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The History of Muckross Park Hotel & Spa

We started out as a humble hunting lodge, quickly turned into the first hotel in Killarney, before becoming a famous haven for royalty and leaders in the arts. Now, over 200 years later, we are a Fáilte Ireland accredited 5-star luxury destination. We boast 70 luxurious Deluxe and Superior Bedrooms and an award-winning restaurant, amongst other things. Here’s how we got here.

1795 – Humble Beginnings

The first dwelling on this site operated as a hunting lodge. Within a few years, the
Herbert Family turned it into The Herbert Arms – the first hotel in Killarney. 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. He was also Chief Secretary of
Ireland (the key political office to Ireland for the British Government) from 1857-1858.

1830s – Expansion

In 1833, the new Molls Gap road to Kenmare and on to Glengariff became a key travel route. Around this time, The Herbert Arms was taken over by famous hotelier Edward Roche and became known as Roche’s Hotel – the last stop along the new route. The hotel comprised of a local public house and four to six guest bedrooms. The original building housed a thatched roof. Part of this building still exists today as home to our much-loved Monks bar and two historic suites The George Bernard Shaw Suite and The Inisfallen Suite.

1860 – A Royal Reception

Throughout the 1800s, the hotel remained in the ownership of the renowned Herbert Family of the Muckross House and Estate. In 1849, they, and specifically Colonel Henry Arthur Herbert (1815-1866), drew up plans for a visit from the Queen. A dinner to discuss details was held in the hotel and attended by over 200 people. Their dream was realised eleven years later when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Muckross.

1899 – New Century, New Owners

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Herbert’s financial situation appears became increasingly unstable due to the cost of the Queen’s visit and the lowering of rents to local tenant farmers. Unfortunately, their long-standing connection with Muckross came to an end in 1897 when they were refused any further loans and forfeited the estate. In 1899, after a slow bidding process, Lord Ardiluan of the Guinness Family, bought Muckross Park Hotel. However, within a few years, he sold the property. Around this time, ownership of what was now known as The Muckross Hotel, seemed to change to the Ross family of whom you will read about below.

1923 – A Legend’s Visit

In 1923, distinguished playwright George Bernard Shaw stayed at the Muckross Park Hotel along with his beloved wife Charlotte Payne Townsend. He quickly developed a love for the hotel, spending many a summer’s evening reading in the gardens or enjoying the cosy ambience of the bar now known as The Monk’s Lounge. It is strongly suggested that Shaw wrote his famous play “Pygmalion” while here at the hotel. Pygmalion went on to be developed and produced in to the all-time classic “My fair Lady”, with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. One of our stunning suites is named in his honour.

1948 – Major PJ Colgan

In 1948, Major Patrick J Colgan took ownership of the Muckross Hotel, an establishment he frequented when he was based in the area. A very popular man and personal friend of Michael Collins, he was a veteran of the 1916 Easter Rising. After the Major’s death, his wife Annie ran the hotel in a capacity along with joint-owners Dr Fuller and his family, until her passing in 1976.

1976 – The Fuller Family

Dr Paddy Fuller came to Killarney in the late 1940s. He and his family frequented the hotel on a regular basis and even provided investment for much needed hotel repairs. Upon Mrs. Colgan’s death, Dr Fuller and his wife took over the hotel. Subsequently; it was run by their son Simon until it was eventually sold to a local syndicate, who in turn sold it to Dublin business man Bill Cullen in the late 1990s.  

1990 – Bill Cullen and Jackie Lavin

During their ownership of the hotel from the early 1990s until 2013, Bill Cullen and Jackie Lavin extensively renovated and extended the property. In 2007, after full refurbishment, including bedrooms, suites, conference centre and Gothic-inspired spa, the hotel was awarded 5-star accreditation by Fáilte Ireland.

2015 – The iNua Collection

Muckross Park Hotel & Spa becomes part of the iNua Hospitality – an Irish company based in Anglesea Street in neighbouring Cork City. They immediately go about expanding the capacity to 70 bedrooms, adding two brand new suites and completely refurbishing all public areas, bedrooms and the Valentia Banqueting Suite.

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