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We will make it a Christmas to remember


David & Faye Bohan, Wildlands, Moycullen, Co. Galway

David & Faye Bohan, Wildlands, Moycullen, Co. Galway

Mark Nolan, Dromoland Castle, Newmarket on Fergus, Co. Clare

Mark Nolan, Dromoland Castle, Newmarket on Fergus, Co. Clare

Graham Mongey, J.J. Darboven, Dublin

Graham Mongey, J.J. Darboven, Dublin

Maeve & Cillian Reid, Brambles, Dublin.

Maeve & Cillian Reid, Brambles, Dublin.


David & Faye Bohan, Wildlands, Moycullen, Co. Galway

The adventure park

Founded by Faye and David Bohan with their father Tim, Wildlands in Moycullen, Co Galway, opened its gates in August with more than 20 acres of fun and adventure, including zip 'n' trek courses, archery, 'Disc Golf' and bushcraft, plus beautiful lakeshore and woodland walking trails, and cute fairy trails for kids.

In October, they opened their Olive Tree Kitchen restaurant, currently takeaway only, with a great menu of pizza and other hot dishes, sandwiches, salads and sweet treats. Although not yet open to the public, there are also four self-catering cabins, with plans to develop 11 more.

Wildlands also has lots of exciting indoor activities, with climbing walls, yoga, sports halls and more but these were restricted by the pandemic.

"It's been hugely tough on the business and brand in its opening year," says Faye. "We had limited use of the yoga room and sports hall, but then Level 3 ruled classes out. When Level 5 was introduced, the entire Wildlands offering had to close. It's obviously not where we wanted to be less than three months after opening, but it is what it is. Our approach is to stay positive and remain focused on our mission. Public support and feedback has been phenomenal, considering what the year has thrown at everyone."

Plans are in place now for all the outdoor adventure offerings to reopen next Friday, and each weekend from Friday-Sunday, and throughout the Christmas holidays. The Olive Tree Kitchen will open Thursday-Sunday for take- aways and outdoor dining.


The coffee shop

Graham Mongey is the managing director of JJ Darboven Ireland in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, specialising in quality coffee, tea and chocolates. Like many others, they've been hit hard by the pandemic.

"Covid impacted our business significantly, as our model is primarily to sell coffee to the hospitality trade," says Graham. "Many of our clients shut or are operating takeaway only. The hotel and pub business is decimated.

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"Our Dún Laoghaire coffee store and roastery has been performing well though. We redeveloped the cafe element and introduced new products, like our limited-batch pure Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, and various sweets and treats. We also have new methods of selling, like our mobile coffee cart, and are supporting clients to sell retail products to increase average spend.

"We're keeping all our staff, as they're critical to the success of our business and its recovery."

Graham believes government support for businesses has been strong. "They want businesses to keep staff on their payroll, and have backed this up with financial support. The restart grants, waiving of rates, and Covid Restrictions Support Scheme will ensure cash remains in businesses.

"It makes more sense to get temporarily closed businesses to reopen than allow thousands to close down and wait for new ones to take their place."


The restaurant

Brambles Deli Cafe was started in Dundrum Shopping Centre more than 20 years ago by Ciaran and Maeve Reid. Their lovely, wholesome food proved such a success that now they have 18 outlets, a large catering business, and three generations of the family, including son Cillian, working with them.

"With the help of our amazing staff, we have faced the new challenges and changes to our business with enthusiasm," says Maeve. "We are resilient and passionate about what we do and have fought to keep many of our cafes open, with controlled measures.

"We adapted our service to takeaway, providing an array of handmade meals, pastries and cakes to go."

They now offer an online home catering service for collection or delivery, which has proved very popular. They've also just added rustic Pie Boxes to their range.

"This is something restaurants could always have done - a silver lining in an otherwise turbulent 2020 - for families or couples who can't get out on a Saturday night to enjoy a restaurant or brunch experience," says Cillian.

They've now launched their ever-popular Christmas shop online. Apart from the hamper selection, individual cooked turkeys, hams, vegetables, sauces etc, customers can purchase their Christmas dinner package and have it delivered to their door on Christmas Eve.

This includes a butter-basted free-range turkey, honey and clove glazed ham, honey roast vegetables and goose-fat roast potatoes, and can be adapted for all family sizes.

"This Christmas won't be the same as others, but collectively as a community we can make it one to remember for the right reasons."


The hotel

It's impossible to over-estimate the effects of the stringent, though necessary, Covid restrictions imposed on the hospitality business. Mark Nolan is managing director of Dromoland Castle, which has attracted visitors from all over the world for generations.

"The lockdowns at Level 3 and 5, with no inter-county travel, effectively left us with no business," says Mark. "In the first lockdown, we developed 'Shannigans at Home', a to-go service modelled on our gastro pub. It proved so successful that it's now operational on a daily basis.

"At the castle, the 'Dromoland Christmas Box' - featuring hamper items from our Dromoland Pantry, as well as various gift items - can be delivered free of charge throughout Ireland at €195.

"In terms of lifestyle, the lockdowns have made us all so much more conscious of mental health. I really struggled for the first two weeks. A great friend sorted me out and reminded me of my responsibilities, not only to myself and my family but to my extended 350-member family as well.

"One thing we identified was the need for regular communication at every level. The use of Flow, a team communication app, and Zoom allowed us to create some level of normality. Every Friday the entire team chats."

While this year has certainly been hard, Mark has been touched by the feeling of community they've found at Dromoland.

"One benefit has been the great sense of family, sense of people that really want to work. Most of our team are on wage support, and we often get calls to see if there's anything for them to do. Driving in this morning, I met chefs weeding beds in the garden, front porters cutting grass, and service staff cutting hedges. It's heart-warming to see the affection the whole team have for their castle. No wonder the Irish hospitality teams are so revered the world over."

Mark says they've had incredible support from their owners, both emotionally and financially. "Our chairman, John O'Brien, joins our Zoom call every last Friday of the month, so that's a 5am start for him in North America. There's commitment for you."