This whole place is the accommodation?” I ask Bee Hayes incredulously. Standing in the courtyard of the Granary, a fully converted and lavishly restored farm building of 80 meters in length, I am already amazed by what the Hayes family has achieved on their drystock farm.
Originally these buildings were for the ponies and traps used on the farm, Bee explains. The traditional arch - now the entrance - is just one remnant of this past use, while the top floor feed store has been converted into bedrooms. The ventilation sluice windows are still present, albeit now glass sealed with large sash windows added as part of the renovation. Little imagination, however, is required to picture the work that has gone into this labour of love as Bee and her husband Eamonn have kept a picture diary of the transformation. And what a transformation it is.
After the pony and trap, there was cattle in these buildings. The yard in which we stand was the holding area, which had a crush and access to the main farm. Eamonn was born here on the suckler and beef farm. Years ago, the cattle handling facilities were moved down to the main yard as there was always a plan in the back of the couple’s mind to develop Bee’s Granary idea.
She noted that typically older buildings like the Granary were perpendicular to the road to provide easy access for animals, saying that they were lucky there were no sheds on the road side so guests have their own private entrance and access to the fields and the views of Rahelty Castle and the Devil’s Bit.
“Although we started building [the Granary] 10 years ago it wasn’t really a priority because we were farming and the kids were small. We were doing it in our spare time and Eamonn did an awful lot of the work with the lads”, Bee says of the timeline.
The couple were married 30 years in September.
“I was nursing in St Luke’s in Kilkenny and back then, ?there were Macra field evenings. There was a dance after the field evening in Urlingford and Smokie were playing. We met there,” explains Bee of their first meeting.
Quite serendipitous really as Eamon remarked that neither of them were ever in the place before or since as it actually closed down soon afterwards.
Speaking with the couple, there is a striking mutual appreciation for each other evident. Respect for the skillsets they have brought and for the support they provide each other radiates. However it appears to be very much the sum of these parts as well as the involvement of their three children, Eddie, Cathal and Elaine, that have turned a rundown shed into a five star accommodation as good as anything you would see the world over. And it’s on a working farm in Tipperary.
COVID silver lining
“We’ve always liked old or unusual things and antiques in our own house and where possible Bee would have incorporated that in her design,” Eamonn says of the style. But it was Eamonn himself who did a lot of the heavy lifting (literally). The pandemic for the Granary was actually a positive as Bee and Eamonn’s two sons were either working or studying at home. So “all that landscaping and the estate railings were done”.
After St Luke’s, Bee worked as a nurse in a doctor’s practice and with Shannondoc and then during the COVID-19 period, she did the vaccinations. But she cut back on her hours to focus on the business at home as she feels, “To do it right, you have to be here when people are coming.”
It is this level of commitment to her guests that has earned Bee her superhost title on the Airbnb platform. “I love to see people coming from all over the world. I’m just constantly amazed where they’re coming from and how do they actually land here.”
That was my next question to Bee – how are guests finding the Granary?
The accommodation, of two bedrooms and large open plan living space, can be booked through Airbnb and booking.com, she says with guests mainly visiting for family events, mostly international travellers.
A good carpenter
“We hope to retire into this,” Bee says as we enter the building. I can understand why. There is a moment when you walk through the door that I am sure every guest has experienced, where you just stand and soak up what you see. Mesmerised by the expanse of space and the finish that has been afforded to this conversion.
Although not a protected structure, the building dates back to the 18th century. Bee explains that, “you have to go with the walls, we didn’t add or subtract anything but because there was a crack in one of the walls we added a ring beam on the top to secure it, then we reroofed it.”
Anyone wishing to do a bit of work on their home at the moment will struggle to get a carpenter and Bee was no different, but she was patient and he was worth the wait; from the smallest hidden details to light fittings and window shutters to the more obvious stairs, bathrooms and floors.
The two bedrooms are large and en-suite. I queried with such a large space, why not have more bedrooms, but Bee wasn’t concerned with getting maximum numbers of people. She had a vision of luxurious comfort for families.
For example, if someone was celebrating a birthday; “I’d like to have a cake for them. I just like to have everything perfect before they come as well. So it’s not a quick turnover. We went for quality more than quantity so the price might be a little higher to reflect that.
On this Eamonn added; “People often times go away and compromise on a degree of luxury. I think that guests are really spoiled here as Bee looks after them so well, and she gets so much enjoyment out of seeing our guests happy. The commercial [side] doesn’t matter as much as that. It’s the most important thing.
Some people just want to do their own thing while others will want to engage more. In the Granary, both forms of hospitality are possible.
“I understand when people are travelling, packing bags, organising everything at home and then a big long drive. It’s exhausting, and me, I’d love a cup of tea and a slice of apple tart when I arrived so this is what I try to have for guests and then I’ll disappear till they need me.”
A stay at the Granary is a three night minimum and is on a whole property basis. Three nights for four people at the end of October will cost €886.