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Living – working and visiting – is all easier in sunny Gorey

The bustling Wexford town of Gorey is the gateway to the sunny southeast

Eibhear Coyle, general manager of the town’s Amber Springs Hotel, didn’t know that living in Gorey would be easier when he took up the position, in 2014.

In fact, as a Skerries boy who left Ireland at the age of 17 to work in the hospitality sector overseas, he knew nothing about Gorey at all. He just knew that having enjoyed an executive career in upmarket hotels stretching from the Bahamas to London, he wanted to raise his children in Ireland. It proved a terrific move, both for his career and his family.

Coyle has established the Amber Springs as one of the country’s top family destinations, a huge market which, having its target demographic in his own home, he understands completely.

The property has grown from a 79-bedroom property welcoming 40,000 guests a year, to a 127-bedroom property welcoming 127,000 guests last year, its record.


He did it by staying niche and understanding that “when the kids are happy, everyone’s happy”.

At the Amber Springs, they’d be hard pressed not to be. It has a fully enclosed garden surrounded by food and beverage options, a football field, playground, animal park, 80-seater cinema, indoor play area, kids clubs, teens entertainment room and a swimming pool. “Most of all we have great staff who care about and are really used to kids,” he says.

His own kids are now aged nine and 12 and it’s because of his experience travelling with them that he developed the hotel’s hugely popular dens – large L-shaped family suites. It arose because he hates staying in hotels where children are in adjacent rooms, with “sharp edges, windows and a door to worry about – and, of course, you end up paying double,” he explains.

Parents come for the food too. The hotel has its own farm, with world-class cattle, representing “proper provenance”, he says.

The move has been as good for his family as it has for his career. “All the stars aligned for us in moving here. The schools are terrific, with great facilities, and the kids are into all sorts of sports, including camogie, soccer, rugby, football, hurling and gymnastics,” he says.

It’s just as good for grown-ups. “There’s a great food and cafe culture. It’s just a cool little town.”

Caitlin Clauson, sales and marketing executive at swish Seafield Hotel & Spa Resort, grew up half-an-hour away, near Bunclody. She has always come to Gorey for its shopping. “Any time I’ve an event to go to, or a wedding, I’ll come to Gorey’s boutiques, they’re really great,” she says.

Seafield is a year-round resort popular for everything from family get-togethers to business meetings. Right now it is gearing up for its busy summer season, with families attracted to its 30 courtyard suites and family packages that come with passes to family-friendly activity centres nearby.

Seafield’s access to beautiful Ballymoney beach is part of what makes it such an exceptional wedding venue too. “Couples love that they can have their wedding pictures on the beach without leaving the resort,” she says.

Others come to the 102-bedroom hotel for its award-winning Oceo Spa. “It’s a full pamper experience,” says Clauson.

Elegant Marlfield House, run by sisters and second-generation hoteliers Margaret and Laura Bowe, is a member of the prestigious Blue Book of country houses.

“We trade on excellence and a very high standard of comfort, luxury and cuisine,” says Margaret Bowe.

The 1830s Regency period property is renowned for its Conservatory, a fine dining restaurant. In 2015 the sisters also opened The Duck restaurant, offering casual dining with a Mediterranean flavour.

Marlfield has 36 acres of gardens and walkways, including kitchen gardens where produce is grown. In 2020 Marlfield developed its Pond Suites, one- and two-bedroom units with sittingrooms and terraces, and wonderfully decorated interiors. “It’s a very modern country house experience and very luxurious,” says Bowe.

“We get a lot of couples and a lot of ladies coming together, as well as family events such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Our other unique selling point is our wonderful team of staff and the care and genuine warm welcome they give to all our guests, and the numerous beautiful white sandy beaches that surround us, including Old Bawn and Kilpatrick beach – there are dozens,” says Bowe.

No wonder she feels lucky to be from Gorey. “It’s the best town on the east coast,” she says.

Gorey has a reputation for boutiques that brings people from across the country to shop for outfits, whether for a day at the races or a wedding.

One of the fashionistas who put the town on this particular map is Marian McKenna, who opened La Crème, on Esmonde Street, in 1999. Today she has a second store two doors up, dedicated to mother of the bride and groom outfits.

McKenna spends much of her time shooting videos for YouTube, teaching people how to put colours together, or how to dress for body shape. “I love helping people to go out of their comfort zone with outfits they initially say they wouldn’t choose, but which, when they put them on, transforms them – and they love it,” she says.

Just up the road, colleagues Sarah Caulfield and Chris Vos work at Innovate, an ICT managed services and cloud service provider, which employs 50 people.

Caulfield grew up in Gorey. Being so close to work means she can be home for her kids’ tea and to get them to matches. “There’s also a good variety of accommodation and the quality is great, especially if you drive, because there are loads of great options in the catchment area,” she says.

Vos is the company’s talent acquisition manager and runs Skillsource, its recruitment agency. He says there are great job opportunities in Gorey, especially in IT and engineering.

He is a Dutchman who has lived in Ireland for 26 years. He moved to Gorey four years ago. “I used to live 9km from my job on Stephen’s Green. Now I live 9km from my job in Gorey, but what a different 9km it is,” he says. “Now I leave my house at 8.20am, drop my kids to school, and am at my desk at 8.45. It’s a 12-minute drive. Except today. Today I’m working from home and was delayed for five minutes by cows crossing the road.”

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times