HISTORY OF MUCKROSS PARK HOTEL
The first dwelling on this site was built in 1795, it operated as a hunting lodge and through the early part of the 19th century became the first Hotel in the Killarney and Muckross Area. Originally named the Herbert Arms, in the early 1830s it was taken over by the well established hotelier Edward Roche and became known as the Roche’s Hotel. Throughout the 1800s almost entirely until 1898 in fact, the hotel remained in the ownership of the renowned Herbert Family of the Muckross House and Estate. The building was comprised of a local public house and four to six bedrooms where guests stayed. The original building housed a thatched roof which was a popular building style in those times. Part of this existing building today is home to the well loved Monks bar and to our two Historic Suites, the George Bernard Shaw and Inisfallen Suites.
Local man James Mulligan recalls as a young boy, the image of his father carting gravel to the rectory which was also built at the same time as the Muckross Park Hotel. It was an exciting time for the local community as it brought prosperity and employment to the rural village.
Situated on the stretch of road known today as the Old Kenmare Road the hotel was the last chance to stop and rest before venturing onwards to the next town of Kenmare. Of course it was always the first place to rest on the road home as well for the Jaunting Cars and the weary drivers, The Jarvey. This lends its name to our traditional Irish Pub the ‘Jarvey’s Rest’.
In 1833 the new Molls Gap road to Kenmare and on to Glengariff became the must travel route for visitors throughout the 19th century. Several members of the British Royal Family travelled this route and the Mulgrave Barracks (pictured below) was built in 1837 to police the road. The last place to stop on your way was again the Roche’s Hotel.
THE HERBERT FAMILY
Henry Arthur Herbert (1756-1821) Henry Arthur Herbert (1815-1866)
MP for County Kerry, 1806-1813 MP for County Kerry, 1847-1866
The Herbert family were the original builders of the Muckross Park Hotel and continued in their ownership and patronage of the property for over 100 years. The most notable member of the Herbert Family was Henry Arthur Herbert (1815-1866) who served as MP to Kerry for 1847 until his death and was Chief Secretary of Ireland (the key political office to Ireland for the British Government) from 1857-1858.
The Herbert Family and specifically Colonel Henry Arthur Herbert (1815-1866), were responsible for bringing Queen Victoria to Muckross & Killarney. In the last days of the year 1849 the plans surrounding the visit of the Queen were discussed at a dinner held in the now Muckross Park Hotel in honour of Henry Arthur Herbert himself. A descriptive account of the dinner which was attended by over two hundred was written in the January 2nd Edition of the Cork Examiner 1850. This dream was realised eleven years later when the Queen visited Muckross, to this day the last reigning British Monarch to do so.
Henry Arthur Herbert reduced rents and done much to help the local tenant farmers through some very difficult periods of Irish history. He was renowned for his generosity and his legacy still lives on today through the beauty of the area that surrounds us. He was laid to rest in accordance with his final wishes overlooking his land, in the nearby Killegy Graveyard, as he said ‘There could be no greater view up in heaven’. Just a few hundred yards from the Muckross Park Hotel today stands a thirty foot high Celtic Cross which is inscribed with a message from the Local People in Henry Arthur Herberts honour.
The Herbert's financial situation appears became increasingly unstable during the latter part of the 19th century. The visit of Queen Victoria in 1861 may have contributed to this. However, it is also likely that a reduction in rents, coupled with a number of possible ill-advised investments, may have aggravated their problems. Unfortunately the Herberts long standing connection with Muckross came to an end in 1897 when refused any further loans the estate was forfeited.
In 1899 after a slow bidding process Lord Ardiluan of the Guinness Family, also related to the Herberts through marraige, bought the property. Lord Ardiluans wife Olivia was a niece of Colonel Henry Arthur Herbert. Lord Ardiluan sold the property on in the early part of the 20th century and it was at this point the ownership of the Muckross Hotel seemed to change to the Ross family of whom you will read about below.
Whereas William Bowers Bounre a wealthy business man from California bought the Muckross Estate for his duaghter Maud and her husband Arthur as a wedding present. They in the event of Muads untimely death in the early 1930s were to be the last owners of the Muckross Estate as it was left at that time to the Irish State.
THE ROCHE FAMILY
In the 1830s Edward Roche took over proprietary of the Herbert Arms Hotel. The hotel prospered under the Roche Family and in an account in the Freeman’s Journal from September 1833 is referred to as Roche’s Romantic Hotel. Mr Roche was himself a generous and active member of the local community donating funds for such local facilities as the Molls Gap road and in 1843 for the construction of St Marys Cathedral.
In the quiet season of 1842 Edward Roaches son William over saw the renovation and expansion of the hotel. The Roche Family ran the hotel until 1859 when William Roche passed away. William had 7 children and although one of his sons ran a hotel in nearby Glengarriff, none of them continued here at Muckross. Instead the family of his wife the Hurley Family took over the proprietry as they relquished there running of the nearby Torc View Hotel which was to later become The Loretto Convent.
The decade that was the 1860s seemed to be a very busy period for the Muckross Hotel and is the first mention of a second hotel in the village of Cloghereen. The first being the original Herbert Arms or Muckross Hotel now under the propriotry of a Mr Daniel O’ Sullivan. The second which would later become O’Sullivans Hotel going by the name The Muckross Lake Hotel with the proprietor being Mr James Egan. Mr Egan also had a thriving Arbutus (a wood specifically associated with the Killarney National Park) works business at 10 Main Street in Killarney Town (Now Christies in the present day). Some of the furniture made by James Egan is still in the Muckross House to this day.
All be it a busy period there did appear to be some friction between the two hotels with a great deal of ‘touting’ going on at the Killarney Train station, with patrons unsure of there destination. This is well documented in the newpapers of the day. The advertisments in particular showing that the respective proprietors were very keen to show which hotel was which. One advert for the Muckross Hotel in the Freemans Journalon 31st July 1868 stating ‘no connection with a man named egan’ and an another for the Muckross Lake Hotel in The Cork Examiner on the 18th of May 1869 stating ‘No connection with the Herbert Arms’.
This all came to an end in the year 1870 when a trusted employee of the Herberts their gameskeeper George Ross took charge of the properties.
THE ROSS FAMILY
The Ross family came to Killarney to work for the Herbert family as gamekeepers. Hailing from Islay in Scotland George Ross went on to run the Muckross Hotel until his death in 1874 when his son John Ross took over until his passing in 1887. At this point Elizabeth Ashton Ross (Johns Wife) took over until her son John Ashton Ross came of age to become proprietor of the Muckross Hotel. The Ross name was connected to the hotel for 76 years more than any other proprietor. It is not clear when but at some stage during this tenure, circa 1906-1911, the Ross Family took ownership of the hotel. During the 1st World War John Ashton Ross went on to serve with the Royal Fusiliers and his death came in 1921 as a result of his injuries in the war. Just a few months previously he had married Ms Margaret Joy a local lady who had worked in the hotel for several years until she went on to become Manageress of the Parknasilla Great Southern Hotel some 30 miles south of Muckross outside the village of Sneem. Mrs Ross went on to run the Muckross Hotel until she herself passed away in 1946, leaving her friend Fr. Dennehy to be executor of her will. The Hotel was sold onto Murphy’s of Dublin at this point so ending the 76 year involvement of the Ross name with the Muckross Hotel.
The family were extremely interested in the preservation and conservation aspects of the Muckross area and led a campaign to close the Old Kenmare Road, formerly known as the Glenrourke Road to allow natural development and growth in the park. They chose the Old Kenmare Road for the Herbert family as an area to create a deer forest.
It has often been said that the greatest asset Killarney has, aside from her natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and lakes, is the deer population. The deer population has been in Killarney since the Ice Age and comprises of two breeds. The Japanese Sika Deer (introduced as a gift to the Heberts in 1864 after the visit of Queen Victoria) and the Red Deer an indigenous species to the area. Both breeds up to today have interbred and today produce beautiful variations of the species.
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW AT MUCKROSS PARK HOTEL
In 1923 the distinguished playwright George Bernard Shaw stayed at the Muckross Park Hotel with his wife Charlotte Payne Townsend.
He developed a love for the hotel and the area and spent many a summers evening reading in the gardens and enjoying the cosy ambience of the bar now known as the monks lounge, formerly the Herbert Arms to relax and have an evening drink with this wife.
It is strongly suggested that Shaw wrote the famous play “Pygmalion” here at the Muckross Park Hotel during his many visits.”Pygmalion” was used as the screenplay to produce the Hollywood Blockbuster and all time classic “My Fair Lady” starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.
One of our historic suites today is named after Mr George Bernard Shaw.
As mentioned before there was another hotel in Muckross Village at this time, called the O’Sullivan’s Hotel. The Cronin family from Killarney owned this hotel from the early part of the 20th century and its gable wall is still visible on the opposite side of the Jarveys Rest car park. Mr Cronin died in 1918 and is buried in Killeggy graveyard a few hundred yards from the hotel. This left Mrs Cronin a widow and upon his death she became the sole owner of the 14 bedroom hotel. When she died in 1940 it was sold to Mrs. Ross, another widow, in 1941.
Local man Tadgh Doody recalls that when Mrs Ross passed away the ‘second hotel’ fell into disrepair over time. He recalls that it was knocked in the late 1950s. He also points out the wonderful ‘meeting tree’ in the foreground of the picture above. Young men, not of age to drink or without the financial means, used to gather around this tree after mass and in an evening to hear the news of the day.
MAJOR PJ COLGAN
In 1948 Major Patrick J Colgan a veteran of the rising took ownership of the Muckross Hotel an establishment he frequented when based in the area. A very popular man in the area he was a veteran of the 1916 Easter Rising where he marched with Domhnall Ua Buachalla and company from Maynooth to fight for Irish Independence.
The Major was a close friend of Michael Collins and it was well documented that Major Colgan was in possession of the hat that General Collins wore to sign the Anglo Irish Treaty in 1921. He gave this prized possession away shortly before his own passing when Michael Collins niece visited on an outing with a group of ladies from Listowel in 1958. The Major told the young lady, ‘with you is its rightful place’
After the Majors death his wife Annie Colgan had some involvement with the hotel until she passed away in 1976. During this time Mrs Colgan was joint owner along with the Dr Fuller and his family who would take the hotel onwards until the end of the 1980s.
THE FULLER FAMILY
Dr. Paddy Fuller, came to Killarney in the late 40s and eventually after doing a period as a locum, he took a position in Dr. O’Donoghue’s practice at Park Place Hotel in High Street in the early 1950s. He was principal physician at the Isolation Hospital in Killarney and he had an extraordinary skill for maternity and delivered hundreds of babies at the District Hospital and in homes all over east Kerry.
During the 1950s the Muckross Hotel was a extremely popular place to have functions, while attending some of them Dr Fuller grew very fond of the place. When the time came that the hotel needed repairs Dr Fuller provided the investment for these. Upon Mrs Colgans death in 1976 Dr Fuller and his wife Eileen took over the hotel, subsequently it was then run by one of their 6 sons Simon in the early 1980’s. It was eventually sold to a local syndicate in 1988 who sold in turn to Dublin businessman Bill Cullen in the early 1990s.
MUCKROSS PARK HOTEL & SPA OF TODAY
During their ownership of the hotel between the early 1990s until 2013, Bill Cullen & Jackie Lavin renovated and extended the property.
In 2006 the hotel finished a refurbishment programme and the Hotel then comprised of 68 luxurious bedrooms and suites, full conference centre and the monastic inspired Spa at Muckross. In March 2007 the hotel was awarded 5 star accreditation from Failte Ireland.
Muckross Park Hotel & Spa today is owned by iNUA Hospitality. An Irish company based in Little Island in the neighboring Cork City. The company bought the oldest hotel in the Killarney & Muckross Area in 2015 and immediately expanded the capacity to 70 bedrooms adding two additional suites. The refubishment programme continues with work completed on all public areas, the Valentia banqueting suite and bedrooms.