Adare, Limerick: Huge growth in visitors to heritage hotspot

AUCTIONEERS will tell you that when advertising a property you need three strong sales pitches: Location, location, location.

The huge growth in visitor numbers to the heritage village of Adare over the past two years, can, according to the local hoteliers, be attributed also to three critical factors: Shannon Airport, Shannon Airport, Shannon Airport.

Hotels have never been as busy. And a new arrival on the tourism scene, JP McManus has aleady injected extra glitz with a huge celebration night at his Adare Manor recently which attracted royalty, the rich and famous. He bought the five-star property for a reputed €30m and plans to spend as much again on a major upgrade of the hotel. This work is due to commence early in the new year and it is believed the long-term goal is to bring the Ryder Cup to Adare in 2022.

Another long-established hotel, the Woodlands House Hotel owned by the Fitzgerald family, has just undergone a major €1m redevelopment, and been upgraded to four stars.

Adare, Limerick: Huge growth in visitors to heritage hotspot

David Fitzgerald

General manager David Fitzgerald says their new status will further boost business at the 89-room hotel which boasts a spa with swimming pool, fitness centre, gym, and a conference centre.

Mr Fitzgerald said: “We are enjoying a great year and business is up about 6%. The US and European markets are very strong and all the new routes into Shannon from the US and Ryanair’s new European routes are yielding huge results with regards to numbers. Shannon is critical to tourism in the Mid-West.

“The Wild Atlantic Way is also bringing lots of visitors to Adare. Although we are off the coastal route, many people travelling the Wild Atlantic Way like to take the opportunity to visit places such as Adare. After all, we are only less than a half-hour drive from the coast along the estuary. There is now a move by the tourism agencies to create loops off the Wild Atlantic Way to try to encourage people to come to places like Adare which are just off the main route.”

He said that as a four-star hotel they will attract more tour operators who are looking for four-star facilities for their clients: “We found that a lot of tour operators would not consider the three-star market. Being four-star we will be able to grow our business having access to a new and wider market. We have carried out a major re-development over the past three years investing over €1m.”

Adare, Limerick: Huge growth in visitors to heritage hotspot

Adare Town Park

The Woodlands House is one of the country’s busiest wedding venues. Mr Fitzgerald said: “During the recession we found the number of weddings did not fall off very significantly, but there was a noticeable drop in the number of guests attending. Basically a lot of people declined invitations, due to factors such as unemployment and having less disposable income. And many guests who did attend weddings, did not stay overnight.”

Meanwhile, the Murphy family took over the four-star Dunraven Arms in the late-1980s from Lord Dunraven.

Louis Murphy said: “We are very busy and this increase in business is being fuelled by the new US flights into Shannon. The transatlantic services into Shannon are very good. Many US golfers now prefer to fly into Shannon rather than Dublin, because of all the fine courses that are relatively short distances from Shannon. And here in Adare we have two fabulous courses — the Adare Manor Hotel course has been voted the best parkland course in this country. Another factor with regard to the US market this year is that American visitors are getting great value for their dollar as are UK visitors getting more for sterling. We have weddings on Fridays and Saturdays and only do one wedding each day so a couple and their guests have exclusive use of the hotel. And Adare is such a beautiful place to have a wedding. We have 86 rooms and the Dunraven Arms is a quality product, offering a very personal service, dating back to 1792.”

Adare, Limerick: Huge growth in visitors to heritage hotspot

The Blue Door Restaurant in Adare

Mr Murphy said the European market is also very strong this year.

‘At least six years before bypass is completed’ 

While many visit Adare to admire its beauty, it is viewed as a hazard by thousands of road users on the N21 who contend with long tailbacks on both sides of the village each day.

A proposal to construct a bypass has encountered many obstacles over the years. A man with a keen interest in the issue, Bryan Smyth, says it will be at least six years before a planned bypass can be completed.

After years of objections and planning refusals, Limerick City and County Council have embarked on what is hoped will be a bypass plan which will result in a new road. A new roadway is planned to access the Port of Foynes from the N69.

Three of the four options under consideration provide for a connecting road from the N69 coast road to the N21 south of Adare and a link road from the N21 to the main roads network around Limerick City. This would include a bypass of Adare.

Bryan Smyth said up to 16,000 vehicles, including articulated trucks, pass through Adare each day. On busy bank holidays, this figure can spiral to 30,000, creating massive delays for people travelling towards Kerry and the South West.

Limerick City and County Council is expected, in the coming months, to announce their preferred route for the new connecting route to Foynes Port on the N69. Mr Smyth expects this will provide for a bypass of Adare.

He said: “When this has been decided a 12-month environmental study will have to be carried out.”

After this, the council will have to embark on the planning process.

Mr Smyth said: “I would not envisage one blade of grass being turned on a new road until 2018 and then you are talking of a period of at least three years to construct a new road.”

Designer boutiques lure shoppers to village

Adare, Limerick: Huge growth in visitors to heritage hotspot

Kay Mulcaire at her clothing boutique, Isobel, on Main St in Adare. A major extension is about to begin in the store to double its space. Picture: Press 22

Adare is fast becoming a major destination for women who wish to shop for top designer fashion labels.

A cluster of shops in the centre of the village are a new focal point for followers of high fashion.

Kay Mulcaire, who runs two shops in the village, blazed the trail about 15 years ago when she opened K’s Boutique, just off Main St.

A mother of two, Kay is married to race horse trainer, Michael Hourigan Jr, who has a national hunt string at Kilcoole, Rathkeale.

As business grew, Kay decided to expand and opened her second shop, Isobel, on Main St.

Adare, Limerick: Huge growth in visitors to heritage hotspot

Isobel boutique in Adare

And business has grown so much she is now about to add a major extension and double her shop floor space to 3,000 sq ft.

Kay said: “K’s Boutique offers separates and knitwear collections. In Isobel we have our luxury, exclusive stuff. Our brands include Diane Von Furstenburg, Roberto Cavalli and Michael Kors. I would say that 80% of our customers are Irish. Women from all over the country now travel to Adare to shop knowing that all the top exclusive international brands are available.”

“Adare has now established itself as a fashion destination and it is growing all the time. That’s why I have decided I need to carry out a major expansion of my shop on the main street, so I can increase my range of brands.” While in the shop I spoke to two women who travelled to shop in Adare.

One told me: “We have come down from the Midlands. We are having a lovely day. We started out with lunch in the Dunraven Arms and we are now going around the shops and the range is fantastic and there are very good discounts.”

Down the street in Catherine McCormack’s fashion shop, Marie Berkery, who works there part-time, was busy looking after a number of customers. She said: “We have clothing from leading international designers such as Milly, Paule Ka, Sonia Rykiel. We also carry garments by Don O’Neill who comes from Listowel and whose garments are worn by many famous women like Oprah. We are very busy at the moment.”

A big name in Irish fashion for decades, Michelina Stacpoole still trades in Adare. Her son Sebastian runs the business. As well as his mother’s designs, he also deals in antiques.

However, Sebastian said the antiques business is not as strong as it used to be and attributed this to visitors being conscious of weight in their luggage.


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