Bray Head Hotel

Admittedly, I had intended on skipping the part of last Saturday’s photowalk that took place in the hotel. My intention was to come along after the start and meet the crowd in Kilruddery gardens for some sunny sauntering and leisurely photo taking. As if to motivate myself to take some photos, I even cleaned my 5D’s sensor for the first time since I bought it several years ago.

On arriving suitably late in Bray and buying a cup of distinctly average coffee (meow, I know), I met up with the gang. Although an hour had passed since the start of the photowalk, they had only explored the first two rooms of the hotel. In the run up to the event, I did a little (very little) googling on the Bray Head Hotel. What came back to me were images of a deteriorating building which seemed even worse internally. The photos seemed to suggest that it was in a serious state of disrepair.

It was quite a surprise to walk into the reception of the hotel and find quite the opposite. Although downgraded to a guest house, the hotel has been maintained perfectly by the current owner. You feel like you have to adjust your clothing style back 50 years when you walk in the front door, it’s as if you traveled back in time simply by turning a door knob. The hotel has been host to several film crews for movies such as The Commitments and (as the owner pointed out) a story on the life of Jimi Hendrix.

It’s all still very much intact, kitchen, breakfast room, function room, two bars (one of which still serves the public), nightclub and more bedrooms than the owner has counted. As I walked solo down one of the dimly lit corridors, I couldn’t help but think I was an extra in “The Shining”. There was an eerieness in the quietness of the place and before long the layout of the corridors and doors to rooms seemed to suggest that Stanley Kubrick himself had a hand in designing the building. I can’t remember if this was all before or after David suggested that the hotel was “The Overlook Hotel” of Ireland.

Before I go on, if you haven’t seen “The Shining”, Kubrick designed the visuals of The Overlook Hotel in such a way as to screw with the viewers sense of space. Doors where they shouldn’t have been, rooms that were impossibly large given the layout of the building and huge open spaces where they had no business being. Stuff like that. There (is) was an excellent video on online that went through it in some detail but sadly Warner Brothers had it taken down. There’s a taste of what the video discussed here. Go get a copy of “The Shining” and watch that instead. It’s not that scary. Honest.

On the first few floors the rooms were all pretty much as in the photos on this post. It’s almost as if they’d been maintained this way for novelty value. There was some evidence of restoration and modernisation, mostly due to updated fire safety regulations, but it was few and far between.

On the fourth floor, we seemed to catapult forward 20 years. I believe I commented that I had stayed at £120 a night hotels in London that weren’t as well appointed. To be honest, even the rooms on the lower floors were more luxurious and modern than those in some London hotels I’ve stayed in. It was almost like being in a different building. After venturing out onto the roof of the hotel and taking some photos of the beach, I retreated back inside to the cool and shade of the fourth floor.

The owner showed us around a selection of some of the fancier rooms and the guest lounge. We (that is, the royal we) assisted in freeing some windows that had become stuck due to being recently painted. I even hung a net curtain or two. Had I a CV with me at the time, I’d have applied for the position of caretaker. On this occasion, I had to be content with the title of ‘useful man’. I’m happy enough with that.

A glance at the clock revealed we had been strolling around the hotel for over four hours and making the relatively short drive to Kilruddery was pointless due to their opening hours. Probably a good thing, neither I nor Julie have ever been there so we can go together at some stage in the future.

These and more photos are up on my pix.ie account. My thanks to David for organising the trip.

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