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The Little Big House at Gweedore: inscribing sociality and space in north-west Ireland, 1842

Kevin J. James


The visitors’ book is a neglected source for the study of travel and hotel history in Ireland. Inscriptions from the Gweedore Hotel Book from 1842 to 1859 illuminate how guests negotiated relationships with each other and with the landlord, Lord George Hill, and how they narrated spaces inside and outside the hotel on his estate in Co. Donegal. A close textual analysis reveals how the hotel was depicted as a liminal space, straddling the public and private worlds of the public hostelry and the stately Irish Big House. Acts of reading and inscription linked practices at the rural hotel to broader cultures of Victorian travel. At the same time, they also reveal local influences over the articulation of self and other on one of mid-Victorian Ireland’s most famous ‘model’ estates. These layered contexts are critical to understanding the politics which surrounded the hotel book particularly the voices it privileged, and those it suppressed.

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