Holidaying on a boat is not something new in Leitrim, but a luxury “boatel” definitely is a new venture for the county.
Mary McInerney who hails from Galway and her husband Jorn Bjerknes from Oslo not only live on a 50ft barge on the Shannon Erne all year round, but have made their dream of a boatel in Leitrim come true.
Mary first hired barges from Riversdale Barges, Ballinamore, and it is here she returned to Graham Thomas to craft the 70ft 26 tonne barge which has two double cabins, an outdoor patio on the stern deck, a dining area and wine bar. Riversdale boatyard also built the couple's home barge called Froya.
The steel hull for the barge was imported in laser cuts from England, it was assembled piece by piece. There were 30,000 pieces. Both vessels were docked through the winter at Keshcarrigan.
Inside the walls are decorated with original art works. Much of the interior was created by French-born Drumshanbo-based carver Charlie Perpoil whose commissions include work on a castle for a Belgian princess who wanted a bed like Marie Antoinette’s.
The Lovely Leitrim boatel was launched by comedian and actor Pat Shortt in Carrick-on-Shannon last Friday, April 27. Pat entertained the crowd and even played the saxophone in The Anchorage bar afterwards.
The couple's business idea has been supported by Leitrim Development Company (LDC) and Leitrim Local Enterprise Office, the price tag for Lovely Leitrim was close to €300,000.
Jorn has a skipper's licence and like his wife is a qualified chef. Potential menus tested on friends and neighbours include white chocolate risotto with scallops, and Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon.
The holidays will be tailor-made and very much at the luxury end of the market with most interest expected to come from overseas visitors.
Cruises can be designed to cater for golfing enthusiasts or for those interested in hill walking, angling, water sports or places of historical or literary interest. The couple also expect to have Christmas holiday cruises.
The barge will also be available for private parties, meetings, small conference venue, and film producers looking for a location boat.
During the off-season the couple will operate the barge as a pop-up wine bar, probably visiting a lot of festivals.
The boatel will be able to meet guests in Boyle, Lough Key Forest Park, Carrick-on-Shannon, Ballinamore or Ballyconnell.
A seven-night fully catered break (including wines supplied by Enrico Fantasia of Grapecircus) will cost €2,500 per person.
Shorter cruises are also available. For full details visit:http://www.bargeholidayboatel.ie/ the website also has a blog which has monthly updates of the boatel being built.