Laurel Villa Guest House. SYSTEM
LAUREL Villa Guest House has picked up its latest accolade, as visitors praise the hospitality, Seamus Heaney tours and blueberry scones available at the Magherafelt guest house.
Owners Eugene and Geraldine Kielt announced on Wednesday that are "delighted" to receive a McKenna's Guide 'Best in Ireland 2020' plaque and to feature in the most recent edition of the travel guide. The couple can add this award to their four-star guest house rating and acclaim from Tourism NI, The Observer and National Geographic.
Laurel Villa owners Eugene and Geraldine Kielt.
Eugene said being recognised by McKenna's Guide was a "nice endorsement" for the guest house. The business was started by his mother in the early 1960s and has been family-owned and operated ever since, weathering lean periods including The Troubles to offer visitors a unique experience.
"People need to have a reason to travel to stay with you, so you have to be a wee different from everybody else and it has to be authentic," Eugene said.
"We've been doing this for a long time, so we feel that we can offer more than just nice accommodation."
A registered tour guide for over 25 years, Eugene's tours of Heaney Country attract lots of poetry lovers to the guest house, as does the couple's collection of limited edition Heaney works in their reading room. Visitors from overseas exploring their family history can also get some advice from the Kielts on tracking down their ancestors.
"People come over looking for their ancestors and they want to learn a bit more about the places that they came from," Eugene said, "It's not just Magherafelt, people would be tracing ancestors from Maghera, Bellaghy, Ballinascreen and basing themselves in Magherafelt for their trip."
Laurel Villa has nearly 300 positive reviews on Tripadvisor and not even one negative review. Past visitors praise the "charming" company of the Kielts, the tours and genealogy advice, while breakfast at the guest house is universally commended, particularly Geraldine's homemade scones.
Eugene said that he feels these personal touches are what keeps customers returning.
"Business people quite often would be staying in hotels around the country," he said. "So whenever they stay with us, they know us by name and we know them whenever they return. They tell us about their families, so you can see why it would be attractive to them to stay here."
Geraldine said that she enjoyed meeting people "from all over" and was pleased that her scones went down so well with guests.
"We are very fortunate that we do get lovely people coming to stay with us. People who are interested in the area, interested in poetry, interested in their ancestors," she said.
"With programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? on TV more and more people are becoming interested in tracing their ancestry."
She said that she was delighted to feature in the 2020 edition of McKenna's Guide, which showcases the best accommodation and eateries across Ireland.
"Any time Eugene and I have been away over the years he would always use the guidebook," Geraldine said
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