In the Beginning:
A few years before John retired from AIB he was planning the next stage of his life. He and Sandra knew they wanted to work in a business together but exactly what they couldn't decide. In 1990 through their good friend, Pat Farrell, then Manager of AIB Dublin Road, Kilkenny, they heard that a site was for sale outside the town. John moved swiftly and within 24 hours the site was his. And so the first step was taken in John's new career!
Having bought the site they decided to research the guesthouse market and in the process travelled from Donegal to Skibbereen staying at B&Bs along the way, gathering ideas for their future business. With their architect they then formulated their plans and were ready for the next stage.
When John retired in January '93 he and Sandra took a three month holiday in their caravan touring Europe. On their return they decided to test the housing market in Dublin and offered their house in Castleknock for sale. Within three weeks the sale was agreed, the only snag being that the new owner wanted immediate possession. Undaunted they moved out and rented a house in Lucan. At the same time their builder in Kilkenny turned the first sod of their new abode. Five months later - in October - the house was ready for occupation. They moved to Kilkenny and immediately started a hectic work agenda to get the house ready for their first guests in the spring. The en-suite bedrooms all had in-built furniture but there were many trips to the sales in Dublin to buy beds, bed linen, towels, tableware, etc. etc. An industrial washing machine, dryer and iron were also on the shopping list. Sandra as interior designer selected wallpaper and John busied himself papering each room in turn. A far cry from perusing the referrals list!
Outside, John was keen to have the sloping garden looking shipshape as quickly as possible. 120 tons of top soil was spread and then the landscaper got to work planting 120 rose buses, 200 shrubs with John finishing off the work setting hundreds of bulbs all over. Grass seeds were sown and bark mulch topped off the planting giving the garden a professional and cared-for look.
All was ready for their first visitors but they both felt that a trial run was needed! So they invited some friends to come and stay - and comment. Leonard and Marlene Desmond from Skibbereen were two of the guinea-pigs who stayed over the weekend and declared themselves well satisfied with the Cahill treatment. And so they were ready for their first visitors - two Italians and three girls from Dublin who arrived on Valentine's weekend 1994. John admits they were nervous beforehand but everything went smoothly - and has gone smoothly since.
Their season starts at Easter and runs to end October with July and August being particularly busy. When In Touch visited in early March, seven people had already booked in for that night! Launard House is Bord Failte registered and a member of the Towns and Country Homes Association, it's on the Minitel computerised booking system and is also connected to the Internet! Visitors come from all over the world - US, UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Argentina....in fact the only two countries which have not been represented at Launard House are Greece and Portugal!
Guests are invited to select their breakfast menu the night before so that Sandra can be as organised as possible in the kitchen. She does all the cooking, including baking her own brown bread, while John waits at table and chats to the visitors. Overnight, he says, he has become a first-class tourist guide!
Visitors, John says, relish the Irish welcome and he has many photographs of friends they have made. A family of eight from Madrid based themselves at the house for a week while visiting Bunratty Castle, Glendalough and Waterford, 'it was like being at home' they wrote in the Visitors Book. Recently Brigadier General Kilmartin from the Pentagon presented Sandra with his Medal of Excellence as a token of his appreciation for her hospitality.
Surrounded as they are with the excellence of the Irish countryside, within a stone's throw of Kilkenny - City of Heritage, Kilkenny Design and workshops, nearby Mount Juliet, Inistioge, Thomastown and Graignamanagh, who could not enjoy passing a day, or two, or three in this beautiful part of the country