By JUDY ENRIGHT
Special to the BIR
Not every hotel has a book written about it, but the Bush Hotel in lovely Leitrim is not just any hotel.
A friend and I stayed there this spring and were delighted by the sincere and warm welcome extended by the staff of the 60-bedroom Carrick on Shannon hotel, its handy central location, ample and secure off-street parking, the cleanliness of the comfortable bedrooms and bathrooms (great water pressure in the shower), free WIFI, and the varied eating and drinking options on site.
The Bush has won many awards for its “green” focus and works with staff and suppliers to make sure the environment tops their agenda. The oldest business in Leitrim, it originally opened in the late 1700s. The hotel’s story is proudly displayed along corridor and lounge walls with framed newspaper reports, photos and other memorabilia. Some bedrooms are named and theme-decorated for famous Leitrim residents and visitors, including Michael Collins, who spent a night there, the writer John McGahern, the novelist Anthony Trollope (who lived in central Ireland while working for the postal service), the Irish poet and satirist Susan Mitchell, a Carrick on Shannon native, and many more. Old world charm and personality is exuded by these named rooms, which many guests specifically request.
The original hotel (a one-story thatched building with gas lights and just one bathroom per corridor) was demolished in 1900 and rebuilt. There have been numerous upgrades and additions since including new function rooms, a business center, and more bedrooms.
Jo Holmwood explains all that in her book, “Under the One Roof, a Creative Memory Document of the Bush Hotel,” published by the Leitrim County Council Arts Office and written after her artist-in-residence stay at the hotel in 2012.
She writes that Peter Darby McDermott opened the Bush in 1793 as an inn with stables for tired passengers and horses from the Bianconi Stage Coach traveling from Dublin to the Northwest. McDermott’s family, heirs, in-laws. and others owned the hotel for many years thereafter until the Dolan family bought the property in 1989, undertook renovations and opened for business in 1993.
Maybe it’s that The Bush is not only family-owned but also family-run that makes staying there such a pleasure. The hands-on approach is evident everywhere in the attention to guests’ needs and wants.
We met with the ebullient managing director ,Joe Dolan, who could not be more outgoing or accommodating. Dolan was recently elected president of the Irish Hotel Federation and manages those duties in addition to the hotel. He, his wife Rosie, and other family members are completely involved in the everyday work at the hotel. Asked what job his brother David does there, Joe said, “He does everything.”
Joe said hospitality is a treasured tradition at The Bush and that all 58 staff members work hard to exceed the expectations of modern day travelers. “They’re wonderful people,” he said, adding that The Bush boasts the highest hotel staff retention and lowest absentee rate in Ireland. “The staff takes ownership of the hotel. It’s not just a job. Happy people make people happy.”
Even though The Bush has all the amenities needed for a great stay, it is not a “castle hotel” and there’s not a hint of the attitude or pretentiousness that can be evident at some other hotels. This is a “down home,” comfortable and friendly place to spend time in a most interesting part of Ireland.
For special offers and rates, contact the hotel directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at bushhotel.com.
In addition to staying at The Bush, is there any other reason to visit often-overlooked Leitrim? You bet!
Right around the corner from the hotel is the fascinating 16-foot-long Costello Memorial Chapel, the smallest church in Ireland. It was built in 1879 by Edward Costello to honor his wife Mary Josephine, who was only 46 when she died. It’s touching and well worth a visit.
There’s an 18-hole golf club in Carrick as well as fishing and water sports available. Two pubs and several restaurants are within easy walking distance of the hotel as is The Dock art center, located in a 19th Century former courthouse, where you can view art shows, hear musical presentations, or visit a café and top-notch gift shop. There’s a nearby marina where pleasure cruises are offered (see moonriver.ie for one of many offerings). You can get involved in Rivermania (rivermania.ie), visit St. George’s Heritage and Visitors Center (carrickheritage.com), or enjoy the Shannon Blueway’s water and walking trails (bluewaysireland.org) between Drumshanbo to Carrick. Also nearby are: the Arigna Mining Experience (arignaminingexperience.ie) where all underground tours are led by ex-miners, Lough Key Forest and Activity Park (loughkey.ie), Glenview Folk Museum (glenviewmuseum.ie), and much, much more. See enjoyleitrim.com for other attractions. And take a look at offthebeatentracknw.com for some interesting touring routes around rural roads.
Want to get out and walk around Ireland? There are loop and hill walks offered in many counties as well as a series of walking festivals.
You can walk the historical Miners Way, a series of way-marked routes that form a network through Cos. Roscommon, Sligo, and Leitrim (unabhan.ie) along paths used by miners heading for work in the Arigna Mines. If you want a hillwalking guide, Philip James is available by previous arrangement. Contact philipwalking.com for more.
This is the 49th year of the popular 4-day International Castlebar (Co. Mayo) Walking Festival, from June 30 to July 3. Enjoy spectacular scenery on guided rambles across bogs, moorland or roads. For more information, see castlebar4dayswalks.com.
There’s a Slieve Bloom Eco (mini) Walking Festival in Cos. Laois and Offaly July 9 and 10 that offers two guided walks in remote areas of Slieve Bloom only accessible on foot and rarely visited by hill walkers. See slievebloom.ie for more.
There is so much to do in Ireland in the summer. No matter where you go, you can always find something fun and interesting.
Stop by 800-year-old Hook Head Light in Co. Wexford to hear tales from the past recounted by life-sized hologram figures. The tour is fun for all ages. Details are available at hookheritage.ie
In Dublin, there’s a special exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci original drawings at the National Gallery of Ireland through July 17. Admission is free but entry is by timed tickets, which may be booked at nationalgallery.ie.
The Earagail Arts Festival (eaf.ie) takes the stage in Donegal from July 8 to July 24. The festival is two weeks of music, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, circus and carnival.
The gardens at Rathmullan House, Co. Donegal, become a theatre set July 21 at 3 p.m. for a performance of Wuthering Heights, presented by Chapterhouse Theatre Company. For more information or tickets, see rathmullanhouse.com.
The Spraoi International Street Arts Festival takes over Waterford July 29-31 with acrobats, aerial dancers, floats, fireworks, a parade on the 31st and more. See spraoi.com for more.
From July 24 to Aug. 1, Durrow, Co. Laois, hosts a Scarecrow Festival. There are free events and a children’s camp. For more, see durrowscarecrowfestival.com
The Gaiety Theatre in Dublin offers Riverdance 21 performances through Aug. 28. For details, visit gaietytheatre.ie
If you’re in Mulranny, Co. Mayo, stop by the Environment and Craft Centre on the main street (N59) from 11-5 daily to learn about Mulranny’s rare ecology and machair system, plants, birds and mammals that support and rely on this special habitat. The Centre also features the Old Irish Goat, Mulranny’s railway heritage, and the history of the Achill Railway Line.
Another interesting attraction in that area is the Achill Experience in Keel. Some of the area’s sea life is displayed in saltwater tanks there. You can also stop by and take an Apple iPad device to lead you to beaches, loop walks, and homes of some of the island’s famous artists. For more, visit achillexperience.ie.
Love Irish sheep? Who doesn’t? Enjoy a day of sheep dog demonstrations, bog cutting, countryside walks, sheep shearing demonstrations and more at the Killary Sheep Farm, Bunowen, Leenane, Co. Galway. Demonstrations are at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Be sure to contact the farm before going at 353872988051 or visit email@example.com.
You can also enjoy the wooly breed at one of Ireland’s largest sheep farms, Glen Keen Farm just outside Louisburgh, Co. Mayo. In addition to sheep, the farm offers crafts and an excellent restaurant with homemade food.
Between Newport and Mulranny, Co. Mayo, see live sheepdog demonstrations daily from June to September, at Nephin Derrada Sheepdogs. Demonstrations are at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. or by appointment. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can try sheep herding at Causey Farm, Fordstown, Navan, Co. Meath, on Fridays at 2 p.m. in July and August. There’s also bodhrán playing, mural painting, and giant bubble blowing. For more information, contact causey.ie.
The annual Bray Air Display is July 23 and 24 in Co. Wicklow, as part of the Bray Summerfest Funfair. See brayairdisplay.com.
Enjoy Ireland whenever you visit. For details about events, accommodations and other visitor queries, visit discoverireland.com.