Monday 18 February 2019

Best Irish Welcome revealed - 'They make you feel like old friends'

Winner: Castlewood House, Dingle

Helen and Brian of Castlewood B&B, Dingle
Helen and Brian of Castlewood B&B, Dingle
Omlette prepared by Brian Heaton of Castlewood House. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Castlewood House, Dingle
Dingle hideaway: Castlewood House.
Brian and Helen Heaton of Castlewood House, Dingle, who won the Best Irish Breakfast award. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Reader Travel Awards 2019

"Pure class and comfort from start to finish", was how you described Brian and Helen Heaton's Castlewood House in Dingle. "The welcome is authentic and 100pc Irish."

What does that welcome entail?

"When walking in for the first time, Helen greets you with warmth and authentic joy," one reader explained. "It's a soothing welcome after a long day of travel."

Helen and Brian (above) "are the definition of Irish hospitality", you said, characterising the couple as "gracious, warm, earnest hosts", using words like "warm" and "personal" over and again.

Omlette prepared by Brian Heaton of Castlewood House. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Omlette prepared by Brian Heaton of Castlewood House. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Helen and Brian of Castlewood B&B, Dingle
Castlewood House, Dingle
Dingle hideaway: Castlewood House.
Brian and Helen Heaton of Castlewood House, Dingle, who won the Best Irish Breakfast award. Photo: Don MacMonagle

"From the first time that I arrived I have been made feel like a friend coming to visit and stay in their home," said one reader. "Brian and Helen are so genuine in their welcome and chat away making you feel like old friends". "They make you feel immediately relaxed," you added. "An offer of Buck's Fizz or tea certainly adds to the welcome."

Being met with drinks and homemade snacks is a key part of Castlewood's céad míle fáilte, our readers agreed. "They greeted us with a warm smile and a delightful mimosa," one customer quipped, hailing "the warmest welcome we had in the whole of Ireland."

"They are eager to engage in conversation with their guests and go out of their way to help you navigate your visit on the peninsula," you said. "So very gracious and helpful with suggestions, directions, and kindness."

Castlewood was shortlisted in several categories this year, and as a previous winner of our 'Best Irish Breakfast' award, our judges weren't surprised to hear you praise Brian's slap-up morning feasts, either. Overall, this now-iconic Irish business excels where it counts: in "exceeding expectations".

Castlewood House, Dingle
Castlewood House, Dingle

Anatomy of an Irish Welcome

"You get three seconds to make a first impression," says Helen Heaton.

"The first thing is to make eye contact, and have a big, genuine smile. Then we'd offer them a drink, and a scone or a bit of cake.

"We have a lot of repeat guests, and they're like old friends. Some are quite stressed when they arrive. They've negotiated roads they've never been on, sometimes in a car they've never driven, on the wrong side of the road. You have to dispel those worries, and reassure them that they're here now, they can relax, and that we're going to look after them.

"When a guest leaves, I always give them a hug and say: 'I'm not going to say goodbye, I'm going to say 'til the next time', because it might take them one year, it might take them 10 years, but people do come back again and again. It's that kind of place. Dingle just draws you in."

See more at castlewooddingle.com.

NB: The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2019 are sponsored by Iarnród Eireann. Read the full list of winners here.

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