What’s in a name? Great Southern hotel returns to its roots

Killarney’s best-known hotel will adopt name it held for more than a century

The grand dame of Killarney hotels will return to its roots next year, with a comeback for the monicker it held for more than a century. On January 26th, 2018, the Great Southern Killarney title will be reinstated on the famous Kerry hotel, which has been called The Malton since 2007. The current name, The Malton name will be retired.

Opening in 1854 as The Railway Hotel, the hotel soon became a popular spot on this southern route. From 1896 to 2009 it was known as the Great Southern Killarney. Many famous people have stayed there over the years, including Queen Victoria's entourage, who stayed in the hotel when she visited Killarney in August 1861. The Thomas Cook holiday company included it in its package holidays from 1895, bringing more visitors from Great Britain. In the 1960s, Jackie Kennedy stayed here with her children - the presidential suite is named after her.

Princess Grace of Monaco was also a visitor and many Hollywood actors, including Charlie Chaplin and Tyrone Power. The cast of Ryan’s Daughter made by David Leen in 1970, also stayed here.

In 2006 the owners of the Great Southern Hotels group, Dublin Airport Authority sold seven of the hotels to a number of different parties. The Killarney property was bought by Gerry Barrett, of Edward Holdings Galway. Barrett also purchased the Great Southern Eyre Square, Galway (now The Meyrick) and the newer Corrib Great Southern (which was renamed Corrib Heights, but closed in 2007).


Barrett sold on the hotel to a group of Killarney business people, who changed the name to The Malton. The name was chosen in honour of the engraver and watercolourist James Malton who is best known for a series of 25 prints of Dublin from the 1790s. There is a collection of his prints in the hotel which will continue to be displayed.

In 2014 it was sold to the Scally family, owners of the Hayfield Collection, which includes five-star Hayfield Manor in Cork and the Killarney Royal hotels.

Over the past two years the Scally family have invested more than €2 million in a restoration of the 172-bedroom hotel. The Grand Foyer has been restored to its Victorian past and the public areas have been redecorated in classical style. The Grand Ballroom has also been upgraded. It hosts between 75 and 80 weddings each year, as well as many events on the Killarney social calendar.

In July 2015, the hotel bought the trademark Great Southern, which is why they can now return the name the hotel held for more than a century.

Etienne van Vrede, ceo of Hayfield Collection, is from South Africa and married into the Scally family. Asked if returning to the old name might be a risk, he says “the move to Malton was a bigger risk at the time, after more than 100 years. We have done market research about the change and the responses have been very positive.”

For years the hotel has been a popular spot for large Kerry weddings in its Grand Ballroom, where the average celebration is for approximately 350 people. “We have seen a trend for smaller weddings lately and can accommodate them in the Garden Restaurant or the Middle Lake room,” Mr van Vrede said.

"Business is going well and the US market is very strong and only going one way. Ireland is seen as a safe destination and value for money. We feel the name change will bring us back to our roots."

The hotel will be closed for the first three weeks in January before reopening under the new moniker on January 26th.