Two hospitality establishments given a makeover by John and Francis Brennan of RTÉ’s At Your Service programme open their doors this weekend with high hopes for the future.
Milltown House in Dingle, Co Kerry, was relaunched yesterday by owners Stephen Mc Philemy, an Irish tour guide from Donegal, and his business partner, American Patrick Wade. Having bought Milltown House at the start of this year, it was their dream to restore the Hollywood charm of the house once occupied by film star Robert Mitchum.
Neither of them has direct experience of the hospitality industry, although Stephen has been a tour guide for more than 15 years. He knows the tourist industry really well but this is his first venture into hospitality.
Over the past six months, the Brennan brothers have been helping Milltown House get their business into shape and things are looking good, according to Francis, the more loquacious presenter of At Your Service.
“Milltown is an outstanding location,” says Francis. “It had fallen into disrepair in the last few years, though, but the new owners have spent a few bob on and it will be fully ready for next season.
“It is a quality product so we felt they should go after the premium market. It didn’t need any huge structural work, just a tidy-up and refocus and re-staffing.
“They had the downstairs done, before we arrived and put in a bar with an old church feel to it. They have also linked up with Dingle distillery, which is a clever idea.
“They have good plans for it and I think they will go well. You could hardly get a better location and the gardens have what must be the finest display of Agapanthus plants in Ireland.”
Sherkin North Shore on Sherkin Island, Co Cork, relaunches tomorrow and is a labour of love for Mike and Kathy O’Connor who plan to turn it into a centre for personal development, offering everything from yoga to art as well as corporate team building.
Kathy, an American, and Mike met while he was on his J1 visa in the US. Kathy is a retired art teacher and wants to use her teaching experience and love of art in the new centre. Mike is a retired vet and wants to share the island experience with others.
Island life can a challenge and it can be difficult to attract new business, says Francis , but he believes Kathy and Mike have what it takes to succeed.
“Sherkin island is a truly magical place and North Shore overlooks Roaringwater bay,” says Francis. “Mike and Kathy have identified what will work and will be offering everything from yoga retreats to painting workshops.”
Kathy is anxious to point out that it is not just groups they hope to attract. “We are also open for general accommodation, not just personal development,” she says. “If anyone wants to get away from it all with their kids, we would be delighted to welcome them.”
The highlight of tomorrow’s launch will feature a set dancing workshop, so the Brennans will have to make like Michael Flatley.
“I’ll bring my pom-poms,” promises Francis.
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