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With top conference facilities, gourmet appeal, and golfing greens as far as the eye can see, Ireland’s draw for the events market is already assured, yet investment continues to pour in. Catherine Quinn takes stock of the latest developments
CONRAD MOUNT JULIET'S NEW EQUESTRIAN CENTRE
Ireland’s rolling hills are great to enjoy on foot, but for a truly exhilarating experience, why not explore the open country on horseback? The idyllic Mount Juliet estate already offers a number of facilities for groups, including golfing and spa days as well as plenty of meeting and dining rooms, but the new centre gives corporate groups a chance to add riding to their packages. With equestrian activities including trekking, the centre comprises two arenas, an invigorating cross-country course and 18 miles of bridleways, show-jumps and a new stock of ponies and horses. The team caters for mixed ability groups, from the complete novice to the experienced horseman, and riders have access to Mount Juliet’s 1,500 acres of private parkland.
Mount Juliet, County Kilkenny. Tel: 00353 56 777 3000
THE CONVENTION CENTRE DUBLIN
While Dublin has always been an attractive location for the MICE market, it has long suffered from a lack of international-scale conference facilities. But with new investment from the EU, the city has recently scheduled the building of a world-class meetings venue. Due to open in 2010, the centre will accommodate meetings of up to 8,000 delegates, with a 2,000-seat auditorium, some 22 multi-purpose meeting rooms and approximately 4,500sq m of flexible exhibition and banqueting space. With work already well underway, the iconic building, based on Spencer Dock, is currently taking shape on the city waterfront.
Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin. Tel: 00353 1 856 0000
BENTLEY'S OYSTER BAR
In celebration of Ireland’s esteemed reputation for oysters, Bentley’s Oyster Bar opened its Dublin branch of the legendary London seafood restaurant this year. The premises include the main Bentley Bar & Grill which can be hired exclusively for 75 people at lunchtime only. The adjoining Aviator Lounge with views over St Stephens Green is more deliberately set up for corporates and can be privately hired for both lunch and dinner, seating 100 people for drinks and 40 for dinner.
22 St Stephens Green, Dublin. Tel: 00353 1 638 3939
Dublin’s entire airport is currently undergoing extensive redevelopment and expansion, with the building of a second terminal and improved transport links to the city. The €600m project is due for final completion in 2010 when the new terminal will be able to accommodate an additional 15m passengers a year on both long and short haul flights.
Transport networks will be improved too, with provision made for a future metro system to finally give the airport a rail link to the city – a route which is currently only serviced by road. Terminal 1 is also being upgraded, and will feature newly extended sections as of early next year.
County Dublin. Tel: 00353 1 814 1111
CASTLE LESLIE COOKERY SCHOOL
Capitalising on its gourmet reputation, Ireland is enticing increasing numbers of incentive parties to try their hand in a traditional kitchen. It’s certainly one way to cater to fussy eaters, as guests cook their own meal under the watchful eye of an expert chef and enjoy the fruits of their labour at the end of the session. Newcomer Castle Leslie in County Monaghan has already gained considerable corporate acclaim, catering to small parties of between six and 12. With classic Victorian kitchens (right), and a highly flexible range of menu options for guests, the castle surrounds present an idyllic setting for cooking up a storm.
Castle Leslie, Glaslough, County Monaghan. Tel: 00353 47 88100
CORK'S ATLANTIC QUARTER
Lovely Cork has begun to attract a lot of attention from the events and meetings market, as a smart new airport has made it more accessible than ever. Since its year as European Capital of Culture in 2005, Cork’s hotel sector has received investment of nearly €300m, leading to a spate of attractive new openings and key regenerative programmes.
With its historic streets and buildings, for many visitors, it is the smaller charms of the city that make it a genuinely Irish experience. But the city has recently won a new regeneration project for its Atlantic Quarter, which promises a new event and conference centre capable of hosting over 5,300 people alongside a 205-room four-star hotel by 2010.
West Cork Tourism. Tel: 00353 28 21766
With the Irish well known for enjoying a drop, a whiskey distillery is a great choice if you’re looking for an incentive trip to fit into a half day. Celebrating its 400-year anniversary this year, Bushmills Distillery is pulling out all the stops for a good craic. This includes a special whiskey available solely to visitors who arrive during the year’s celebration. Based an hour’s drive from Belfast, the distillery welcomes corporate groups, and advance booking ensures that a special facility is reserved for parties of up to 30 people. There is one thing to note: the distillery warns that as the tour and tasting includes generous samples of the company’s products, corporates hoping to keep some of the day productive might be better off making an afternoon visit.
2 Distillery Road, Bushmills. Tel: 028 2073 3272
EUROPA HOTEL, BELFAST
Following a £7m investment, Belfast’s Europa opened an impressive new exhibition centre in March this year. The-state-of-the-art development is one of the largest conference and exhibition centres in Northern Ireland, and is a flagship venue for the hotel. Internal measurements stack up at 515sq m, which allows this flexible space to hold 300 cabaret-seated delegates or 650 theatre-style. Wi-Fi connections throughout complete the comprehensive technological facilities. This is combined with the Europa’s prior offering of two business centres, nine meeting rooms, an events ballroom and 275 bedrooms – with 35 new rooms due to open in December.
Great Victoria Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9026 6010
GORDON RAMSAY AT THE RITZ CARLTON, COUNTY WICKLOW
Dubliners have been flocking to the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt County Wicklow, a swish new retreat on Ireland’s east coast. Just half an hour outside the city centre, yet tucked away in the Wicklow woodlands, the 200-bedroom hotel boasts a huge spa with 20 treatment rooms, 36 holes of championship golf and stacks of suitably stylish meeting spaces. Not to mention a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, serving signature dishes and local specialities, which has two smart private dining rooms and a chef’s table. The largest event space in the purpose-built Palladian property is the ballroom, accommodating up to 400 for banquets, alongside six smaller meeting rooms and Powerscourt House, an old manor in the grounds with a ballroom (above) of its own. The Secret Garden, an ideal spot for pre-dinner drinks, is a gem – and there’s ample space in the grounds for marquees.
Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Ireland. Tel 00353 1 274 8888
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2008.