It’s the giddy first day of your holiday, you suck in a tantalising first breath of your exciting new surroundings, and bound into the hotel lobby with the springing step of someone whose office is thousands of miles away.
Key card in the slot and open sesame! You’re in your deliciously calm, crisp-sheeted room. What do you do first? Plonk yourself on the bed and lie back with a serene smile? Head straight to the window for a view of your new base of operations? Or giddily jump on the bed?
Well, there’s one person for whom this mattress testing and view soaking is all part of the job: [cue music] Athena Kelly, Hotel Inspector! Athena was the winner of a competition run by ebookers.ie, and her prize was being sent around Ireland, staying in the top hotels and casting a beady eye on everything from breakfast buffet to bed bounce.
After two weeks of tirelessly sleeping on the finest sheets and eating the most scrumptious food in some of Ireland’s most beautiful places (erm, why didn’t we enter this competition?!) we tracked her down to see what she thought.
So, tell us, what you were actually doing as hotel inspector (besides making us all jealous)?
“I was checking boxes were ticked in terms of staff and service, food and beverage facilities, cleanliness and hotel services. I was also interested in what the hotels had in terms of nearby entertainment and leisure facilities. And I was just a guest in a hotel seeking a relaxed, enjoyable stay.”
Which did you find was the best city hotel?
“My favourite city hotel was The Shelbourne in Dublin for its pure luxury, great location and spacious rooms, which were surprisingly big for a city centre hotel.”
Which was the prettiest hotel?
“The prettiest has to be the g Hotel in Galway for its amazing Philip Treacy-designed interiors. I wanted to see what the beautiful people were doing; and there they all were having afternoon tea (cupcakes and sandwiches) in the luxuriously sexy drawing room that was even more beautiful than they were. The Lyrath Estate Hotel, Kilkenny, was also gorgeous for its grounds and original Estate – very romantic with old world charm!”
You drove round the country to the different hotels, was any particular drive very nice?
Any favourite moment from your holiday, sorry, I mean, hard work?
“I have tonnes of favourite moments, but a couple that stand out are eating the best chocolate cake EVER at the Fitzwilliam Hotel, Belfast, and getting an amazing back massage at the Radisson Blu Farnham Estate, Cavan.”
Chocolate cake and back massages – now there are some new ideas to get you retreating to a hotel if the plumbing goes in your flat or the neighbours have a madcap party!
At the rate hotel prices in Ireland have been falling in the last couple of years, you may be tempted to bag a room just because you don’t fancy making your own bed! (The hotels.com Hotel Price Index showed Irish hotel prices fell21% since 2009, with an averageroom now €79 per night – that’s the least expensive room rate in Western Europe!)
So with the essential hotel boxes of cheap, cheerful and chic ticked, what are the final orders from our seasoned, well-slept inspector?
“Ireland has so much to offer and two weeks was certainly not enough to cover all the fabulous places. My advice to visitors would be to spend a few days in each county to really appreciate the local attractions and get to know the people, too, because every county is special and unique.”
Now there’s some good advice to sleep on.
You can read more of Athena’s Hotel Inspector reviews on the ebookers.ie blog