Lorna Roberts Holidays

                                                                                                                                                        

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WHAT BROUGHT LORNA TO IRELAND?

(and how did this lead to the Spanish Paradores?)

 

 Silverhill Beach and Connemara Golf Club  

 

THE GREAT GRANDFATHER:  Maybe it was because my Mother's Grandfather, Henry Lynn, came from Ireland that she always had a strong desire to go to the country that he had talked so much about. So, in 1966 after reading an article written by "The Bachelors"  describing Connemara I said to her "Come on let's go" and my love affair with Connemara began.

THE BUILDING YEARS: I returned to Connemara the following year when I was left a fortune (?) by a 99 year old aunt so dreams of finding an old ruin to restore were haunting me.  That fortune was 200 and in 1969 was enough to buy an acre of land with views of The Twelve Bens in one direction and the Atlantic in the other. A group of friends volunteered to be builders and six of us set off in an ancient Bedford van full of picks and shovels, an old caravan, and a Hillman Minx held together with papier mache. However money would be needed to buy materials. The Bank Manager in England happened to be called Denis O'Brien - a good omen I thought - and although he had never been to Ireland he was interested. "This is the craziest request I have ever had" he said, "so I'll lend you 1000 on condition that you have 1000 worth of house by the end of the Summer. If you do, I'll lend you more. If you don't, never come near this bank again". That was a challenge so we were determined and the roof was on by the end of August. The housewarming party was terrific with Irish coffee made in tumblers and Guinness bottles filling the foundations! The circle of friends / builders grew and we are now all godparents to each other's children and we meet frequently.

 

 

                                                    

Me and My House!

                                       

THE YEARS AT SEA: Having grown up near Southampton I had always had a fascination with the sea and ships. I was teaching in London so I went for an interview with Union-Castle to be a Children's Hostess" on their liners and I was lucky enough to get the job. Apart from travelling from Rome to Rio or Barcelona to Buenos Aires and many other exciting places, three years of earning good money with no expenses meant that Denis O'Brien was paid off and my house was loan free.

 

 

Me and My Ship!

 

FISHY BUSINESS & RESTAURANTS: After leaving the sea I spent a few Summers working in the restaurant at Rosleague Manor, one of Connemara's most popular hotels. My brother John and his wife Bridget, part of the building gang, had a fish business in England and were horrified to see the local fishermen in Connemara throwing turbot back into the sea because there was no market for them, so in 1979 they uprooted their family and built a fish factory beside the pier in Aillebrack. Another crazy idea was developing. Now there was plenty of fresh fish a mile away, a nursery up the road growing superb vegetables, my house with the best views in the area with a new golf course beside it, and I had experience in the restaurant business.This was the moment to go back to Denis O'Brien to ask for another loan - to put electricity in the house and build a new kitchen. "This is even madder" he said. "Everyone loses money in the restaurant business but I guess you are going to do it anyway so I'll lend you the money"! In 1983 "Mainly Seafood" opened in the home-made house at Emlagharan, at the end of a mile of dirt track. It was so simple but people loved it and it attracted politicians, film stars and musicians, so music sessions frequently continued into the early hours! It had become the fashionable place to eat! As someone said recently - it was an organic restaurant before anyone had heard of organic restaurants! I later converted a tractor shed to become "Barr an Bhaile Barn" where I ran a restaurant and coffee shop, and the fish factory had developed into the award-winning "Connemara Smokehouse" where Bridget still works with her son Graham and his wife Saoirse.

The road to the restaurant

Barr an Bhaile Barn

Connemara Smokehouse

 

THE EUROPEAN TRAVELS:   In 1992 Connemara had a bad tourist season and everyone was saying "Why doesn't someone do something about it?" So - I collected 10 Irish punts from every tourist business in the area and with 1500 punts set off to Europe in a small Fiat Uno full of brochures and maps. This progressed the following year to "Colourful Connemara", a book written in 5 languages which I took to more than 8000 travel agents all over Europe. It became clear that the country that was begging for more was Spain. One travel agent told me that the only information available on Ireland was an A4 photocopied black and white page so they were delighted to have this colourful book in their own language. My Mother travelled with me as my helper (especially when policemen had to be charmed into surrender when I parked in naughty places - we never got a parking ticket due to her skillful dealings!). It was then that we discovered that the Paradores offered a 50% discount if one person sharing a room was over 60. As we were travelling in the winter they were such good value so we stayed in many all over Spain. The rest is history. I met Tim Harris, the UK representative for Paradores who said he had been asked to introduce them into Ireland, and I have been the official representative since 1997, with "Barr an Bhaile Barn" in the wilds of Connemara as the Parador office. Having worked with MAP Travel, organising my escorted tours in Spain, we have now joined forces as Parador representatives so that we now have an office in Dublin as well as in Connemara. 

 

Lorna's Books

 

The rugged beauty of Connemara 

  

   

Parador at Baiona, NW Spain

 

 

As a result of discovering Connemara in 1966 Lorna later travelled all over Europe promoting the West of Ireland, and in doing so became acquainted with the Spanish Paradores and has been their official representative in Ireland for 18 years, so it was finding Connemara that finally led her to the Paradores!

 

 

 

It all started with Henry Lynn telling his little granddaughter (my mother) stories about Ireland.

 

Henry Lynn  was born in Ireland in 1855, left to study law in Liverpool and settled in Surrey. Now his great great great grandchildren were born in Galway and are living in Connemara.

 

 

'Reina del Mar' in Madeira

As a child  I watched cruise ships sailing from Southampton and

dreamed of sailing off to foreign lands. 

 

In the children's playroom on 'Reina del Mar'

I later  worked on them                

and always enjoyed the Spanish ports, unaware that I would

become so familiar with Spain twenty five years later.

John, my brother, grew up with boats and fishing in the south of England and  now teaches navigation as  the "West Galway School of Navigation" with Bridget holding the fort when he is away teaching.

 

 

www.serioussailing.com

 

Graham, their son, collected shrimps and mussels as a child and sold them for a few pence on the quay and now he, his wife Saoirse, and Bridget run the highly successful "Connemara Smokehouse".

 

www.smokehouse.ie

 

 

 

Linda, John and Bridget's daughter, started life in the New Forest, grew up

in Connemara, trained as a veterinary nurse and has now

returned to the New Forest where she has her own business

"Pawsitive Pet Teaching".

 

www.pawsitivepetteaching.com

 

 

It was as a result of reading the article by "The Bachelors" that

I first came to Connemara. Con Cluskey, lead singer, not only

designed this website, but has also accompanied all my escorted                                  

tours which include golf and he has organised the golf competitions on some

of the most spectacular courses all over Spain.

 

www.thebachelors.co.uk

 

And last, but by no means least, I was lucky enough to be approached

by MAP Travel in Dublin as they were interested in Paradores. We have                         

now joined forces as representatives so as well as my office in the west, 

Paradores also have an office in O'Connell St in Dublin 

 

www.maptravel.ie

Contact Lorna:    Tel:  +353 (0) 95 23511---- Fax:  +353 (0) 95 23539----Email:   lornaroberts13@gmail.com

 
   OR     MAP travel:   Tel:  01 8783111   Fax:  01 8783117 ----  email:  patricia@maptravel.ie

 

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