Great Southern Killarney

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Discover the Great Southern Killarney, which was first created by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company in 1854.

Great Southern Killarney, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide, dates back to 1854.

Great Southern Killarney was constructed amid the backdrop of the social changes that rocked Western Europe in the first-half of the 19th century.

The history of the Great Southern Killarney begins with the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. Among Ireland’s most prestigious businesses during the 19th century, it desired to develop a rail line that would link Killarney to Dublin. Among the company’s first steps was to find a 40-acre plot of land upon which to create a train station and an adjoining hotel in Killarney. Unfortunately, the area that the Great Southern and Western Railway Company wanted to acquire belonged the a massive estate owned by Lord Kenmore. Lord Kenmore reluctantly agreed though, but only under two conditions: that his family would be allowed free passage and that all late trains would wait for them to arrive.

As soon as these conditions were met, the Killarney Junction Company (a subsidiary of the railroad) quickly set about designing the new buildings. It ran a competition to find the best design for the hotel in order to find the right architect. But for reasons unknown, the Killarney Junction Company selected someone other than the actual winner. Frederick Daley was ultimately picked to head the design. Despite not being the first choice, Daley was still an incredibly talented architect, nonetheless. He had designed portions of Trinity College in Dublin, specifically its Kings Inn Library and Magnetic Observatory.

The hotel finally debuted in July of 1854 as “The Railway Hotel.” The Great Southern and Western Railway Company invested heavily into the hotel’s creation, as it spent 18,000 pounds to get the building constructed. It immediately became one Ireland’s most prestigious holiday destinations, attracting the likes of Queen Victoria shortly after opening. As the hotel’s popularity grew, so too did its size. The hotel received many renovations throughout the first three decades of the 20th century, which saw the addition of The Picture Room (a photographic dark room) and the Coffee Room. It even received modern amenities, such as telephones and elevators.

After a period of political turbulence brought upon by the Irish War for Independence, the hotel eventually fell into the ownership of the Republic of Ireland. Nevertheless, the hotel continued its ascent as being one of Ireland’s best vacation retreats. Many international luminaries from around the world visited, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco. Director David Leen even used The Picture Room to edit his film, Ryan’s Daughter. The hotel expanded even further by adding a massive conference center, as well as a gourmet restaurant known as The Garden Room.

Today, the building is owned by the Scally family, who operates it as the Great Southern Killarney. Their stewardship has garnered the hotel with numerous awards, including: “Best 4 Star Hotel” at 2017 Gold Medal Awards, “Conference Venue of the Year” at the National Hospitality Awards, “Best Hotel Breakfast” at the 2018 Gold Medal Awards, and “Bar of the Year for Brownes Bar” at the Bar of the Year Awards.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, First Lady of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, famous American film actress known for Mogambo and wife of Prince Rainier III. Charlie Chaplin, renowned actor known for his silent roles in The Kid and A Woman of Paris. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (1837 – 1901)


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Ryan’s Daughter (1970)


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