Monday, May 20, 2024

Offaly business named one of Fab 50 places to stay in Ireland | Offaly Independent

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Margaret Edgill, who runs an organic farm and provides country house accommodation and glamping facilities at Mount Briscoe in Daingean.

Mount Briscoe, a family-run country house in Daingean, was recently listed as one of 50 fab places to stay in Ireland by the Irish Independent’s lifestyle magazine, ranking in sixth place.

Owner of Mount Briscoe Country House Margaret Edgill is a seventh generation farmer and she said that she was “amazed” by the news. “I actually couldn’t believe it. To be in it is brilliant, but I didn’t expect to be sixth in it.”

Margaret added that her family was proud of her and that she was very pleased with the recognition. She said that she was happy to be included with very high-profile locations.

The local business was also recently nominated for a Travel & Hospitality Award as part of the prestigious 2024 European Awards programme. This recognition exemplifies the country house’s unwavering commitment to excellence and exceptional service in the travel and hospitality industry. Mount Briscoe was listed as the Best Farm Stay in the category which Margaret said was “great recognition.”

She continued: “Offaly’s not on the regular tourist trails so it’s really good to get recognition in this part of the world.”

Margaret said that she was surprised that the business was nominated for the award but pleased that somebody had “gone to the effort” of nominating Mount Briscoe based on hospitality.

“You’re only as good as your last customer,” she remarked. The Daingean woman said that every “bit of business and profile and award is very welcome.”

“I’m delighted and elated and there’s been such a huge response on our social media. Hundreds of people have said ‘wow, well done,’ said Margaret. She added that it was a while in the making as she’s been in business for a number of years.

The organic farm encompasses a Georgian house, a section of which Margaret has restored and renovated. She described the house as stylish and contemporary but yet Georgian with the old farmhouse and two-acre walled garden. The garden consists of orchards, cattle and horses.

Margaret said that guests normally chill out or enjoy reading a book at Mount Briscoe. “People can detox and have a romantic retreat or just a country getaway and then, you know, some people come down from Dublin and bring their bikes and go cycling and then other people come and spend six or seven days it just depends.” Margaret said that her guests want to detox and connect with nature.

Speaking about the upcoming tourist season, Margaret said that she’d received some bookings following the publication of the Irish Independent magazine feature. Despite, this she said: “I feel the season’s a bit slow, but I could be wrong. Margaret explained that bookings were being made very last minute.

The Offaly woman is also a Nuffield scholar, which is an agricultural scholarship that she has participated in over the past 18 months. “I was away for four weeks with that. One of the trips I took was to Mexico and then I went to Texas, a week in each, and the flight coming back from the States was empty.”

She also said that there were twelve scholars travelling and that they each had three seats to themselves on the plane to the US. “I felt that wasn’t a great reflection on tourism coming to Ireland, you know, to have that many seats available now.” Margaret took this trip last Easter and said that the tourist season should have been waking up by then.

In terms of challenges for tourism in Offaly, Margaret feels that the profile of the area and businesses and people not knowing about the various accommodation options and activities is a major factor. “They don’t know that there’s so much on the doorstep, that we’re so close to Dublin. We’re an hour from Dublin and we’ve amazing cycleways with the Slieve Blooms.”

She cited Birr Castle, Lough Boora Discovery Park and Croghan Hill as some of the fantastic local amenities in Offaly. “We have great product and Offaly tourism is very new to the game,” stated Margaret. She added that tourism in Offaly is an immature market versus locations in the Wild Atlantic Way.

Margaret explained: “Tourism Ireland, I always felt have done a great job marketing Ireland, but they’ve kind of marketed the outer perimeter and they’ll get it together and they’ll do the middle when there’s more product there with the Just Transition fund that’s coming out with the money that’s going to be invested into this area and it’s very needed.”

She said that in 20 years from now the tourism product in Offaly will be really good.

The Offaly woman was travelling around the country recently with her fellow Nuffield scholars and was shocked at the level of service in Dublin. “I was here for a week travelling around with all international people and I was appalled at the level of service, absolutely appalled, just no regard.” Margaret added that she believes you can’t be in the hospitality business unless you’re talking to the guests and asking them how they are. “That to me is critical.”

“I think that in the hospitality business, it doesn’t matter what you’re in, if it’s a restaurant, if it’s a cafe, whatever it is, it doesn’t kill anybody to be nice and to smile and say, ‘thanks very much’ and ‘you’re very welcome and come back again’.”

In terms of inflation and rising costs, Margaret remarked that the public was very supportive of the tourism sector domestically prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and during it but that they have since returned to selecting sunny destinations abroad.

“That’s the major challenge for people in Ireland, is that if the weather was great, people would probably stay here more.” She said that she thinks that inflation is a contributing factor in terms of the domestic tourism market.

She continued: “Domestically, I think people are always going to try and want to go away because they want to be guaranteed sun and I think the visitor that we’re getting here is probably coming from the sun and they’re not fussed about it.”

Speaking about the future of Mount Briscoe, Margaret said: “I’m formulating business plans, feasibility studies, writing documents and designing what it is I’m going to do with the view to developing more units here but that will be a roll-out two to three years from now.”

Margaret runs a beef suckler herd and produces Hereford weanlings off a grass fed system. She also operates a farm shop and guests can stay in a number of different accommodation style options such as the Hunting Lodge, luxury glamping huts and Bell Tents for a boutique glamping experience.

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