You’d be forgiven for thinking the Setanta Guest House and B&B in Ardee was a pretty small operation. You’d be forgiven for forgetting it was there. It’s door sits snugly in between the AIB Bank and Allcare Pharmacy and Castle Street. It’s discreet.
In reality, the family run-business is more than your conventional B&B. It’s an 18-room Guest House. It also features a meeting room, living area, spacious new dining room and a courtyard. The potential uses for the latter seem endless.
Later this year, the Taaffe family who run Setanta Guest House are relaunching. It will be a fresh start of sorts. April marked the third anniversary of Declan Taaffe. His wife Una and sons Donail and Joe now run the business.
The summer months will see a big undertaking to renovate and upgrade the building – with particular focus on the original rooms of the B&B. Having first opened in 1997 with six bedrooms, those original rooms have all the wooden beams, rustic floors, high ceilings and associated charm that mark Setanta out as a must-stay in Ardee.
It’s reminiscent and evocative too. Inside, it looks how a well looked after Georgian townhouse really should.
In 2002, a much larger extension was built onto the building at the back, an addition of 13 new rooms which allows Setanta to cater for large groups or high demand at busy times of the year. From visitors to the town, party guests, minibus tours or passing workmen – it’s open to all, and big enough to cater for a big volumes of bookings.
But perhaps, people don’t know quite how big Setanta Guesthouse is or how extensive the early 00s extension itself was.
Bedroom sizes range but most are two or even three bed. Proudly, Joe Taaffe told ThisIsArdee.ie when we visited Setanta Guesthouse this month that the beds were sourced from the same provider as Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The Taaffe’s don’t want their visitors to roll the dice when they come to Ardee – they want to feel like they’ve picked a guaranteed winner.
“We have 18 rooms and they all need something done to them,” Joe tells us. “The rooms themselves are going to be a slow process – taking two or three at a time. The plan is to renovate all the rooms over the next year.”
This summer will see the beginning of that work at Setanta Guesthouse. It’s a sprawling building, bigger than you’d come to expect from taking it on it’s front facade. The work will be done in phases, bit-by-bit, but the layout of the building means it will be business as usual in the summer months.
April 18th last marked the third anniversary of Declan’s passing. His shock loss hit the family, and subsequently the business, hard.
“Dad passed away just over three years ago,” Joe recalls. “It was a difficult circumstance. We were gobsmacked and it took us completely….If people called up to the door, looking for rooms, it was a case of if Mam was in the mood.
“Coming up on three years, we needed to snap out of it. We have to go out – all or nothing.”
After a few years in the doldrums, it’s easy to sense the verve in Joe’s voice and the spring in his step. He hopes to offer an experience to those coming to stay at Setanta Guest House. He’s been busy sourcing local link ups – shooting clubs, canoeing and go-karting facilities, dancing and jiving lessons, pilates teachers, make-up artists for tutorials.
He’s even looking into bringing in a cocktail barman for hen do’s, couples weekends and parties. “All we’ll need then is a big digger out on the bog for bog snorkelling,” he laughs.
“You need to give people a reason to come. Everyone can benefit. I’m a firm believer in the SME. Some people have been extremely receptive to the idea and it’s something I feel can be done.
“We’re outsourcing and creating affiliations with other business. We’re trying to reach out and connect with other businesses in the town and that’ important,” he says.
As with most people in Ardee, Joe is keen to see Ardee Castle open to the public. He is certainly of the opinion having an attraction like that on the doorstep can only help his business. But that’s not something the Taaffe’s can influence. They have to look after their own house.
It just so happens there’s is a big one. They’re not complaining. The more people who come to stay the better. Back when the B&B was a six-room premises, pre-2002 extension, Daniel O’Donnell’s Ardee Parish Centre concerts used to ensure a full house.
We don’t know if Daniel is making a return to Ardee soon but if you do – or you’re having visitors – Setanta Guest House and B&B is a great place to stay, ensuring people and spending stays local. We’re looking forward to the renovation and relaunch this September.
To book a room at Setanta Guesthouse & B&B Ardee, call now on +353 (0)41 6853319.