The sudden passing of Kay McEvilly, much-loved owner of the lovely Cashel House Hotel in Connemara, has greatly saddened her many friends in Irish hospitality. She and her husband, the late Dermot McEvilly, were among the pioneers of modern Irish hospitality and the Irish country house movement that was such an important element of its foundation - and indeed of the food tourism movement that is only now beginning to gain real traction – when they opened Cashel House as an hotel in 1968.
The following year General and Madame de Gaulle chose to stay for two weeks, an historic visit of which the McEvilly family is justly proud – look out for the photographs and other memorabilia in the hall – and Dermot and Kay were far ahead of their time, in choosing to woo European visitors to boost the traditional British market.
The de Gaulle visit meant immediate recognition for the hotel, but it did even more for Ireland by putting the Gallic seal of approval on Irish hospitality and food – something that we all continue to benefit from today.
Kay was a caring and exceptionally perceptive host, knowing instinctively just when to make a contribution and when to hold back and give guests space, and a selfless recipient of much public recognition, including our Host of the Year Award – sharing the company of many of the gentle giants of Irish hospitality down through the years, all wonderfully giving people for whom retirement was never part of their vocabulary.
An avid gardener, Kay loved nothing better than spending time in her beautiful gardens, which run down to a private foreshore, and contribute greatly to the atmosphere of this lovely property; it is a member of the Connemara Garden Trail and in recent years Kay introduced short residential Cashel House Garden Courses, so her hospitality was extended to many fellow gardening enthusiasts as well as hotel guests.
A delightful person, for whom nothing was ever too much trouble, she will be greatly missed and we extend our deepest sympathy to her daughter Lucy, sons Frank and Brian, her extended family and all of the loyal staff at Cashel House.