Orlagh House is very familiar to residents in the area, many of whom had occasion to visit over the years when owned by the Augustinians who were in occupation from 1872.
That all changed in 2017 when the property was sold on the open market and acquired by a group of locals from Rathfarnham whom originally had plans for a Step Down and Care facility. The demesne is located in 45 acres on the foothills of the Dublin Mountains but with great accessibility from the motorway, (M50 Junction 12); Orlagh House offers visitors great views of Dublin City, Howth Head and the Irish Sea and sits prominently on a high vista overlooking the greater Rathfarnham area.
The restoration of Orlagh House has transformed the property from a spartan Retreat Centre into a high-quality venue for Weddings, corporate hire and private events ranging from Christenings, to birthday parties to music recitals, to yoga weekends and everything in between.
KN Network (virtually) interviewed local girl and Bookings manager at Orlagh, Roisin O’Hanlon.
Knockylon Network (KN), Roisin O’Hanlon (ROH)
KN: SO ROISIN WHATS YOUR STORY?
ROH: Where do I start! Well briefly before Orlagh i worked in retail management for about 15 years. I was born and reared in Glenbrook park in Rathfarnham and I now live in Hunters Wood in Ballycullen, so my commute to work is fairly good!
KN: YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN ! SO HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED AT ORLAGH?
ROH: You know, the main owner asked me out of the blue to come on board. I knew him and some of his friends, who would all be family friends growing up, had bought it. I had been at a party there and could see the painstaking work that had gone into restoring the building. Even just the fixtures, fittings and furniture, the stories behind him acquiring some of the stuff are hilarious, and the history behind some of the pieces is just fascinating. So, when the property had been substantially put back into a condition where you could have paid events he brought me on to co-ordinate that aspect. So I have been working there now for over 2 and a half years. You can imagine I’m basically part of a team setting up a business from scratch, recruitment, training, website, videos, photographs, health and safety, fire protection, advertising, viewings, bookings, weddings, parties, tears and laughter.
KN: SO WHAT TYPE OF EVENTS?
ROH: Where do I start? Well we are not a hotel, which sometimes people get confused and think we are because we do after all have 14 bedrooms, kitchens etc but the house is not really conducive to that. Not all the bedrooms are ensuite for instance and we are limited in parking. The owners wanted to be really respectful of the uniqueness of Orlagh and its wow factor. That sounds corny, but it really is somewhere special. It lends itself to celebrations and to those whom want to own a venue for the evening or for a week for that matter. What I mean by that is that we only do one booking at a time so our guests have the place to themselves. Every booking is special and unique. We never run two events on the same day, so when we say we do exclusive bookings we are not talking about exclusive as in out of reach for most people, we are talking about exclusive as in, “its yours “exclusively!”. Does that make sense? In a nutshell we are a great venue for someone who wants to celebrate a special occasion. Whether that’s a Wedding, party or a celebration. I guess our first guests took a chance on us when the house was very much a work in progress and a bit Heath Robinson and that’s being kind. We hear the same thing from guests over and over again. I am local, but didn’t really know this place and now that I do its simply unbeatable and very special.
Our dining room which is probably my favourite room in the house, has a huge period dining table and chairs , it’s absolutely perfect for that special dinner party with friends or family or the more intimate Covid Wedding. We have our own in-house chef and a variety of menu options for all occasions, she will also tailor a menu to suit.
KN: SO WHAT WORK HAS BEEN DONE TO THE HOUSE?
ROH: If anyone had the misconception of the Augustinians living in grandeur in the big house on the hill that simply was not the case. The house was very heavily institutionalised with lots of spartan little featureless bedrooms and Georgian features in very few of the downstairs entertainment rooms. What has been front and centre of the owners efforts is to enhance whatever authenticity that is there and bring lots more back in through appropriate furniture and furnishings. A great example of this has been the flooring, where unsightly 1970s carpets were lifted revealing original timbers, which were then painstakingly treated, varnished and repaired or the minutiae of door handles which were modern big horrible baubles and are now Georgian elegant brass doorknobs. It’s all the little things that get done. Every day, small improvements.
KN: SO WHO HAS DONE ALL THE WORK?
ROH: Well that’s a huge question because that journey is far from completed. It’s a bit like the San Francisco bridge this place. Although a huge amount of work has been done it’s a continuous exercise. There’s just so much to do both inside the house and on the land. Since acquiring, every single penny the bookings have generated has either been reinvested in the house or on stuff needed for bookings, like Garden furniture or safety features. A big Wedding could have 20 of us up here working, all locals, whilst smaller more intimate events might only have a couple of us in attendance looking after whatever the guests need. We get a lot of help on the land from our great neighbours at Rathfarnham Equestrian centre, whom have a lot of heavy equipment, and its their beautiful horses, that grace the estate. Old school, grass cutters !
KN: HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED THINGS?
Terribly. Just really pray this vaccine rolls out quickly. Covid interrupted many people’s plans for celebrations, it has been particularly difficult on couples trying to plan a Wedding. The team here at Orlagh House rose to the challenge, and under very difficult circumstances helped lots of couples last year to create very special and memorable ‘Covid-compliant’ Weddings for close family and friends. Some of the smaller weddings that went ahead in 2020 were those that quickly adapted guest numbers and tailored plans for an intimate and truly special day. Honestly some brides preferred it as it took a lot of the stress out of their big day.
The House is spacious and airy and offers corporate clients breakout rooms and lots of indoor and outdoor space, and is ideally suited to corporate off-sites and events. Team-building activities, coach transfers, catering and bar service can all be arranged.
KN: SO WHAT DO CUSTOMERS THINK OF IT?
ROH: They absolutely love it. Even though parts of the building are creaking and we don’t have luxury ensuites in every bedroom, guests just get captivated by the special ambience the place has. A really special feeling. Here’s just one of the nice testimonials a guest left:
‘We had a wonderful day and stay in Orlagh. You really feel the house is yours… no corporate hotel vibes.. friendly and happy staff…best view in Dublin. You feel as though you are in the country yet everyone was a short taxi ride from home… Best venue EVER’ Barbara & Alex
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT ROISIN FOR A VIEWING PLEASE DO SO.
Orlagh is also pre-recruiting Summer casual staff to work events.
For more information or to arrange a viewing please contact Roisin on [email protected]