Can I have a short biography of your career?
I studied Hotel Management in Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin. After college I worked in Dromoland Castle, Medallion Hotel, Oklahoma, Jurys Hotels Cork and Cardiff, Great Southern Killarney and now Cahernane House.
When did Cahernane House Hotel open, a little of the history?
Cahernane House was built in 1877 as a family home for Henry and Katherine Herbert. The family lived in the house until 1901 when they couldn’t afford its upkeep any longer.
They then leased the house out for 10 years to the Stokes O’Callaghan family and the Polytechnic Touring Association. The PTA was a travel company for British students and managed the hotel until 1939. There have been five owners since then; the PREM group bought the house in 2016 and have lovingly restored it to its former glory.
How did you use the time during the lockdowns?
I worked throughout all the lockdowns. On the first lockdown, the hotel had only been open 12 days for the season when we closed. There was a lot of work involved in cancelling the summer bookings and rebooking guests.
The US market was very optimistic in 2020 – they were cancelling their summer bookings but rebooking for autumn in 2020. We expect many of the guests who did cancel will be contacting us again to re-book for 2022 and 2023.
How has business been since reopening?
We have had a very good season and were fortunate to have a high level of repeat custom from our Irish guests after re-opening in June. Once travel restrictions lifted on 19 July, we immediately saw a lift in the American and European tourists.
Cahernane has some lovely spaces for smaller weddings of up to 25 guests and we hosted many of these throughout the summer. Our chef Eric Kavanagh honed his already remarkable cooking skills during lockdown and the food in the Herbert Restaurant this year was the best ever.
We received such wonderful feedback from guests on it and I think after people doing so much cooking at home, they really wanted a gourmet dining experience which they could have at Cahernane.
How have you coped with staff shortages, if you had any?
It was definitely more challenging this year than ever before but all our senior core team remained with us. Then we had a younger crew who hadn’t worked in hospitality before but really rose to the challenges this year. I am so proud of all our staff who work so well together to make the guests experience at Cahernane an unforgettable one.
What changes have you made to enhance guests’ experience?
In terms of Covid, we just wanted guests to feel happy and safe while in the house and I think we achieved that. We turned our Drawing Room into an additional dining space so there was even more than the required social distancing.
In Cahernane, there are many quiet spaces where guests can disappear to – like the Atrium, Library, Cellar, and Gardens. There was ample space for all guests and it could feel like the house was still quiet and peaceful. Killarney National Park is on our doorstep, and there is so much in Killarney to be enjoyed. Every single member of the Cahernane team want to make sure that our guests leave Cahernane with unforgettable memories and this is what really enhances the guests experience.
How are bookings going, what is the winter looking like?
They are steady thankfully. A lot of our weddings that had booked for 2020 are now taking place in December 2021. These are the larger weddings of up to 80 guests who take exclusive use of the house. The décor at Cahernane at Christmas is lovely so combine this with the open fires and, it all really adds to the atmosphere in the winter time.
Where do your guests come from mainly?
In the past two years, we have had primarily Irish guests from neighbouring counties and Dublin. In a normal year, North America, Canada and northern Europe (Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland) are our main markets.
What challenges does Kerry face in encouraging international visitors to the county?
I would love to see more flights into Shannon, especially for the repeat US visitor. Getting to Dublin and having to drive three or four hours to get to the west coast is not ideal.
If there were more available flights into Shannon, the length of stay in Kerry would be longer. For the first time visitor to Ireland, they don’t mind as they like to visit Dublin. However, have guests who come from the US annually and now fly to London or Dublin and immediately transfer to Kerry airport.
Cahernane House has involvement in the community in Killarney, what can you tell us about that?
We sponsor Muckross Rowing Club which is the oldest rowing club in Killarney. There was always a connection with the Herbert family of Cahernane and rowing on the lakes. We are delighted to continue that tradition with the Rowing Club. The hotel is involved in the tidy towns initiatives in Killarney. There is an amazing community spirit in Killarney and we are very proud to be part of that.
Have you any special offers to entice visitors back to your hotel?
See link here to a New Year’s Eve special offer at Cahernane House.