Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Rooms at Bardons revive childhood memories

When Bardons in Kilcullen was originally a hotel it catered for travellers seeking rest from the onerous journeys to and from south of Dublin, writes Brian Byrne. Built beside a bridge over the Liffey which was also a payment point of Ireland's first toll road, it offered space for carriages and horses as well as the people using them.

It hasn't been a hotel for many decades, but in recent years current owners of the pub Eddie Cross and his wife Leanne have revived the accommodation side of things, operating a rooms-only service for visitors to Kilcullen, where such facilities are scarce. The rooms were comfortable, and suited to customer requirements. Anyone who availed of them were reportedly very happy with the offering.

But that offering has been moved up a significant notch or more. A substantial investment in design and furnishing has now been realised in what is being marketed as 'The Rooms at Bardons', and these are very much upmarket rooms. Under the direction of interior designer Elaine McKenzie-Smith, there are now seven rooms available, including a family suite, each of which has its own colour-based theme.

It's all a very clever mixture of plush furnishing and quirky accessories, and a tilt at older times in the dressing table pieces. Done without professional expertise it could have been disastrous, but with the designer's flair and Leanne and Eddies' vision of what they wanted, Bardons now offers high-end hotel opulence in the kind of a bed-without-breakfast operation anonymity which many travellers appreciate.

There are no numbers to the rooms now. There's the White Room, the Black Room, the Grey Room, the Teal Room, the Green Room, and the Gold Room. There's even a Black and White Room. Depending on your colour sensibilities, you may love or hate the one to which you are allocated. Elaine McKenzie-Smith and her clients have certainly not been bland in this latest version of what was once Bardon's Hotel. And that is no bad thing at all.

It was a particular emphasis of Leanne and Eddie's that the work should involve local suppliers and craftspeople. In addition to Elaine Mackenzie-Smith's Number Ten Design, these included Damien Kelly for the electrics, Adrian Woodlock with plumbing, Daragh Talbot on painting, Dermot Meenihan' s plastering, Kevin Kelly who provided the wardrobes and radiator covers, Brennans Hardware for the building supplies, Ger Dooley who supplied the sanitary ware, Firestop the fire extinguishers, Gearoid Doyle's carpentry, Kayfoam beds, O'Sullivan Carpets, and Joe O'Connor's Carvon Engraving for the signage.

The seven rooms are in the first and second floors of the premises, the lower ones in what I remember as the 'parlour' of a house where the Byrne children and the Bardon children played much of our time when we were growing up in the 1950s — though the parlour was a forbidden space to us. The rest of the time was when the Bardons played with us in our home, Moyola on the other side of the Hideout. Those times have their own stories.

But as a point of perspective going back to the earlier days of Bardon's Hotel, there is the seminal occasion of the 1903 Gordon Bennett Race, when the French team stayed there. The team comprised René de Knyff, who came second in the race to Belgian Camille Jenatzy driving for the German team; Henry Farman who later became famous for his aviation exploits and aircraft designs; and Fernand Gabriel, the youngest of the trio. It was the only team of which all members completed the race. with Farman and Gabriel taking third and fourth places respectively.

That's a piece of history which is still to be seen in a Visitor's Book from the period, where the team signed in. It is probably true that those guys did not have as much comfort as can be had in the premises today. It probably didn't matter to them then, as they had more pressing things on their minds.

But they'd really love it today ...

All the photos are here.

(This article was first published on the Kilcullen page of the Kildare Nationalist.)