#MyDillonsAdventure with our Sales Manager, Judy!

Jun 24, 2024

We’re excited to share the #MyDillonsAdventure of our Sales Manager, who recently embarked on a journey to Dillons Hotel and explored the wonders of Donegal. From the comfort and charm of Dillons Hotel to the stunning landscapes and rich cultural experiences of Donegal, her adventure is a testament to the magic this destination holds. Join us as we dive into her story, uncovering the highlights and hidden gems that make both Dillons Hotel and Donegal truly unforgettable.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your role at McKeever Hotels?

My name is Judy Hutton and I am Group Sales Manager at McKeever Hotels.  One of our hotels is Dillons Hotel, Letterkenny, Donegal and I am proud to promote and sell this great hotel and Destination Donegal, nationally and internationally, mainly to the Leisure Travel segment. Dillons is a superb base from which to enjoy all that the wilds of Donegal has to offer including the finest links golf courses, distilleries, water and hiking adventures, history and heritage, culinary delights especially the seafood, and much more.

How was your arrival at Dillons Hotel? Can you describe your first impressions?

Not being from County Donegal and travelling from Belfast, I rely on Google Maps to navigate my drive to Dillons which makes the trip smooth and hassle-free!  Great roads all the way to Derry/Londonderry with the Glenshane Pass always astounding me no matter how many times I travel through; then into the rural countryside that leads me to Letterkenny and the gateway to Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way.
Parking is so convenient for a town centre hotel with the hotel having its own large car park right behind the hotel.  Car unpacked, I take the short walk to the bustling main street and the hotel entrance where a very warm welcome awaits from the Reception Staff.  The lobby and bar/lounge area is already buzzing with folks enjoying morning chats, coffees and scones whilst watching the world go by on the busy shopping street.  All checked in with my room key and gym access key, I find my room and how it always makes me smile!  Distinctly spacious rooms, incredibly comfortable and large beds with the warmest décor and everything to make me feel at home over the next few days.  I am here to work but can’t help feeling that this is such a treat and the start of a new adventure, already a distinctly Dillons Adventure.

What makes Dillons Hotel a great base for exploring Donegal?

Dillons location is ideal, in the town centre so you really can enjoy the vibe and buzz of a typical Irish town where the locals all know one another and are just as keen to get to know visitors.  This provides the perfect balance to getting out and about into the unspoilt Donegal countryside where I found solitude in its wildness and virtually  untouched beauty.  I travel quite alot as a solo traveller, so a great base for me is somewhere that I feel at home, have all the necessities, attentive staff, a gym and in a location that is easy to navigate from – where you stay sets the tone for the whole trip so to me, it is essential that you make the right hotel choice wherever you go – a hotel is way more than a bed and Dillons is way more than that!

Can you share your experience dining at Dillons Bar & Grill? What dishes stood out to you?

I love wholesome food and as a pescatarian my favourite dish is salmon and it was fabulous!  Very tasty, great portion sizes and filling after a day out in the Donegal countryside.  As a treat, I sometimes swap out dessert for an Irish Coffee but especially when I visit Dillons as their signature ‘Irish’ is made with the local ‘Silkie’ Irish Whiskey which is not to be missed.

Tell us about your kayaking adventure with Trek & Paddle. What were the highlights of this activity?

Even though it was pouring down, it did not dampen the spirits on the day! No such thing as bad weather in Ireland, just the wrong clothes… so we were kitted out in wet suits and were very well entertained by Colin and his Team at Trek & Paddle.  The weather was soon forgotten by the incredible scenery of Gweedore.  Colin was quick to get us warmed up with many an undiscovered dance move and some fun team beach games.

Were there any memorable moments or challenges during the kayaking trip?

From all the fun and frolics on the beach to actually getting into the kayak and getting to grips with the paddle and how to steer!  I am not exactly a water baby, especially in cold water but after a few minutes I was away and land was forgotten; the complete tranquillity of being on your own little island floating away to the sound of the rippling of the waters – it was truly a grounding experience ironically in the water… Colin and his Team ensured we didn’t float away too much but such a great feeling as well as really good exercise for the arms especially – this was definitely the work-out for the day!

How was your visit to The Crolly Whiskey Distillery? What did you learn about the whiskey-making process?

It was my first visit to The Crolly Distillery and it won’t be my last.  I have been to several distilleries and tours and this was a total gem.  The place itself oozed history and that combined with the welcome from Catherine and John Joe, our terrific Tour Guide, made this an afternoon to remember whether you are a whiskey fan or not (I am funny enough!).  The Tour was a perfect combination of the history of the place and venue along with a complete education on the whiskey making process from grain to glass and of course all rounded off by a tasting in their fantastic tasting lounge at the end.  From the Devil’s Cut to the Angel’s Share, no wonder these are “Small Batch” craft whiskeys, with every sip to be savoured and appreciated – Donegal was now running through the veins!
Did you have a favourite whiskey or tasting experience at the distillery?

The Quercus Robur Single Malt was my favourite of the day but also was mesmerized by The Crolly Cocktail – the best whiskey cocktail I have ever tasted!

The weather in Donegal can be unpredictable. How did you find the activities even when it rained?

Irish weather can most definitely be unpredictable but bets are rain is rarely far away and this day was no exception.  Traveling to Gweedore saw the grey skies cover Mount Errigal and the landscape still managed to look majestic through the bleakness – a in fact it set the tone for this, a land seeped in Irish myths and legends.  Our day of water activities was most definitely that!  Water above, water below, there was no escaping it!  The rain was part of the fun and that is coming from someone who likes to watch the rain rather than feel it but today it just worked – out in nature, with all your senses engaged – so rejuvenating but it also crossed my mind how good my Dillons shower and bed would feel that night!

Can you share any tips for making the most of Donegal’s attractions regardless of the weather?

Prepare for four seasons in one day – best way is to layer up and if you can, have an extra set of comfortable shoes & socks!  We had planned an ideal day with a mix of outdoor and indoor activities so there was always relief from the weather when needed, that said, don’t let rain dampen your spirits – it actually made our day even more memorable and special.  The Irish landscape is so unique, green and stunning because of the weather – so embrace it!

What were your favourite moments from the entire adventure?

The common theme of the day was refreshing, reinvigorating Irish Water…
From being in it and kayaking was a really special experience for me and I wanted to keep paddling in the pouring rain so that says it all.  To drinking it, OK all be it within whiskey, The Crolly Cocktail would be the other highlight – from inside out, Irish Water can cool you down or warm you up – just like Donegal, it is a magical potion.

How did this experience enhance your appreciation for what Donegal and Dillons Hotel have to offer?

This was my first time getting out and about to see Donegal in several years so I was able to get a real feel for how good the Dillons location is as a base to tour around Donegal whether it be coast or countryside.  Not only that but the variety of things to do – whether water activity, hiking, golf, simply car touring and stopping off to quaint restaurants and shops.  To have also the mix of vibrancy of the towns and the hotel to the rejuvenating power of the wildness of the Donegal countryside – you really do feel swept away from life as we know it.

How do you think #mydillonsadventure encapsulates the spirit of #morethanastay? What message would you like to share with potential visitors considering a stay at Dillons Hotel?

#mydillonsadventure was as personal to me as yours will be to you; it was a feeling and yes it was most definitely #morethanastay – Dillons is the relaxed, homely space where you create your Donegal adventure, where you get inspiration to explore and go wherever the road or your mind may take you.  Dillons is the place to come home to and to continue your adventure….

How does this adventure reflect on your professional journey and personal growth?

I could become so philosophical on this one!  As I said I travel a great deal with my work and for holidays as well; I believe it is a great privilege to travel and experience other cultures and the more I travel the more I like to live like a local – every trip I have made holds memories and learning experiences on the journey of life itself.  It is one of the best ways to learn about yourself when you take yourself out of your ‘normal’ environment, especially solo travel, you really do become your own best friend and if that’s not getting to know yourself and empowerment, I don’t know what is!
This adventure was no different; I met some terrific people, had thought-provoking conversations, did things that I had not done before, was surprised that I could do them and came home to the Dillons family feeling fulfilled – I won’t forget those feelings.
Your adventures – your experiences, are waiting to be carved out by you – plan your journey but don’t be afraid to take the road less walked if and when it presents itself…

So if you get the chance to travel, do it – whether it be to the Hills Of Donegal (I know a great Hotel!!) or the sand dunes of the Dubai desert, you will come home with memories and feelings that will stay with you forever.

How can experiences like these benefit your role as a sales manager and the broader hospitality industry?

I very much see my role as being an ambassador for McKeever Hotels primarily and getting under the skin and ‘personality’ of each of the five hotels is essential– it is by doing this that I can ensure that I recommend the right hotels to my Clients. Before they choose their hotel, they have to choose their destination primarily so I am also privileged to represent Ireland and Northern Ireland to national and international markets. Hotels are the base for the destination adventure and journey so it is imperative that I know as much as I can about the destinations in which the hotels are located in and in turn collaborate with local attractions in order to cross-promote, educate, refer and recommend to Clients.  The travel and tourism industry in NI/Ireland is very tightly knit, and very supportive of each other, and we punch very high on the global tourism stage which is a huge achievement, given we are quite a little island but we have so much to shout about! In terms of the hospitality industry as a whole, from hotels to restaurants, bars, coffee shops etc we all operate in a highly competitive environment which also means our standards must be kept high which is obviously very good for Guests and as it should be.  Tourism contributes such a massive amount to our economy and has a trickle down effect to wider industries throughout the country so I see myself as a very little spoke on a huge wheel but at the end of the day it is the experiences that create the feelings and memories, and this lies firmly in the hands of the people and personalities within the hospitality and tourism industries.

Do you have any future adventures planned with the McKeever Hotels group? How can guests follow along with your adventures with the group?

My future adventures will include several travel trade shows to showcase our properties but also inform new and existing Clients about all our exciting new developments, of which there are many!
My next Adventure will be to London for The Meetings Show at ExCeL which has grown from being one of the most daunting cities for me to being one of my favourite… (self-development & empowerment in practice!!)   Later in the year I will be destined for Belgium and the Netherlands with Tourism NI for their roadshow workshops… so all go!

Best way to keep up with my adventures, Dillons and otherwise, is via my LinkedIn page…

As a sales manager, how do you think personal experiences like these impact your approach to your role?

I find these personal experiences are essential to my role – in order to speak with real authority about something, never mind sell it, I believe you must experience it firsthand.  Many of my international B2B Clients will never walk through the doors of one of our hotels so my ten-minute presentation, and me (how I present myself) must encapsulate the feeling of our hotels to them in a matter of minutes.  And I must also learn enough from them about their end Clients to know what hotels and what attractions or wider needs they have, can be fulfilled.  Moreover, I think it is true of all of us that when we have actual experiences and first-hand knowledge, not an internet summary, we speak totally differently with real passion and enthusiasm and in a much more relatable and unscripted, personable way (that is when the experience has been good and memorable of course!).

What advice would you give to someone looking to explore Donegal in a way similar to your adventure?

Explore is the key word for Donegal – don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track – the wildness of Donegal means that is pretty much inevitable anyway!
If you enjoy the great outdoors, this is an unbelievable playground!  Sport, activities, walking, hiking, unbelievable secluded beaches and the most beautiful Links golf courses in all of Ireland married with the typical warm, Irish hospitality and welcome to the fresh seafood and local drinks and traditional music.  I do like my shopping, especially getting away from the typical high street chains and finding the local craft shops with so many unique and fantastic hand made treats and crafts – again you will be spoilt for choice in Donegal.

Any final thoughts or recommendations for our readers planning their own trips to Donegal and Dillons Hotel?

My tips would be to pick your base first of all – as I said, getting your base right sets the tone for your whole trip; I am biased, but Dillons I believe is the setting for your Donegal Adventure from Staff, location to facilities … and those super-comfy beds!!

Check-out visitdonegal.com for information on the County and for listings of all the activity providers.

Discoverireland.ie is another great information hub

Plan, explore and discover #YourDillonsAdventure – book your stay now.