The Professionals’ Choice

This week David Wilkinson, Chief Executive & Secretary of The Royal Automobile Club at Pall Mall and Woodcote Park goes back to his roots in Wicklow…

About David

David has been Chief Executive & Secretary of The Royal Automobile Club since December 2010. He started out as a Kitchen Apprentice in The Royal Hibernian Hotel in Dublin, graduated from the Shannon College of Hotel Management, and has worked in Switzerland, New York, London, Brussels, Seoul and spent fifteen years at the Dorchester, being General Manager there from 1997-2003.

Hunters Hotel, Newrath Bridge, Rathnew, Co Wicklow, Ireland.

I have been fortunate throughout my career to work in and visit some very fine hotels but one stands out to me as a real home from home! Hunters Hotel is tucked away on a quiet road between Dublin and Wicklow and dates back to the 1600’s. Being Ireland’s oldest coaching inn, originally serving as a stopping off point between Dublin and Wexford where the Coach horses would have been changed.

Tom and Richard Gelletlienow run the hotel, having taken over from their mother Maureen who ran it for as long as I can remember, and it has now been run by the same family for 200 years.

The bar houses photographs of one of the first cars to come to Ireland, a single cylinder Benz owned by Dr & Mrs Colohan, and by coincidence a car subsequently owned by a school friend, before it was sold on to Mercedes Benz in Dublin, where it can now be found magnificently restored (it completed the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 1988).

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Hunters is pure history. Parking in the stable yard, then walking on the stone floor in the front hall, which is probably the original from 1640, and has seen countless Dubliners crossing the threshold for lunch, afternoon tea and dinners. Wicklow lamb is invariably on the menu, with many of the vegetables and herbs coming from the hotels garden. If staying in the hotel, beware the staircase which creaks and groans as you make your way to your room.

This is a very special hotel in that it has barely changed over the 50 years I have been going there; indeed my children are the fifth generation of the Wilkinson family to have enjoyed the simplicity, yet warmth of its welcome. It is a haven of tranquillity, and one of the places I look forward to visiting when in Ireland.
The Old Thatched Summerhouse down at the end of the garden, beside the Vartry River (which rises in the Wicklow Mountains), was being repaired when I was last at Hunters, but you could imagine George Bernard Shaw, Charles Stewart Parnell, or indeed The King and Queen of Sweden sitting in the Garden (they are rumoured to be regular visitors!).

Perhaps the best known feature of Hunters is a notice in the Garden from a bygone non-politically correct age, which simply reads “Ladies and Gentlemen will not, and others must not, pull flowers in the garden!”
I can just picture the roaring fire in the Bar at Hunters, with a welcome from Richard and the thought of entering the traditional dining room with starched Irish linen tablecloths, and the simply cooked local produce at their very best.

As Jan Morris writing in Conde Nast Traveller (March 2011) put it, “Hunter’s is Irishness sublimated – with just a touch, I venture to say, of the Anglo-Irish to it”.

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