There’s so much frustration, cost and anxiety around travel at the moment, I wanted to briefly flip the script to focus on some good news.
Since 2021, 11 Irish hotels have gained new four-star ratings.
The most recent to make the jump from three to four stars is the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, Co Cork.
The family-run property got its accreditation after “a winter of refurbishment,” says general manager Neil Grant. “While location and decor obviously help, the most important ingredients are our people and the community that welcomes visitors like they are long-lost friends,” he says.
Last year, Westlodge in Cork, Limerick City Hotel, Killarney’s Gleneagle, the Maldron Hotel in Dublin’s Smithfield, Claregalway Hotel and The Falls Hotel in Ennistymon also made the leap.
In 2022, they’ve been joined (so far) by the Celtic Ross, Carlow’s Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Aspect Hotel in Dublin Park West, The Ocean Sands in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, and The Lansdowne Kenmare, Francis and John Brennan’s new townhouse hotel in Co Kerry.
“Location, location, location,” says Francis of the classy little 28-bed sitting across the road from its sister, the Park Hotel Kenmare. The Lansdowne was bought and upgraded during lockdown, and the brothers have added a café, dining room with terrace, and piano lounge. “It’s wonderful to see it lovingly restored to four-star status,” he says.
The Ocean Sands is another hotel on a mission, adding a new Ocean Spa and nine-course tasting menu from head chef Marcin Szczodrowski since winning four stars earlier this year.
The new rating was the culmination of “an extensive refurbishment and upgrading programme over the last three years, since well before Covid-19,” says its owner and general manager Mark Devaney.
So how do Ireland’s hotel classifications work, and what makes the difference between three and four stars?
Fáilte Ireland sets out the criteria, which can make for enlightening (and entertaining) reading. You don’t need a pool or spa to get four stars, for example. But you must offer a range of cooked options at breakfast, greet guest diners and show them to their table, and open reception for 16 hours a day (and be available for calls 24/7).
The minimum room size for a double/twin in a four-star is 21sqm, while in a three-star it’s 19sqm. Four-stars must also have CCTV, make daily newspapers available, provide room-service menus, offer wake-up calls, and have safety grab rails in bathrooms.
Providing “one upholstered seat per bed” is a detail we can debate, but one non-negotiable many guests will agree on: a hairdryer.
“Moving from a three- to a four-star is not an automatic process, and will often take hotels years to achieve,” Fáilte Ireland says. Its focus is “not only on the physical structures of a hotel but on the service, particularly on customer care and professionalism of the team”, it adds.
Hotels must also stay on their game — they are assessed annually, and can lose as well as gain stars.