History of The Great Southern Killarney

Killarney is the proud birthplace of Irish tourism, with the town celebrating its 250th anniversary as a tourist destination in 2004. The Great Southern Killarney, has been a focal point of this lively and bustling tourist town since 1854. That year saw the grand opening of the first railway line to Killarney from Dublin.The Great Southern and Western Railway Company decided to build a "Grand Hotel" outside of Dublin, and after considering many locations, they chose Killarney. They would require 40 acres of land at the railhead for a station and hotel, but they wanted it free. The land in question was part of a giant estate owned by Lord Kenmare, including thousands of acres stretching from Killarney back to Kenmare. Although Lord Kenmare recognised the value of signing over the land, the piece the railway wanted was special – it contained a magnificent garden, which he had lovingly developed over many years.Eventually, a deal was struck, and the project was given the go-ahead.He was more than reluctant to lose the site but the parties eventually agreed that the Great Southern and Western Railway Company could build their new hotel under two conditions:

The Brownes (Lord Kenmare's family) would have free rail travel whenever they wished

Should they be delayed in getting to the station, the train in question would hold departure until the Brownes had boarded safely.

Once these conditions were met, the Killarney Railway Junction Company ran a design competition in order to choose an architect for the hotel. For reasons that remain a mystery to this day, the hotel was eventually designed by an architect other than the winner of the competition. The final architect, Mr Frederick Darley, was the official architect to Trinity College, and had also designed Merchant's Hall in Dublin, the Kings Inn Library, and a Magnetic Observatory at Trinity.

The Railway Hotel, Killarney (Now Great Southern Killarney)

The Railway Hotel, Killarney (now Great Southern Killarney) opened its doors for the first time. The cost was in the region of £18,000 and was paid by the owners The Great Southern & Western Railway Company. The hotel was the first to be owned by a Railway Company in either Britain or Ireland. The brand initials of The Great Southern Hotel can often be seen on the silverware used in The Garden Room Restaurant.


The Queen Visits

The Queen visits Killarney and stayed at Killarney House and Muckross House and members of the royal household stayed at the Railway Hotel.


Package Tour Programmes

Killarney becomes acquainted with package tour programmes for the first time when Thomas Cook Travel includes the town among its premiere holiday destinations. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.


Hotel Lounge Renovated

The hotel lounge is renovated at a cost of £6,000. The Coffee Room, now the hotels foyer was a large communal area where guests could meet & discuss the issues of the time & flanked on either side by two drawing rooms - one for men & one for ladies, now the Reading & Writing Room


Picture Room

Following the Edwardian era of 1901 to 1910 A 'Photographic Dark Room' is completed at the hotel for the growing number of hotel guests enjoying this new fashionable hobby. A trained technician, employed by the hotel helped guests develop and print their photographs. The Great Southern was the first hotel in Ireland to provide such a service. The Great Southern & Western Railway Company also built another hotel near the railway station for those who could not afford to stay in The Great Southern which at the time was only for elite guests. This ‘budget’ hotel was occupied during The War of Independence & burnt to the ground. The Railway Cottage luxury apartments and the Great Southern’s Event Centre now stand where the budget hotel was once situated.


Senior German Espionage Agent

The hotel experiences a bit of drama when visited by a VIP guest. This guest turned out to be a senior German espionage agent called Lodi. When news reached Scotland Yard of his stay here, two detectives were dispatched armed with an arrest warrant. Lodi, who had been alerted to their presence grabbed a bulky suitcase full of documents and ran to the boiler room in the basement, attempting to throw the documents into the fire. Before he could burn all the documents, the detectives burst into the room and arrested him. He was subsequently charged, convicted and executed as a spy.


Telephone instalation

The Great Southern Hotel installs a telephone in the hotel, being offered the number 'Killarney 26'. Some of the ivy covering the buildings was also planted in that year.


An Elevator Is Installed

An elevator is installed from the downstairs basement kitchen to the Coffee Room and Dining Room. Before this lift was installed, service staff had to carry trays up two flights of 26 steps, having to make such a journey several times a day while serving meals to diners.


The Great War

The Great War broke out which had a catastrophic effect on the Irish Tourist Industry. The Great Southern Hotels close their doors 'owing to special conditions prevailing & the hotel basement was used as a prison. The hotel was occupied by British military until 1922.


1920 To 1924

In 1920 the hotel was suddenly seized and closed for almost four years. The hotel was occupied by the Military and used as a barracks and eventually by the Free State Army. Barbed wire defenses were erected and plush curtains gave way to sand bags. The elegant Coffee Lounge became a general office and bedrooms were packed with army bunks. The IRA used The Great Southern Hotel for bomb making but vacated later in 1922 as the hotel was too public a place for this activity as well as the fact that a large force of Free State Army were on their way to Killarney. The Free State Army was the next non-paying guests at the hotel and like the British used the basement as a prison, the bars can still be seen on the windows.


The Irish Tourist Board

The Great Southern Hotel Killarney was one of first hotels in Ireland to register with the Irish Tourist Board.


Grand Old Lady Of Killarney

The Great Southern Hotel saw the transition of the hotel into state ownership. 90 years old and became known as the Grand Old Lady of Killarney


The Great Southern & Western Railway Company

The Great Southern & Western Railway Company experienced major financial difficulties in this decade. Following 96 years of private ownership The Great Southern Hotel becomes property of the government of the recently created Republic of Ireland.


Grand Old Lady Of Killarney

Queen Salote of Tonga who reigned from 1918 to 1965 visited Killarney & stayed at The Great Southern Hotel in the early 1950's. She also visited London in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.


100 Years

The hotel very proudly celebrates a century in business.


New Wing Constructed

In 1959 a new wing was constructed with 37 en-suite bedrooms. Until this time, few rooms were en-suite, and guests bathed in one of 17 bathrooms. Hygiene was excellent, with each bathroom being cleaned and completely disinfected after each use.


Steady Stream Of Celebrities including Jackie Kennedy

A steady stream of celebrities and dignitaries stayed as guests, including Princess Grace of Monaco, Pat Nixon, The Queen of Tonga, Charlie Chaplin, and Tyrone Power. Even Jackie Kennedy & her children also graced the halls, along with her friend Mrs McDonald & her children, of the McDonald's fast-food chain. Along with her entourage of secret service men she took up an entire floor of the hotel. Everyone among hotel staff fell in love with her warmth & grace. Our presidential suite is named after her - The Kennedy Suite. In early 1960's during the days following the tragic assassination of President John F.Kennedy, the head waiter of The Great Southern Hotel at the time Jimmy Cullinane was moved to write a poem. The poem expressed the despair felt by so many around the world & captured the hearts of the Kennedy family. Letters of gratitude were sent to Jimmy from the Kennedys & article with his poem was put in The New York Times.


Conference Centre Comes To Killarney

In 1968 the hotel begins a long history of hosting events by opening the first purpose-built conference centre to be found outside of Dublin.


Ryan's Daughter

Great Southern Killarney was also used as a base for the filming/production of the famous 1970 film Ryan's Daughter which was directed by David Leen. This controversial film of it's time was set in 1916, tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I, despite opposition from her nationalist neighbours. The Picture Room as it is now known as was booked for two years and turned into a cinema, complete with tip-up seats and silver screen. During this time Great Southern Killarney became a popular place for celebrity spotting. The film stars Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, John Mills, Christopher Jones, Trevor Howard and Leo McKern.


One Of The Great Irish Artists

James Malton (1761–1803) is one of the great Irish Artists (engraver and water colourist) of the 18th Century & is best know for his Picturesque and Descriptive View of the City of Dublin. He created a series of twenty-five 18th century engravings between 1792 and 1799. There are 3 sets of these historic prints in existence & The Malton houses one set which now adorns the walls of it's Punchbowl Bar. The other set is in the National Gallery and the other is privately held. In 2007 the hotel came under private ownership and its name changed from the Great Southern Hotel Killarney to The Malton, derived from this set of historic & valuable prints. There is also a famous trail in Dublin city called The Malton Trail whereby tourists can view/learn about these historic buildings.


The Malton Room

Jack Lynch was the Taoiseach of Ireland, serving two terms in office; from 1966 to 1973 and 1977 to 1979. He stayed at The Great Southern Hotel in the late 1960's/early 1970's while attending the IMI conference.The Great Southern opens "The Malton Room", a very popular French style cuisine restaurant. The complete set of Malton Prints were hung on the walls of the Malton Room, which now adorn the walls of The Punchbowl Bar.


Royal Visit

The hotel is honoured with a visit from the Duchess of York, Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson.


New Conference Centre And Leisure Facility

In 2002 the hotel lobby was renovated. Slightly more expensive than the refurbishment in 1900, the hotel re-opens after spending €14 million on a lavish refurbishment programme. The highlight of the refurbishment is the new Conference Centre and leisure facility.


150 Years

The Great Southern Hotel Killarney celebrates its 150th Birthday. An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was present to unveil a plaque to mark the great occasion.


Landmark Hotels

The hotel changes ownership. The Great Southern Hotel Group decides to sell its hotels, including the beautiful landmark hotels in Killarney, Parknasilla, and Galway.


The Malton

Local businessmen come together to buy the hotel. The name changes from the Great Southern Hotel Killarney to The Malton, named after the rare set of Malton Prints contained within the hotel.


New Ownership for The Malton

In November 2014, a local Killarney family and third generation hoteliers, The Scally family who are natives of Killarney, became the proud owners and custodians of The Malton. Today The Malton is led with a renewed passion and a commitment to excellence by The Scally family who are determined to fully restore The Malton’s rightful place as the premier historic hotel in Killarney.


Grand Foyer Refurbished

The Grand Foyer restored to its original Victorian design


Launch of Brownes Bar and Outdoor Terrace

2017 saw the launch of an outdoor terrace area for drinks receptions and ceremonies near The Grand Ballroom. AlsoThe Punchbowl Bar was relaunched under the new name of Brownes inspired by Lord Kenmare whom the land for the hotel was purchased from.


Great Southern Killarney Returns

The Hotel closed its doors for the last time as "The Malton" on January 6th 2018 and will reopen on January 26th as "Great Southern Killarney". After 2 years of extensive refurbishment aimed at restoring the hotel to its former greatness, 2018 will see the return of the historic grand-dame style hotel. As part of that restoration project, The Grand Foyer has been restored to the original Victorian design, the public areas have been redecorated in classical style, an extensive bedroom refurbishment program has been undertaken and we have upgraded the facilities surrounding the Grand Ballroom. Restoring the Great Southern name is an essential element of the identity of this iconic property which will be recognised, past and future, as Killarney’s Premier Historic Hotel. To celebrate the reopening of the hotel as Great Southern Killarney, we will host a Vintage Afternoon Tea on Saturday the 27th of January 2018, with all proceeds being donated to the Kerry Hospice Foundation. This special Vintage Afternoon Tea will relive the glory days of the Victorian era when the Great Southern first opened as one of Ireland’s leading hotels.

History Gallery