Could you? Should you?
In October this year Naomi Angus, our Senior Meetings & Events Consultant, was invited to attend a familiarisation event organised by the Meet in Ireland team. The Meet in Ireland initiative involves three separate tourism authorities (Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and the Tourism Northern Ireland) who work in partnership to promote Ireland as a leading destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE). This is Naomi’s diary of her four days in the Emerald Isles.
Wednesday 21st October
After a one-hour flight from Heathrow to Dublin International Airport we were greeted by the Meet in Ireland team and whisked away to one of the city centre’s luxury hotels.
I had been booked into The Morrison, a four-star boutique hotel on the bank of the River Liffey and a stone’s throw from the lively Temple Bar area. The Morrison was completely refurbished in 2013 (involving a design overhaul of the lobby and all 145 rooms) and now belongs to the ‘DoubleTree by Hilton’ portfolio of boutique hotels, though it has kept its long-standing name.
Once I’d checked in it was full speed ahead to the Welcome Reception in Powerscourt Town House, an elegant Georgian house in Dublin’s Creative Quarter.
Thursday 22nd October
The morning started with a power workshop at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), meeting 100 of Ireland’s top MICE suppliers and adding some very useful contacts to my address book. The RHA itself is worth considering for prestigious corporate events or banquet dinners as it has several beautiful spaces available, including the double-height atrium.
We then set off for a Meet the City Experience, which involved a whistle stop tour of Trinity College, the Royal College of Physicians, Westin Hotel and the Irish Whiskey Museum, where I managed to sample a few of Ireland’s finest offerings, purely for research purposes of course.
I found Trinity College particularly intriguing because of the historical connections – for example, its library is home to the world famous 9th century gospel manuscript, the Book of Kells. The college is able to host meetings and conferences for up to 1,200 delegates and there’s accommodation available on site, which is useful if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop. You can even book the on-site historian to take groups around the grounds and turn your stay into a journey of discovery.
In the evening we went to Christ Church Cathedral for a Gala Dinner with over 200 attendees. We had drinks in the 12th Century medieval crypt followed by dinner in the Cathedral Hall. The Cathedral was lit up in green for the Meet in Ireland theme, and we were told that the lights can be changed to match a client’s brand colours. The spectacular lighting really added to the atmosphere, and after dinner we were treated to a performance by the Cathedral Choir followed by a singer accompanied on the harp, which was absolutely magical. As experiences go I would have to describe this one as ‘jaw dropping’. It’s definitely something to consider if you want to impress your clients or inspire your staff.
Friday 23rd October
Our third day started with a trip to the Croke Park Stadium, home of Ireland’s national games, football and hurling. The stadium has a premium conference space that has just been refurbished to a high standard and with all the hi-tech equipment you’d need for a 21st century event. The extra activities on offer including walking around the very top edge of the stadium roof, which might be exciting for those with a good head for heights!
Next up was the Guinness Storehouse, located slap bang in the middle of the brewery, where we were treated to a tour of the facilities and samples of Ireland’s famous black stuff. The superb Gravity Bar at the top of the Storehouse offers a 360 degree view of Dublin city, so it would be a great space for a drinks reception or networking event.
We then took a coach down the country to Cork, Ireland’s second city and the European base for many international companies. On the way we enjoyed a stop-over at the Cliff House Hotel in Waterford, which as its name suggests is built into the cliff on the south coast. This gorgeous boutique hotel has a Michelin-starred restaurant with a stunning private dining room available (overlooking the sea), spa facilities and a gorgeous coastal walk along the front. The hotel also offers foraging tours with their head forager. The hotel can be booked as an exclusive hire, so I’m thinking ‘luxury team-building opportunity’?
We finally arrived in Cork itself and booked into the Hayfield Manor, Cork’s first five-star hotel. The hotel is located in the heart of the city and oozes class and sophistication – a real treat. We dined at Market Lane and enjoyed some fabulous locally produced food accompanied by Irish music and dancing – and of course I joined in!
Saturday 24th October 23rd
For the last day of the trip we travelled on to Kinsale, the ‘foodie resort’ on the south-west coast, arriving at the Kinsale Gourmet Academy in Ballincurra House just in time for lunch. The house is available for exclusive hires and offers ‘master chef’ style cooking classes as team building opportunities. To my delight we were treated to the master-class experience ourselves. The chef stood in front of us and a large TV screen broadcast his every move, so everyone could see what was happening. He then put us into groups of three and guided us through each step to make some delicious dishes, which we subsequently devoured!
We then returned to Cork and had a tour of the Cork Gaol, which has been beautifully restored to create a unique and dramatic space for a dinner or private function.
So, could you and should you meet in Ireland? With Dublin just an hour’s flight from London Heathrow and direct flights to Dublin and Cork available from Birmingham, Bournemouth, Glasgow, Manchester and other airports it’s certainly an accessible option. In fact, in some cases the Irish cities could be easier to get to than UK mainland destinations when you factor in motorway and local traffic. While it’s just a hop and a skip away, the sights and sounds, culture and currency make it seem further and more exotic, which could be the ‘wow’ factor your need to raise the profile and focus attention on your meeting or event. Add to this the fact that the Meet in Ireland marketing machine is doing sterling work to promote the country as a MICE destination, you can be confident that you’d be made very welcome and suitably supported while you were there. There was no hint of complacency about any of the venues we visited. They want your custom, and they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you have a ‘grand’ time when you get there!