by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
As a professional in the meetings industry I get to go nice places, stay in nice hotels, eat in nice restaurants and drink nice cocktails that someone else is often paying for. At least that’s they way it often appears to my family and friends and, frankly, I’ve long since given up trying to present anything by way of defence. It’s an amazing job, I say, but someone has to do it!
However, when it’s your job to do things that most people only do for leisure you’re left with a challenge. What do you do for leisure? Where do you go for rest and relaxation when, potentially, all of these places could in fact be work environments? Our family started spending the long Easter weekend in Killarney, in South West Ireland, over 10 years ago and, despite it being one of my most frequented work locations too, I’ve never felt any conflict. Here are some of the things I love about Killarney.
The people of Killarney have been welcoming visitors to the town since the mid eighteenth century and it shows. Hospitality is hard-wired into the very DNA of its people and you experience this everywhere you go. In Killarney they look you in the eye, they smile and they take genuine interest in you. That’s not to say this doesn’t happen in other towns and cities in Ireland – it most certainly does – it’s just that in Killarney it’s more pervasive, more consistent, perhaps more natural? Friendliness here is not the result of excellent training programmes, its something innate and then fostered and nurtured within the local community.
The Hiking and Biking
Killarney is overlooked by Ireland’s highest mountain range, the MacGillycuddy Reeks, but close to the town centre there are many great walks, climbs and cycle tracks. This Easter we did the Cardiac Hill loop on one day and Mangerton Mountain on the next. Cardiac Hill – the name says it all – involves a straight 600m ascent at the lake side of Torc Mountain on natural rock fashioned into steps. As you go up, the view of the lakes behind opens gradually until eventually you can see the entire glacial valley with its 3 lakes and beyond towards Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohil. It’s breath-taking both literally and figuratively!
Mangerton, by contrast, is a gentler, more gradual climb in open country that rewards you with a different but equally magnificent perspective of the stunning natural context that surrounds Killarney. The yellow gorse is in full bloom all around you and the view behind is back towards Muckross and the National Park. The higher you ascent the more you capture the startling contrasts between the yellow Gorse, the green Spruce trees and – on this sunny day – the azur blue of the lakes. As you approach the summit then Mangerton’s own glacial lake comes into play and all the wondrous beauty lies before you again.
About half way up Mangerton we stopped to rest and I ate the sandwich that I’d carefully prepared at breakfast at the Killarney Park Hotel. Crusty bread with special honey baked ham from the hotel’s kitchen. Simple, but perfect, on the side of a mountain.
Perfect, too, was the wonderful meal we enjoyed at Rozzer’s Restaurant at Killeen House Hotel. Our entire family once ate at Rozzer’s with star of Four Wedding, Love Actually and Bridget Jones’ Diary, Hugh Grant seated next to us (actually Colm and I ate, all the girls sat there with their mouths open).
This year there was no Hollywood personality in attendance but the food, service and overall conviviality shone brighter than any star. Rozzer’s serves locally sourced fish and meat with a definite retro-French touch and, for the inner child in us all, there are always great quality fries. Our only quibble here is that the starters are so irresistible we rarely do justice to the amazing desserts.
Other locations we like include Cellar One at The Ross Hotel, West End House, The Smoke House and Treyvaud’s.
After Dublin, Killarney has the best range of accommodations in all of Ireland from homely bed and breakfasts to luxury 5 star hotels. Over the years I’ve stayed in all the properties that are used for meetings and incentives. From the stunning resort-style Hotel Europe to the elegant downtown Malton Hotel, they all do a super job. I love the views and personalised service at Aghadoe Heights and I love the scale of the Brehon and its convenient proximity to Ireland’s National Events Centre (INEC), arguably the country’s most versatile venue.
Our Easter stay, however, has always been at the Killarney Park Hotel. It has become a true home away from home where we all relax and unwind and don’t actually feel we’re staying in a hotel at all. I think this is the best compliment I can pay to the Treacy family who have created this very special haven that feels like home to so many people. I find it hard to refer to the team there as “staff” as they’re more like neighbours or friends who have been part of our lives for more than a decade.
The tagline or motto of the Killarney Park Hotel is “warmth beyond the smile”. It’s obviously a catchy marketing phrase but it nails perfectly one core truth about this great hotel. This hotel is all about genuine, enduring hospitality. Its impeccable interiors do indeed sparkle and shine – Killarney Park is a 5 star hotel working to standards endorsed by Leading Hotels of the World – but there’s substance behind them and that substance stems from real human capital and an unshakeable commitment to people and relationships.
Pádraic Gilligan and Patrick Delaney are Managing Partners at SoolNua. They work with destinations, hotel groups, venues and other business tourism enterprises on strategy and marketing for meetings and events.