During October, as part of making the C&IT A List 2019, our Director Steve took part in a FAM (familiarisation) Trip to both Cork & Kerry in the beautiful country of Ireland. Take a look below to see what he got up too during his weekend there…

It’s midnight, late-October, cold and I’m getting ready to go to sleep. Being a typical bloke I‘ve left my packing to the very last opportunity to fly out tomorrow morning. As I lay in bed, I was trying to work out what to expect from Cork & Kerry. Is it simply a more scenic England?

It turns out I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s hard to summarise my experience overall, but I can only describe the destinations as ‘truly authentic’. I think that’s an unusual word to use, but I hope you understand what I mean from that – it’s true to itself, genuine, pure, packed with local culture and the quirkiness one would expect. Cork and Kerry truly are ‘picture postcard’ Ireland.

Friday

Flying out of Heathrow we flew to Cork Airport on a quick hop-on hop-off flight that landed before we knew it took off. Cork is extremely well connected to the UK and the main cities in Europe.

After collecting our bags, we were greeted by two Singing Irishmen on Guitar in the airport …what an awesome way to get us in the true Irish spirit! Yep, this was organised, not just some random members of the public, but the close relationships our suppliers have with the airport just shows the kind of things that can be organised.

We were soon introduced to Cork’s thriving food scene through a walking food tour in the town of Kinsale. Tasting the finest of food along the way we stopped at various local shops to try some delicious award-winning bites. I really got a feel for the local town and I never realised how much they support their local communities by serving only fresh produce from local farmers. From a personal perspective, the chocolate shop was the highlight…what goes through my lips stays on my hips!

We then visited the Trident Hotel followed by a special yacht experience, but sadly due to the rain we couldn’t head out on the water – nonetheless you can see just how amazing this experience would be for a group. Instead we had ourselves a Photo Competition, which needless to say I didn’t win. I had to give up my career as a photographer some years ago…I kept losing focus. I’ll stop the puns now.

During late-afternoon we headed over to settle into our rooms at Hayfield Manor – a stunning 5 Star family owned boutique luxury hotel. Dinner was enjoyed in Greenes Restaurant in town (highly recommend), followed by Cork’s Jazz festival, providing the ideal backdrop for the rest of our evening.

Saturday

After breakfast, during which we watched the England defeat the almighty New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup Semi-Final, we headed on over to the River Lee Hotel to conduct a site visit. The hotel has meeting space from 5 to 110 people in a modern and contemporary design.

We then moved onto Longueville House, where lunch was be served. This was probably the highlight of the trip – the 18th century Georgian home situated in 450 acres of parklands is simply breath-taking. Not only that, they make their own cider, which tasted simply incredible – I’ve never tasted such an amazing alcoholic drink!

We then travelled to Killarney in County Kerry and took part in an interactive team treasure hunt, which I’m also ashamed to say we didn’t win. This town is so genuinely Irish it’s fantastic – a must for any event delegate to experience. It’s even possible for the whole town to be taken over by a conference, by having bedrooms in each hotel around the town (all walking distance from each other).

And then the true wow-factor came as we settled into our hotel – The Europe Hotel. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, because the views were simply mind blowing.

Following a quick show round of the impressive hotel, our evening was spent at the unique venue of Muckross Farm, giving us a truly Irish experience!

Sunday

We had morning at leisure to enjoy the facilities at The Europe Hotel. Whilst some members of the group took part in Yoga, others did a Pony Trek around the hotel grounds. For those of you that know me there would be no more hilarious sight than seeing my slightly plump frame on a small Pony, so rather than run the risk of squashing the poor thing I decided to explore the grounds on foot!

En route to the airport we visited the Cahernane House Hotel where an early lunch was served. The hotel, a former ‘Coach House’, has become home to 8 new luxurious bedrooms while the elegant Drawing Room overlooks Killarney National Park.

The icing on the cake was access to the Lounge area at Cork Airport, allowing us to begin our journey home in the most relaxing and enjoyable way possible!

Summary
Overall, the entire weekend was extremely enjoyable and really opened my eyes to the beauty of Cork and Kerry. The food & beverage was a pleasant surprise as I not only enjoyed the excellent quality of the food but the fact they support the local farmers everywhere we went provided a really genuine feel. The meeting & events facilities are just as good as anywhere in the world, but the surroundings, the people and the culture really make this a truly memorable and unique destination.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Meet In Ireland (Éilis McNamee), our DMC A Touch Of Ireland (Deirbhile Cotter), Cork Convention Bureau (Evelyn O’Sullivan) and Kerry Convention Bureau (Becky Hargrove) for organising such a beneficial and fun FAM!

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