Luxury speaks to clients in different ways, with many of today’s travelers looking for authentic and cultural experiences that immerse them in a destination (complemented by stays in gorgeous properties, of course). Adams & Butler, a luxury destination management specialist with itineraries in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England (as well as Africa), shines the spotlight on those unique experiences travelers are seeking out.
These “travel designers,” as they call themselves, arrange custom programs that have travelers staying in stunning castles with the opportunity to visit with aristocracy; as well as luxury hotels and country houses where travelers hang with locals and truly learn about the destination, its heritage, history and cuisine.
This was the case on a recent trip to Ireland that Adams & Butler arranged: Our home for the duration of our time in Ireland was at five-star The Merrion boutique and historical property in Dublin, a perfect venue for enjoying the city and for being whisked away for a day to the nearby “hidden gem” of County Down in Northern Ireland, just 90 minutes north of Dublin and 20 minutes south of Belfast.
County Down, A Hidden Gem
For foodies, Adams & Butler can arrange a program to “off-the-beaten-track” beautiful Northern Ireland with NI Food Tours. “We have sweeping hills, mild climate, warm and friendly locals, and award-winning cuisine and restaurants for your clients to experience in County Down,” says Tracey Jeffery, NI Food Tours’ president/tour guide. While on the food tour, your clients can meet Patrice, the oyster farmer; Christo, the cheese monger; and Fred, the traditional Irish bread maker. They’ll have the chance to make bread with Fred and hear his story on how the traditional soda and potato breads were a staple diet for the Irish people. While enjoying Fred’s tales in an 18th century thatched-roof cottage, they’ll be savoring his breads, topped with local handmade butter, as well as sweet treats. Hanging with Patrice means a visit to the oyster beds to see how oysters and mussels are harvested, and then a detour over to Patrice’s oyster shack, where visitors can sample the fresh shellfish with a glass of wine. Christo, meanwhile, is the first producer of raw milk organic cheese in Northern Ireland. Here, clients don a white coat and shoes for hands-on experience in making cheese.
Another unique experience is an excursion to a castle that has been owned by the same family for over 400 years and is not open to the public. While taking a VIP tour and sipping champagne, visitors can speak to the owner about the history of the castle, including its role in a recent Disney movie. These authentic experiences and others can be booked for individuals or groups.
Back in Dublin—home to literary greats such as Yeats, Joyce, Beckett and Wilde—Adams & Butler can, of course, arrange a literary tour…that is, if your clients can pull themselves away from the 142-room Merrion hotel. It’s comprised of four original Georgian townhomes, one of which was the birthplace of the Duke of Wellington, who famously defeated Napoleon. It also contains the largest private art collection in Ireland with more than 100 19th and 20th century pieces. Guests can enjoy an in-depth complimentary audio tour of 20 of its paintings. The Merrion is also famous for its Art Tea experience, during which guests enjoy a lavish afternoon tea service with a selection of miniature sweet creations—inspired by the art collection—as well as teas and coffees enjoyed in elegant Georgian-style drawing rooms with live harp music. The hotel is also home to the only two-star Michelin restaurant in Ireland, Patrick Guilbaud.
Just around the corner from The Merrion is the National Gallery and a trendy neighborhood dining venue called Bang, offering a contemporary vibe and warm Irish service. Recommend the seared tuna, avocado mousse, sesame furikake, black garlic emulsion or regional fresh oysters. For the main course, our favorites were the roasted halibut, mussels, cauliflower, potato brown butter emulsion and chargrilled sirloin with flat mushroom, Cafe de Paris butter sauce and chips. Add wine from a wonderful selection (our pick was the St. Emilion Grand Cru).
Dublin is a safe walking city, and our location at The Merrion allowed for easy access to key sights. We had a local guide provided by Adams & Butler, a must for clients so they can see the important sites and learn the history. Recommend a visit to the Irish Whiskey Museum, as well. They’ll really enjoy this interactive experience while learning about the history of Irish whiskey, including such tidbits as the origin of expressions like “saved by the bell” and “dead ringer.” The tour includes a whiskey tasting experience as well. Another museum to visit is The Little Museum of Dublin, where clients can have a colorful history lesson of Dublin in a short period of time. One thing a visit to Dublin should not be without is Irish music and dance. Have Adams & Butler include a show, the Irish House Party, at The Lansdowne Hotel.
Adams & Butler: adamsandbutler.com
Irish Whisky Museum: irishwhiskeymuseum.ie
NI Food Tours: nifoodtours.com
The Lansdowne Hotel:
The Little Museum of Dublin: littlemuseum.ie
The Merrion: merrionhotel.com