OPENING meets are always special and none more so than the Laois Foxhounds at Abbeyleix. This is the fourth week of hunting coverage this season and our fourth opening meet. Traditionally the Laois open on the first Wednesday in November, the meet always being or in near the historic town of Abbeyleix. Since the Kent family opened Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, just outside the town on the Durrow road, the hotel has become a fixture.

As we arrived, jockeys were assembling in the bar where our genial hostess, Jenny Kent, was dispensing hospitality to all and sundry. The Kents are a real hunting family who started their married life in Abbeyleix as farmers. They both had hunted before, she in Wexford and her late husband Bobby in North Tipperary. With no background in hospitality, they opened their new hotel in 2000 just outside the town which became an almost instant success. Despite being a modern building, it has an old fashioned air of welcome and hospitality. Jenny’s natural good humour infuses the whole hotel making guests feel welcome once they cross the threshold. Their family, Alex and April, have both joined the business and April was hunting on the day, riding the ever faithful Misty.