Irish castle aims to boost business from U.S.

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DUBLIN -- Five centuries of history and culture come together at Luttrellstown Castle, a 560-acre estate just outside Dublin that is available for charter to corporate and incentive groups, and others looking for a bit of peace and quiet.

Irish history buffs might know that the Luttrells were an English family who came to own the estate back in the 15th century.

The epitome of the landed gentry, the Luttrells were a formidable family with an apparent knack for swearing allegiance to the right people at the right time.

Early in the 20th century, the Guinness family (of Guinness beer fame) bought the property and held it until 1982.

Today, the estate and its 14-room castle, now owned by the French company Primwest Group, is looking to attract more corporate and leisure business from the U.S.

"About 36% of our guests are American, and they consist of corporate meetings, top-level incentive groups and some leisure," Adrienne Clarke, sales and marketing director of the property said.

The remainder of its business comes mostly from Ireland and Great Britain, with a small amount -- about 10% -from the rest of Europe. Clarke said the goal is to book fully 50% of its guests from the U.S.

The castle recently hosted a group of American trade and consumer press, including Travel Weekly.

Luttrellstown's business is very high-end, attracting boards of directors on retreat, top-producing incentive groups from Fortune 500 companies and celebrities looking for an exclusive hideaway.

Rooms at the castle cannot be booked individually. The entire castle must be chartered, and groups can pick and choose from a wide selection of add-ons, like lunches and dinners, special wines, sporting events and custom-designed happenings.

The per-night rate for the 14 rooms is about $7,000, and that includes breakfast for everyone. Total accommodation is for 28 people, if all rooms are shared.

Lunches are priced at $35 per person, dinner at $58, and wine and other alcoholic beverages are billed on an as-consumed basis.

Travel agents are paid 10% commission if they handle the entire booking, said Clarke.

"If an agent simply refers a client who eventually books, but we handle all the details, we pay 5% to the agent as a referral fee," she said.

A full commission on a booking for 14 rooms for a one-week stay can fall in the $5,000 range.

John Flavin, the castle's general manager, said the property is not in the hotel business.

"We are in the experience business. Corporate clients choose us because of our size and our ability to customize visits. Luttrellstown is a private refuge offering an unrivaled location for discreet meetings, conferences, product launches and incentive travel programs," he said, adding that Primwest considers the U.S. market to be "our major growth area for the future."

The castle's staff has customized unique events, such as setting up a full circus on the grounds, developing challenge sports for incentive groups and organizing falconry, clay pigeon shooting and horseback riding programs. Local entertainment often is brought in.

There also is an 18-hole golf course, plus fishing and boating on the estate's 20-acre lake.

A clubhouse on the golf course can seat up to 200 for meals, and its second floor has three meeting rooms.

Groups can rent the castle just for a dinner event. A gala dinner at the castle for 100 would run about $5,800. A dinner gathering alone is not eligible for agency commission.

The interior of Luttrellstown Castle is elegant, and loaded with authentic antiques -- there are few reproductions here.

Service by the castle staff is first rate; they seem to only appear when you need them, and they are a friendly and sophisticated group.

In addition to the castle's 14 bedrooms, which are decorated in period furniture, mostly Victorian, the property has a dining room, called the Kentian Room, which can seat up to 60 people for formal dining.

The Van Stry Room is the main reception room and often functions as a living room, with couches, chairs, a grand piano and a fireplace. It can seat 100, theater-style.

The Grisaille Room frequently is used as a board/conference room for corporate groups and can seat 35 for lunch or dinner. At other times it's set up like a game room, with chess and backgammon.

Tall windows in the cozy library offer views of the expansive grounds, having originally been the castle entrance hall.

There's a game room on the basement level, containing a pool table. A large breakfast room with fireplace also is at basement level, along with the kitchens and wine cellars.

The castle grounds are home to a small herd of cattle. Near the stables are three two-bedroom self-catering cottages. Guests who book them cannot take their meals at the castle. The apartments run about $140 per night.

Agents and meeting planners can get more information by contacting the castle direct via e-mail to [email protected]. A Web site for the property is under construction.

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