Killarney is the proud birthplace of Irish tourism, with the town celebrating its 250th anniversary as a tourist destination in 2004. The Malton, formerly the Great Southern Hotel 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.
Click here to watch of short video of the history of The Malton