International Women’s Day is about celebrating women’s achievements. And, here in North Wexford, we’re celebrating the three women who are responsible for the hospitality jewel that is Marlfield House.
Mary Bowe and her daughters, Margaret and Laura, have crafted Marlfield House into the multi-award-winning luxury country house hotel that it is today. “We’re all feminists,” said Margaret, “and my mother was ahead of her time. And she had a very supportive husband, Ray, who firmly believed that women were the fairer race.”
Whilst the family are celebrating winning Best Customer Service in Leinster for The Duck restaurant in the Irish Restaurant Awards 2020 and being named Hotel of the year 2020 by Georgina Campbell, they do so without Ray, who passed away last November.
Today, it is Margaret and Laura who run the family business, which started in 1978 after their parents bought the house from Lady Courtown. “Everything we do is about seeing the finer detail, being organised, focused on warm hospitality comfort. And maybe these are female attributes …”
It is also about meeting people’s needs and offering a new experience. Next on the development menu are the luxury bedroom suites around the duck pond. Each will feature open-plan interiors with hot tubs, balconies and wood-burning stoves. A Garden Spa Pavilion with treatment rooms is planned in 2021. Add this to the existing 40 acres of manicured gardens, encompassing a large kitchen garden, woodland walks, lake and fowl reserve, lawns and herbaceous borders. And you get a very luxurious destination that is a member of the prestigious worldwide Relais & Chateaux luxury hotel group and Ireland’s Blue Book.
Both Margaret and Laura worked outside the business in the early years – Margaret in conference management in London, Laura in the film industry. Today, they bring their formidable skills to developing Marlfield House, standing on the shoulders of their chef and businesswoman mother, Mary, who brought fine dining to Curracloe. “Esker Lodge was very well known – my mother would have been a contemporary of Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe,” said Margaret. Diners rang in the morning to find out what in-season food was on the menu; they ordered at lunchtime; and Mary went to Wexford to buy the produce in the afternoon, before cooking enough to satisfy 150 people that night.
Today, the sisters who waitressed and cleaned glasses in Esker Lodge now sit beside each other in the office at Marlfield House. “Laura brings the creativity and design,” said Margaret, “whilst I would be pragmatic and an organiser. We try to give each other space. Working together changes your relationship and, as siblings, you have to respect each other.”
And they have respect for their heads of department, including general manager Greg Murphy and head chef Ruadhan Furlong who help them realise their vision of luxury service. A vision that has found favour with the likes of guests such as Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Robert Redford, Bono …
“There’s a natural friendliness and warmth about the whole place,” said Margaret. That’s no accident and comes from a lot of hard work and, yes, that attention to detail, and continuous investment. “We reinvest everything to maintain and raise standards,” said Margaret, highlighting the sustainable focus of the hotel and its membership of the NOW Force for Good Alliance. The global alliance members provide a sustainable travel experience and take responsibility for their impact on communities and the environment. Accredited with Green Hospitality Ireland, the hotel actively works to eliminate single-use plastics by finding alternatives.
Marlfield House is unique – for its attention to detail, wonderful staff, beautiful charming house, wonderful interiors, and it’s full of TLC (tender loving care), which it gets from the women running it and the woman who created it.
MARLFIELD HOUSE, COURTOWN ROAD, Gorey
T: 053 942 1124
Interview: Deirdre O’Flynn