HOST OF THE YEAR 2014
Bob Isles, Whitepark House, Ballintoy, Co Antrim
We should never be complacent about how others see us, but each time a visitor satisfaction survey is published the results are the same, with Ireland’s wonderful scenery (still impressive, despite our best efforts over the last decade) and the warmth and friendliness of the people coming up trumps every time.
There was certainly some slippage in the boom years, when visitors were not always welcomed by people familiar with the local area, and staff in the larger establishments were often too busy to give the individual attention that makes a stay memorable - and we are still encountering far too many examples of unwelcoming staff and offhand, uninterested service. But as our Host of the Year proves on a daily basis, when it is right, Irish hospitality really is unique.
You have only to look at Bob Isles beaming out of the Welcome page on his website to know that a visit to his pretty old house will be wonderful. There he is at the front door, in a striped apron with a tea towel over his arm - and, on a super aerial shot showing the nearby beach, he’s jotted a handwritten welcome note.
How could you not want to book in here - immediately! If you do, you’ll find that it’s for real: your chatty and well-informed host welcomes you to the cosy sitting room and plies you with home-made pastries and bottomless cups of perfect tea before showing you to one of the gorgeous and thoughtfully designed bedrooms, all of which have lots of exotic touches and terrific bathrooms.
This man is an exceptional host, giving guests plenty of space to relax yet ensuring they never want for anything - and with apparently unlimited local knowledge of the area, attractions and restaurants to help you enjoy your stay. A treasure indeed.