bernie gallagher

Bernie Gallagher: The Doyle Collection chairwoman on preserving the legacy and luxury of the Irish hotel group

13 Mar 2024 | |By Annie Lewis

Step inside The Doyle Collection’s three London addresses with the woman tasked with preserving their legacy for years to come

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The Doyle Collection

While the capital is a hotspot for new hotels, you often can’t beat an oldie but a goodie. Enticing Londoners and out-of-towners with their golden-age glamour, seamless service and five-star amenities, there are a select few hotels to visit in London if you just want things done properly. Luckily, The Doyle Collection gives you the choice of three – The Kensington, The Bloomsbury and The Marylebone – all situated in prime locations from which to explore London’s chicest neighbourhoods from the comfort of a five-star home-from-home. 

Founded in Ireland by hotelier P.V. Doyle, The Doyle Collection opened its first hotel in Dublin in 1959 and six other properties in the city quickly followed. An outpost in Washington DC came next, and then London in 1984 when the hotel group launched The Marylebone, tapping into the area’s luxury associations and creating a hotel to match. 

And, as the adage goes, good things do indeed come in threes. The Kensington – a stone’s throw from the cultural attractions of the V&A and Royal Albert Hall – opened a decade later, while the beautiful Grade-II listed neo-Georgian hotel, The Bloomsbury, followed in 2000. 

So, what do they all have in common? Prestigious postcodes. The Doyle Collection strives to offer its guests an authentic slice of the area they’re staying in. The Kensington, for example, is housed in four Regency-period townhouses, featuring open fires, high ceilings and heritage décor while the hotel’s signature suites take luxury to a new level. Elsewhere, the vibrant, bijou feel of Marylebone village is mirrored in the chic, stylish Marylebone hotel – just a short walk from Oxford Street, Bond Street and Mayfair. For those who can’t get enough of the West End, The Bloomsbury is perfectly situated near Theatreland, The British Museum, and Covent Garden. Having taken its name from the historic 18th-century neighbourhood it’s located in, the magnificent Edwin Lutyens’ Grade II-listed property sits among London’s literary heartland, filled with galleries, antiquarian bookshops and a wealth of cultural heritage. 

Now with a total of eight hotels in its portfolio, it’s fair to say The Doyle Collection has gone from strength to strength. As it enters its 65th year, we sit down with chairwoman Bernie Gallagher – founder P.V. Doyle’s daughter – to discuss what it’s like to run a family business, preserving its legacy and unbeatable Irish hospitality. 

Tell me about the history of The Doyle Collection. Why did your father set up the hotel group?

My father, P.V. Doyle, opened his first hotel in Dublin in 1959 – this was quickly followed by six additional hotels in the city. From the outset, a focus for him was to create beautiful hotels for the increasing numbers of international guests travelling to Ireland at that period.

When he opened the first hotel in Ireland, was his plan always to expand the group?

The Doyle Collection opened its first hotel in the US over four decades ago, so it would be safe to say that international expansion was always a part of the Group’s ambitions.

My father was a great influence on me as a pioneer and a visionary – a true hotelier. He was wonderful at identifying new trends in the luxury travel and leisure industries and was passionate about promoting Ireland on the international stage. Working alongside him was a joy and privilege. I would like to believe that he always envisioned that the brand would continue to develop and continue his legacy.

The Bloomsbury
Inside The Bloomsbury
You are the chairwoman of The Doyle Collection. Did you always want to have a career in the family business?

I grew up in the industry and within this business – as a result, hospitality has been a constant part of my life. I have always been passionate about architecture and design, particularly the way general aesthetics, lighting and environment can profoundly influence wellbeing. I also have a keen interest in economics – I studied economics and politics for my degree at university – and have managed to put my education to good use in my day-to-day work! I am immensely proud that The Doyle Collection is a family-owned company entering its 65th year.

Since assuming the role of chairman of The Doyle Collection, we have repositioned and redesigned the assets and the business into an international hotel group which currently includes eight hotels in Dublin, London, Cork, Bristol and Washington DC. I had a vision of developing the group into a modern and exciting brand in the luxury boutique hotel space, creating an identity through a unique blend of great design, authentic and warm service and unique spaces that made our guests feel as if they were at home.

The fact that I have grown up within the hotel business also ensures that I am not afraid to make changes and try new things – as a business we are constantly trying to remain ahead of the curve. However, the central ethos of The Doyle Collection experience always remains the same – whether that be in designing a new outdoor terrace, developing new suites, or supporting the arts in our communities. We also have a strong idea of our position in each of our neighbourhoods, all of which are located in the centre of the cities in which we are based, in close proximity to key landmarks.

The Doyle Collection now has three hotels in London. Which one came first and why?

The Marylebone was our first hotel to open in London in 1984. I remember travelling over to the city with my father to view the property with him. I believe he saw the potential of not only the building but the unique village feel within Marylebone. The fact that the hotel is located in the very centre of London, mere minutes from Mayfair and many of the city’s iconic landmarks, was a part of his investment strategy.

Tell me about the ethos behind each London hotel.

Our focus is always centred on the guest. These are independent, Irish family-owned, boutique hotels, and we possess a warmth of welcome and a relaxed luxury. This is something that is shared within each space. There is a real focus on design, creativity and quality. We look to provide a sense of wellbeing, timelessness, and relaxation, yet always being innovative in design, service, and comfort, and adding excitement and desirability.

In each Doyle Collection property, we strive to create an atmosphere and setting that does not merely include an interior style, but every element of the experience – the sounds, the lighting, the taste and even the scent must marry together in a seamless way.

the marylebone
Inside The Marylebone
Which is your favourite London hotel in the collection and why?

I could never pick a favourite between the three – each one is special to me for a number of reasons! They are all very individual based on their location, spirit of the neighbourhood and the architecture of the building. I do believe it is the distinctive personality within each one which is something that our regular guests love about us.

With so many hotels opening in London, how do you ensure The Doyle Collection can compete?

The brand has built its reputation simultaneously in the UK, the US and Ireland, establishing deep connections with the neighbourhoods in which we are based. Consistency of service, and rigorously maintaining a level of quality and luxury is a key element to our continued success, as well as being willing to adapt to the changing marketplace and the needs of the modern guest. We always want to inject a sense of playfulness, excitement and fun into our spaces, while embracing the fact that we appeal to all generations and ages.

Our hotels are imbued with a sense of warmth that welcomes guests as soon as they enter through our doors. This is what I strive for, in every element of our business – that the guest immediately experiences a sense of belonging, of homecoming and a sense of place. This naturally springs from our beginnings and ethos. Our Irish identity offers an innate sense of hospitality and encourages guests to return to us repeatedly – those who make our hotels a part of their life stories, often stretching into generations within one family.