On a mission to reignite my love for reading (and hit my Goodreads target), I spent last summer galivanting around literary festivals, including Ireland’s famous Dalkey Book Festival, which has long been on my bucket list.
With James Joyce’s Ulysses taking up plenty of hand luggage space, I departed from Heathrow to Dublin with the very best of intellectual intentions. And look, if you’re going to hunker down with the 736-page epic, you may as well do so in the centre of Dublin, ideally within striking distance of the novel’s most famous locations – including Grafton Street, the National Library of Ireland and the Sandymount Strand.
The fact that The Westbury – a five-star boutique hotel – happens to be one of the most luxurious spots in the city centre? Well, that doesn’t hurt one bit. It’s also one of eight prestigious hotels owned by The Doyle Collection, which is a headline sponsor of the internationally renowned Dalkey and Borris Literary festivals. If, like me, you’re hankering after a bit of culture, this must surely be the place.
An easy 40-minute car journey from Dublin airport (and only slightly longer via bus), the entrance to the hotel is nestled between The Westbury Shopping Mall – more on that later – and Balfes Bar & Brasserie – again, more on that later.
The Westbury’s exterior is a slick black-and-gold affair, with an art-deco theme that runs throughout the six-story building. The upper deck of the lobby is adorned with perfectly landscaped greenery, while the entrance itself is between two large planters brimming with flowering leaves – an encouraging sign of interiors to come.
A concierge swiftly dealt with my luggage – Ulysses and all – before directing me up the steps (a ramp is also available), through the revolving door, and into an achingly stylish hotel lobby. The aesthetic touches – including plenty of flowers, gold ornaments, and artwork – never infringe on the expansive, liberating feel of the space.
Ascend the double grand staircase (a lift is available – and what a lift it is…), and you’ll be greeted with a magnificent floral display, changed weekly to ensure maximum freshness and vibrancy, which adorns John Lavery’s 1912 oil painting of Miss Haslam; her hands, encouragingly, curled around a book.
After checking in and chatting with the sociable, knowledgeable staff at the reception desk, it was time to head for my room, located on the fourth floor. The hotel’s lift is small, but boy, does it have character. If you’re in the market for a selfie, the lift contains at least 18 separate mirrors panelled on the polished wood walls. And if you need to catch your breath? There’s a sofa… in the lift. Who says luxury and novelty can’t go hand in hand?
I set up camp in one of The Westbury’s front-facing classic rooms, complete with a king-size bed, lavish cream and taupe furnishings, and a view of Balfe Street.