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When the rich and famous want a break — they call Siobhan


Siobhan Byrne Learat. Picture: Frank McGrath

Siobhan Byrne Learat. Picture: Frank McGrath

Siobhan Byrne Learat. Picture: Frank McGrath

“People have always wanted to run away,” Siobhan Byrne Learat tells me. “The only difference is that what they’re running away from now is different.”

Siobhan is a travel expert, who helps the rich and famous escape in comfort. At one time they were fleeing from divorces or bad press, she says, now it is Covid-19.

And whether it’s castles or villas they’re looking for, nothing is too much trouble. Her client list has included Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson and Harrison Ford who have hidden from press intrusion in luxurious Irish properties.

She’s currently trying to source an island for a wealthy American client. “Celebrities are just like anyone else, they are finding all of this difficult,” she says. “They want to get away while staying within the rules.”

Keeping to those rules is like assembling a jigsaw, she says. “People don’t want a full staff and daily housekeeping like they typically would if it weren’t for the virus.

“They want to keep services to a minimum to avoid interaction with others.

“People are looking for a deep clean of any property they set foot in now. And I’m quite sure that even with that they clean the place themselves when they get there.”

Byrne Learat recently helped Dublin-based Francis Lynch, his wife and their two sons to rent Longueville House, a 300-year-old Georgian country house with nine bedrooms. The 450-acre wooded estate is nestled in wooded countryside, a three-hour drive away from Dublin.

The price tag of the Lynch family 10-day buyout was reported to be €25,000.

“Life just happens to our clients,” Byrne Learat says. “They’re trying to tailor their travel around the situation they find themselves in. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s just happening more because of Covid. We had a man once who had a wife, a mistress and a girlfriend.

“There was a lodge and then the main property. They wanted for it to be possible for them all not to meet except for the children, who would play together because they were siblings. Some of the things we are asked to do is unreal.”

A lot of the properties Byrne Learat rents out are from aristocrats, who feel their purpose is to pass the property on to the next generation — “if they don’t do this they feel they have failed. They view themselves as custodians”.

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Byrne often acts as a go-between for these aristocrats and her clientele of A-List stars. She recalls receiving a call from Taylor Swift’s mother one day in 2009. She wanted to rent a castle in Dublin.

This was a challenge as Luttrellstown Castle had closed, but Byrne Learat was still able to help the pop star.

Michael Jackson was another client. “I drove him around one day. He would ring me once a month. His voice was different than on the television, less squeaky. I dealt primarily with his nanny but I did drive him around on one or two occasions.”

While uproar rages about people using their second home and trying to holiday amid the raging pandemic, she says wealthy travellers are not putting themselves or others at risk. “The less people in densely populated areas the better. So nobody is taking any greater risk.”

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