Smerwick Harbour, the Black Rock, the Atlantic Ocean and the Three Sisters. Starting its life as a welcoming café and small B&B offering homemade baking thirty odd years ago, in 2000 the Gormans built their purpose built guest house as it stands today.
Seven generations of the Gorman family have farmed and fished in the Dingle Penninsula area and Vincent’s passion for local, sustainable produce is what sets the standards at Gorman’s award winning restaurant which attained 1 AA Rosette standard and an AA breakfast award in May of this year. Vincent’s past as a fisherman and farmer are truly evident in the quality of his cooking today and fresh fish and crab originally caught by Vincent himself continue to be their speciality on their menu. Among the best of local ingredients used by Vincent in their recently refurbished restaurant are Prime Hereford Beef, Kerry Lamb from a Dingle Butcher, breakfast ingredients from Annascaul, Liospole free range eggs, Dingle peninsula cheese, Dan Browns fish and vegetables from their own garden.
“A room with a view” is an ideal way to describe the spacious bedrooms at ‘Gorman’s Clifftop House and Restaurant’ which look out onto either a sea or mountain vista. Even the provenance of their bedroom furniture is local with handmade wax pine furniture, Louis Mulcahy pottery lamps and tapestry wall hangings by Lisbeth Mulcahy. Free wi-fi access, Jacuzzi baths and DVD players are also available in the rooms.
Despite the addition of modcons to the Gorman’s Clifftop House and Restaurant which sees the same guests faithfully return year after year the welcoming heart of the property remains its lounge area with its traditional open turf fire where guests can have a chat, have a drink or curl up beside the fire with one of the many books on offer in the hotel.
AA IRELAND BEAN AN TI OF THE YEAR
Margaret Gill of Bertra House B&B, Murrisk, Co. Mayo wins the AA Ireland ‘Bean an Tí of the Year Award’ for 2011/2012. This special award, unique to Ireland, celebrates exceptional commitment and hard work by an individual proprietor to first-rate hospitality.
Margaret and her husband, John Joe have been running the idyllically situated Bertra B&B for the last twenty six years since shortly after they were married. Originally from Knockmore near Ballina, Margaret muses that she was first classified as a blow in when she arrived at Bertra House all those years ago.
In addition to its spectacular views of “The Reek” of Croagh Patrick to the South and Clew Bay and Achill Island to the West, Margaret’s warmth, kindness and endeavour to make guests stays as enjoyable as possible is what sets Bertra House apart from other B&Bs according to AA Inspectors and the many guests who have had the pleasure of staying there. Visitors to Margaret’s B&B will certainly start the day well nourished thanks to her delicious homemade breads, fruits scones, preserves and the hearty traditional Irish breakfast on offer. Margaret’s immaculate housekeeping of her five light and airy bedrooms also add to the comfortable atmosphere which prevails in what AA Inspectors describe as a “special house where standards surpass expectation.”
Notes to the editor;
The following images are available for free download at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaireland/ from 3pm on 09/11/2011.
– Pictures of Minister Michael Ring and Brendan Nevin, Chief Executive of AA Ireland presenting the ‘AA Hotel of the Year Award to Simon Haden and Frederieke McMurray, Proprietors of Gregans Castle Hotel.
– Pictures of John Ryan, Proprietor of Ardilaun Hotel & Leisure Club, Mr & Mrs Vincent Gorman, Proprietors of Gormans Clifftop House & Restaurant and Margaret Gill, Proprietor of Bertra House B&B being awarded the ‘AA Ireland Courtesty & Care Award’, ‘AA Ireland Guest Accommodation of the Year Award’ and ‘AA Bean an Tí of the Year Award’ respectively by Minister Michael Ring and Brendan Nevin, Chief Executive of AA Ireland
– AA Ireland Hospitality awards logos.
– A selection of high resolution photographs of each of the winning properties listed above.
AA Hotel Services had its beginning in 1908 in the UK when it was discovered that motorists were having difficulty finding reasonable meals and accommodation. It was then decided at the annual AGM to introduce a new scheme to include selected hotels in the AA member’s handbook and distinguish these hotels with a specially commissioned AA sign. In 1912, the then AA secretary, Stenson Cooke, who had once been a wine and spirit salesman, proposed a star rating system, not dissimilar to that used for brandy. And so the hotel star rating system was born, with three star classification being adopted as the standard. It was at this time that the first AA hotel inspectors were introduced.
3. About the AA Hospitality Awards
The AA Hospitality Awards are amongst the most prestigious awards of their kind and draw on the unrivalled knowledge and expertise of the AA inspectorate and other industry professionals involved in the judging process. Winners are selected in recognition of excellence and success within their chosen category, having shown a significant improvement in the preceding 12 to 18 months and proving their dedication to raising industry standards and enhancing both their guest and diner experiences.
Further information on:
For further information on other awards winners listed above please contact: Mairead Browne, AA Hotel Services, 01 617 9375, firstname.lastname@example.org
Miriam O’ Neill, PR Exec at AA Ireland began working in the AA in August 2010. Miriam’s core activities on a day to day basis include management of the AA’s media relations programme, generation of quality coverage in support of key business lines, provision of content for AA social media channels and the AA customer Ezine, regular broadcast interviews, occasional events management and interactions with the large AA customer base on motor policy issues.