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Aidan McGrath at the Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna.

Joy for Clare tourism businesses with prestigious awards

AFTER a fraught and difficult 18 months for the hospitality industry, a number of tourism businesses in Clare were celebrating this week after landing prestigious national awards.

Four local outfits were cited in the Georgina Campbell Irish Food Hospitality awards, while a north Clare hotel’s sustainability leadership was acknowledged at the Chambers Ireland Awards.

This year’s Georgina Campbell winners were concentrated in the north and west of the county with Hazelwood Lodge, Gregan Castle Hotel, both Ballyvaughan, The Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna, and Vaughan’s Anchor Inn, Liscannor, winning prizes in their categories.

Hotel Doolin, meanwhile, won the Excellence in Environment Award from Chambers Ireland.

Hazelwood Lodge, Ballyvaughan, scooped the B&B of the year, with the citation stating there was a big welcome, genuine hospitality and a great sense of generosity about the place.

Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan won the Sustainability Award for its “constant drive to do things right, and do them better”, particularly relating to the environment.

The best Irish Breakfast in a guest house award went to The Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna, for its “simple, super-fresh, delicious and exquisite breakfast offering”, which was, said the guide, “an exceptionally pleasant way to start the day”.

The Seafood Chef of the Year Award was won by Denis Vaughan of Vaughan’s Anchor Inn in Liscannor. The guide declared Denis to be a man of prodigious curiosity who has continuously expanded his research.

Jarlath O’Dwyer, CEO of the Burren Ecotourism Network “It is wonderful that so many local tourism operations and members of our network have received such recognition at a nationwide level, these awards are a great confidence boost to everyone involved in the sector in North Clare.

“In 2020 and 2021, even after the decimation of the International Visitor Market, Clare was one of the most favored destinations among Irish visitors due to the great profile that the county now has, because of individual businesses like these having become renowned for their excellence.”

“The collective exposure that all of the attractions, restaurants, accommodation providers and visitor experiences have achieved on social media and through the press in recent years has meant that the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark is now known as not only a place of great beauty and scenery, but as an area that can offer the very best in hospitality and service,” Jarlath O’Dwyer, Burren Ecotourism Network

Kate Sweeney and Aidan McGrath of The Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna said, “We were delighted to get this award for the ‘the most important meal of the day’ and we place the same emphasis on sourcing quality Irish produce for our breakfast menu as we do for our dinner menu.”

Simon Haden of Gregans Castle added, “We are more than honored by this award. As proud members of The Burren Ecotourism Network this is very much what we are about, our philosophy and who we are. It means so much to us and encourages us to improve our sustainability even further and we have lots of plans for the future, so well done to the team here.”

Simon Haden of Gregan’s Castle.

Meanwhile, Victor McSweeney of Hazelwood Lodge in Ballyvaughan said, “It was a great surprise getting the Georgina Campbell Irish Food & Hospitality B&B of the year Award.”

“We certainly did not see that coming. We had been inspected by their “mystery guests/shoppers” during the summer but thought no more of it. They carried out more visits which we were unaware of, but a great result!”

Geraldine and Victor McSweeney pictured with Francis Brennan.

On Hotel Doolin’s winning of the Chambers Ireland Award for Excellence in Environment by a large indigenous company, Aine Martin HR & Purchasing Manager at the hotel commented, “Since 2019 when the hotel became the first hotel in Ireland to be certified as carbon neutral, we have continuously developed our environmental initiatives.

“We placed a particular emphasis on CSR work during the pandemic and aim to spread message about carbon neutrality in hospitality and how this can be achieved. We aim to continue to be the leader in sustainable hospitality and contribute to our community.”

“Exposure like this reinforces interest in County Clare nationwide, as can be seen by the increased traffic to our website and Social Media Channels over recent weeks,” said Mr O’Dwyer.

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