Big business for Derry’s Stephen

Stephen McPhilemy, Seamus his Irish Wolfhound and RTE Hotel guru Francis Brennan
Stephen McPhilemy, Seamus his Irish Wolfhound and RTE Hotel guru Francis Brennan

Derry businessman Stephen McPhilemy tells the Journal why he’s living the dream at the former home of Robert Mitchum in Dingle, County Kerry

His appearance on RTE’s At Your Service programme was so successful that ten minutes before the show ended he had so many enquiries that his website crashed.

Tourism entrepreneur Stephen McPhilemy says he’s living the dream.

Stephen has bought Milltown House in Dingle with Irish-American business partner and investor Patrick Wade.

His dream was to live by water, run a bar and have an Irish Wolfhound.

He’s managed to accomplish all three and after taking advice from the Brennan Brothers on RTE’s At Your Service show, Stephen and Patrick are gearing up for a busy Summer season.

Speaking to the Journal from Montreal this week Stephen explained how he was taking a well earned break after closing the house up for December and January.

“It’s -25 here,” he said. “It’s so cold people can’t go outside. But in Canada they are used to the weather, in Derry the place grounds to a halt when there is snow.”

Stephen is probably best known in Derry as the marketing director and tour guide with Paddywagon tours. He also owns the hostel Paddy’s Palace on Asylum Road.

It was a chance meeting with Patrick Wade that led to Stephen to Dingle last year.

“I met Patrick when he was a penniless backpacker,” said Stephen. “He took the tour and we swapped numbers. Several years later he contacted me, told me he was no longer broke and that he wanted to make an investment in Ireland.”

A year ago Stephen and Patrick Wade bought the well-known Milltown House on Dingle Harbour in County Kerry, once home to Hollywood star Robert Mitchum whilst filming the Oscar winning movie ‘Ryans Daughter.’

Their challenge now is to restore it to its former glory and that’s where hotel gurus Francis and John Brennan came in.

“The house had been lying empty for ten years,” said Stephen. “Running a guest house like this is very different from running a hostel in Derry. In Derry at Paddy’s Palace you’re paying a tenner each but in Dingle it can be 150 euro.

“But I always think if you can successfully run a hostel in Derry that is right beside a police station you can do anything. Derry was a very good training ground for me.”

In the show the Brennan Brothers advised Stephen and Patrick not to build a bar, a request the pair completely ignored.

“We were going to do the bar anyway,” said Stephen. “And while we know the Brennans are experts they are not right about everything. I had a good life in Derry so I had to be going to something good to give that up. I had this day dream about a house on the water with my Irish Wolfhound.

“We had loads of plans which included getting new carpets, but the Brennans told us to focus on getting the basics done so we could get the cash in.

“That was an important piece of advice and a good reality check that stopped us having a splurge.”

Stephen said the Dingle tourism market is very different as the season turns off in winter.

“In Derry you have people coming all the time,” he said. “Living here is very idyllic. I get to practice my Irish, listen to traditional music and walk the dog.

“In fact since the show we have been inundated with calls from people who want to book accommodation where they can stay with their dogs. The Brennan Brothers have really helped us to raise our profile.”