Sadly I can take no credit. Natural Retreats had already been working with Irish tourism experts, to work out the best way to expand into Ireland and maintain their ethos of sustainability at the same time. They started looking at Irish National Park sites, with a view to replicating their already successful English product. And then the credit crunch hit. But this didn’t stop them, realising there was still room for Irish development. The answer was not to build from scratch, but team up with Irish businesses which already had high quality, environmentally sensitive, self-catering accomodation, and which were willing to find new uses and marketing outlets for them. The result is Natural Retreats luxury villas at Parknasilla (as photographed here), County Kerry, Adare Manor, County Limerick, Castlemartyr Resort in County Cork, The K Club in County Kildare and Kilronan Castle Estate in County Roscommon.
I must admit, I was slightly disappointed when I heard that they hadn’t gone out on their own, and had teamed up with prestigious and pricey resorts. However, Kearney was quick to point out that it is a different world we are working in now, rightly saying “Sustainability is the single most important thing for us, and having access to beautiful areas like Parknasilla, for example, where there is already an excellent product, in a stunning location, which we could only dream of having access to, has been amazing!. There are endless activities here which allow visitors to interact with this stunning natural environment, as well as superb local produce to fill our hampers. This has meant we can all still do what we believe in, despite the challenges of this current economic climate”.
Natural Retreats’ empasis is always on local. At their new Irish sites, they have employed local site managers, for example, insisting they are people with excellent local knowledge, and a passion for the landscape, walking, riding, cycling etc. When they told their new partners that they wanted to provide food hampers, one of them voiced concern at not being able to get Yorkshire produce, not realising that when Natural Retreats say local, they really do mean local.
So, if you want to retreat into the luxurious arms of this new ethical ‘blow-in’, check it out for yourself. Because sustainability is not just about renewables and recycling, it is also about saving what we already have, especially the good stuff, and just making it better. If more businesses combined forces like this to fight the crunch, and create more ethical, sustainable products, we would have a lot more to write home about when we get there.
(Article first published in The Irish Times, 25th July 2009)