Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Fri August 07 2015

Repurposing the Past to a Modern Function

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | August 07, 2015

Repurposing the Past to a Modern Function

PHOTO: The Wensleydale sheep love the 225 acres of Markree Castle so much they're eating up one blade at a time. (All photos courtesy those featured)

One way that Europe manages to keep the continuity of its history a vital and present aspect of its culture is by repurposing buildings. In Europe, a building can undergo a multitude of purposes as it outlives generations of the humanity that lived and worked in it. From Ireland and Portugal to France and Croatia, we have collected several examples of old historic buildings finding new roles in ancient communities. In Portugal, one new build hotel is trying to blend in with its medieval neighbors.

The last time County Sligo’s Markree Castle changed hands was when Oliver Cromwell gifted it to the Cooper family in the mid-17th century. In June the Corscadden Family acquired the castle as their fourth castle hotel. The 30-room castle will reopen next March after €5 million restoration. It’s been a popular location for wedding celebrations for the last 25 years, with its scenic location on 225 acres of parkland, home to the castle’s resident flock of rare-breed Wensleydale sheep.

The restoration project will be carried out in three phases over three years. The first phase will concentrate on the public areas and many of the bedrooms. It will be completed before re-opening next March.

Other castles in the Corscadden collection include Ballyseede Castle in County Kerry, Bellingham Castle in County Louth, and Cabra Castle in County Cavan. The acquisition of Markree comes about a year after the family completed the restoration of Bellingham Castle, which is now one of Ireland’s most popular four star wedding and conference venues.               

Provence has seen a couple of ancient buildings come back to life in 2015.

One of the most beautiful hilltop villages in France, the Villages des Bories, located a few miles from Avignon, recently saw an old presence, La Bastide de Gordes reopen after a careful €20 million renovation of its 16th century building, which resides just outside of a 12th century castle. With views of Luberon Village, the fields of lavender and the Luberon Massif nearby, the 41-room hotel and its three restaurants, four pools and its gardens are situated on terraces. The rooms recall the past using ornate woodwork, wall friezes and a careful curation of 18th century antiques. carefully selected from various historical journeys.

PHOTO: Medieval hilltop luxury gets revitalized at La Bastide de Gordes hotel.

In May, the Hotel d’Almeran reopened as the Hotel de Tourrel, a Design Hotels member, sits in the old village center of Saint Remy de Provence. The hotel occupies a 17th century palace, blending architectural details of ancient and modern. Thus the 17th century stone staircase, the old chimneys and stone walls are complemented by such modern flourishes as furniture by ClassiCon designers Eileen Gray and Konstantin Grcic and marbled bathrooms. The hotel’s seven deluxe suites of 300 to 620 square feet have bathrooms with baths and separate showers. The roof terrace, which has a pool, overlooks the Church of St Remy and the Alpilles. The hotel serves Mediterranean cuisine in its restaurant and also has a wine boutique and bar with extensive selection of wines from the region and beyond.

Late last year, the Prijeko Palace opened in Dubrovnik’s Isusovic-Braichi palace that dates back to 1475. In this case the renovation restored the building to its original 13th century appearance. Situated in the middle of the Old Town, the boutique has nine apartments each dedicated to a well-known artist with prominent artwork, elegant furnishings and luxury amenities. The hotel also offers a rooftop terrace overlooking the Old Town, a multipurpose hall and restaurant and wine cellar.

 Coming to Portugal in 2017 will be a new hotel, the Viceroy Algarve at Quinta da Ombria that will attempt to blend into the medieval village surrounding it. The 147-room hotel will be joined by 99 Viceroy-branded residential units available as apartments, villas and townhouses. The property will offer easy access to the region's beaches and will feature seven dining venues, an 18 hole golf course, a spa with 10 treatment rooms, a children's center with various indoor and outdoor play areas, a library lounge, and over 6,000 square feet of cross-functional event and meeting space.

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