Siobhán O’Sullivan is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Mount Juliet Estate. With a family background in hospitality, Siobhán brings over 20 years’ experience within various facets of the hospitality industry and within the luxury five star arena, to her role at Mount Juliet Estate.
Her first taste of the hospitality business started at a very young age, working in the family business –The Shebeen Bar in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry. Hospitality came naturally to Siobhán, who decided to forge a career in the hotel business.
Starting out in the well-known Mespil Hotel where Siobhán progressed quickly, she continued her progression working in management roles in the Stillorgan Park Hotel, the Johnstown House Hotel when under the Marriot group and the Park Plaza in Tyrrelstown.
In 2010, Siobhán moved to Belfast to take up the Director of Sales and Marketing role with the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast and was integral in the transformation of the Fitzwilliam Hotel from a four to five star venue.
During her time in Belfast, Siobhán gained extensive experience as Vice Chair of The Institute of Hospitality in Northern Ireland and was involved in the Visit Belfast Conference Taskforce Committee.
Having honed her skills in growing and developing tourist numbers, Siobhan was perfectly placed to take up the role of Director of Sales & Marketing of the Mount Juliet Estate and its Kilkenny surrounds.
Here is a glimpse into Siobhán’s world…
Siobhán in July, Mount Juliet was named AA Hotel of the Year 2020. You must be still on cloud nine!
Yes, it’s fantastic. It is one of the most prestigious prizes in the Irish hospitality industry. To achieve the award previously won by Adare Manor and Ashford Castle has put us on a great platform.
In order to be selected as the AA Hotel of the Year, a property must not only meet the high standards in terms of service, cuisine and cleanliness but must also demonstrate a drive to improve the guest offering year-on-year to ensure each visitor has a stay that they won’t forget.
Mount Juliet Estate is not only one of Ireland’s finest hotels, it is renowned the world over for the warm welcome and stunning experience. It was also great timing, just as we reopened the Estate in June. It gave a welcome back boost to our hard working team.
Remind us what makes Mount Juliet unique
We are the only five star Country Estate in Kilkenny on 500 acres of beautiful park land. There’s two luxurious hotels on the Estate – one Georgian Manor and a 93 bedroom hotel in the Hunters Yard. There’s a full array of activities on site – archery, fishing, falconry, equestrian, spa, a world championship golf course.
There’s also our Michelin Star Restaurant - The Lady Helen, which was awarded four AA Rosettes earlier this year. We are only one of two restaurants in Ireland to receive this, the other is Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin.
We received our Failte Ireland Covid Safety Charter and the Estate is also the perfect location for social distancing, with lots of outdoor activities. Visitors and guests are enjoying al fresco dining and picnics on the lawn. We have blankets for Autumn, so guests can really enjoy the grounds when the weather changes. You can essentially have breakfast, lunch and tea around the Estate if you like!
And not every hotel has Des McGrath either!
Certainly not! He is the essence and the soul of this Estate, on top of his encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the Estate. Des is our Guest Relations Manager and he can give our guests the history of the Estate back to when Somerset Hamilton Butler and his young bride Lady Juliet Butler built the Manor House and developed the Estate in 1757. This was a real labour of love for the young couple.
Then the McCalmont family moved in and developed it into one of Ireland’s largest working farms. We like to continue the hospitality that was here in the 1700s with the good food and wine and horseback riding.
Des is very important to us; he spends most of his days telling the history with fascinating stories. Pre-Covid everyone enjoyed the fireside chats with Des in the helm. For more outdoor tours, Des can also bring guests on private tours of Ballyhinch Stud Farm on the Estate.
On top of a busy staycation summer, you are now preparing for a busy daycation season ahead.
We are the perfect staycation location and generally people stay for two to three nights. People are enjoying cocooning here and don’t want to leave! It’s nice to let our team look after ‘you’ for a change, especially with all the cooking and cleaning we have being doing since March. We all need that little break!
People have accrued their holidays too. So there are lots of breaks to be still taking over the next few months. Staycations are here to stay for a while yet.
Regarding Daycation – it’s the new tourism term and we are encouraging non-residents to come out to Mount Juliet and use our facilities. Friends and family are now more important to us all since Covid hit, so treating them and spending time with them is more precious than it ever was.
The Irish Open was supposed to happen in May on your famously designed Jack Nicholas golf course. Will Mount Juliet see it again?
We have been told that it is coming back to Kilkenny. The decision was made to go North this year because of our quarantine restrictions here in the Republic. Safety is paramount for guests and staff on the estate.
It will be behind closed doors in the North and hopefully when everything is lifted and we are back to some sort of normality next year we’ll host it. We have no dates as yet.
You are a Kerry woman, reared in the hospitality business in the Kingdom of Tourism. How does Kilkenny compare to Kerry in the tourism stakes?
Kilkenny has always being well known for the domestic tourism market and weekend breaks. We probably don’t shout enough about what we have here in Kilkenny. We have some amazing restaurants, cafés and the bars.. We have a lot more to talk about, an incredible history, beautiful craft and design centres, wonderful local producers, we have some great distilleries like Ballykeefe and Highbank Orchard and fabulously talented people who we should be shouting about. I can tell you the Kerry people shout about everything they have, that’s why people always think of Kerry!
Kilkenny could get as good as Kerry someday, but maybe not in the football!
During your time in Belfast, you were involved in the Visit Belfast Conference Taskforce Committee. How did that taskforce turn Belfast from a troubled city to a must see destination?
It was the spirit of all the hospitality businesses. Everyone knew about all the issues Belfast had with the troubled times up there, but this is now part of its history and people can learn so much by visiting, it’s become a selling point. Again it was getting into the markets telling people when you come to Ireland or if you have done Ireland before that they need to come North instead of South.
Belfast kind of reminds me of Kilkenny; it’s a small compact city and you can walk it in ten minutes. There’s the Titanic Museum, the charm of the streets and a really good foodie scene. The history and heritage of the city has a massive pull to it. The Black Cab tours to the East and West Belfast are just fantastic.
It’s the characters up there, so much as it is in Kilkenny, the Des McGraths and the likes that attract tourists. You have to be passionate about what you do and Belfast City wants tourism.
Ironically it is one of the safest cities in the world today.
What’s your favourite thing about your new home of Kilkenny City?
When I moved here I really wanted to go to a GAA match in Nowlan Park. I’m a big GAA head! Besides that I love the buzz around the city, the bars and the restaurants.
Since Covid, people have become more friendly and warm. Sure I meet the same people every morning on my morning walk and everyone has a big hello and smile. Kilkenny is a small city and everyone knows you.
Mount Juliet Estate is offering Autumn breaks with a super deal if book two nights midweek, they will treat you to the third free. www.mountjuliet.ie