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The Shelbourne: Grande dame of Dublin hotels is defying her age

Published 29/06/2016

Full of history: The Shelbourne Hotel Dublin.
Full of history: The Shelbourne Hotel Dublin.
The Constitution Room at The Shelbourne.
The Queen Room at The Shelbourne.

At 192 years old the grand dame of Dublin hotels is looking better than ever.

As soon as you walk through the doors of The Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen's Green you get a real sense of its history and its pivotal place in Irish society.

The largest five star hotel in Dublin, this classic hotel has 265 bedrooms including 19 suites. Many are named after well-known guests who have an association with the hotel, including the Princess Grace Suite, along with those named after John F. Kennedy, Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera.

In this year of the Easter Rising centenary the hotel's place in Irish history has been of particular interest to visitors and guests. It was taken over by British forces to snipe at Irish Citizen Army rebels in St Stephen's Green a century ago and in a first-floor room the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922. The table on which it was created, under the chairmanship of Michael Collins, still sits in the very room.

Founded in 1824 by Tipperary man Martin Burke, the Shelbourne first comprised three Georgian houses and aimed to "woo genteel customers who wanted solid, comfortable and serviceable accommodation at a fashionable address".

Following an extensive restoration of its exterior with its signature red-brick Victorian facade, I can confirm it definitely still has the "woo" factor. It also ticks every other box on Mr Burke's wishlist and much, much more.

After a very relaxing stay there recently I found the hotel literally oozes glamour and sophistication.

I had one of the best night's sleep in so long thanks to the luxurious mattresses and duvets. The rooms also boast sleek marble bathrooms which again add to the splendour of the place.

When (or if as trust me they are so good!) you manage to drag yourself away from their wonderfully comfortable beds, there is a Sunday jazz brunch which I would highly recommend. You could easily spend hours in the No 27 bar listening to the music while enjoying their creative cocktails and some food. Through the bar's tall windows you can look out on St Stephen's Green or just do some serious people watching.

We had an evening meal in The Saddle Room restaurant which was truly sensational. This luxurious steak and seafood restaurant has one of those menus where you just want to try everything. After a starter of seared Bantry Bay scallops we had Charleville 45 Day Aged 5oz Beef Fillet and the Roast Kilmore Quay Monkfish in a Shellfish Consommé.

All the dishes were faultless and I spotted at least half a dozen other dishes I would love to try. The use of many different Irish ingredients was clear to see on the menu.

After dinner we retired to the No 27 bar for cocktails again and also tried out the distinctive Horseshoe Bar which has become a famous meeting point over the years for politicians and journalists, sportsmen and movie stars as well as visiting dignitaries. The bar's original 1957 Sam Stephenson design has also been recently restored, down to the Hogarth prints, white counter top and shining brass. This gives the bar a very unique feel.

While I didn't have time to try it for myself The Lord Mayor's Lounge is a particularly busy spot for afternoon tea, a delight I heard other guests raving about.

If you're a culture vulture or just want to visit some of Dublin's most famous attractions within walking distance of the hotel are Trinity College, Dáil Éireann, and the National Gallery, Museum and Library.

But for history buffs or those who were curious like myself the hotel has its very own museum situated beside reception. This Aladdin's Cave contains stories from staff, guests and commentators, as well as menus, letters, articles and items from throughout the hotel's history, including a draft copy of the Irish Constitution.

On request you can view the guest registers, which allows visitors to view the signatures of family members or friends over the past two centuries.

As it is located beside Grafton Street The Shelbourne is also the perfect location to base yourself for a shopping trip or if you want to sample the city centre's bars and restaurants.

There is no better way to relax after a day's shopping than in the Spa at The Shelbourne, the largest in Dublin city centre and obviously one of the most exclusive in Ireland. This relaxation sanctuary features a swimming pool, thermal facilities, a dance studio and state-of-the-art gymnasium.

The hotel also boats its own salon which offers hair styling, manicures, pedicures, express beauty treatments and a specialist blow-dry bar, all while you sip on a cocktail or glass of champagne.

I may not have mimicked actor Peter O'Toole, who is said to have bathed in champagne during his stay at The Shelbourne, but it was fantastic to at least have sampled the champagne lifestyle for a day. Now back to sandwiches and tea at my desk....

The Rediscover Dublin package is available at The Shelbourne until January 31 2017 and costs from €379 per room, room only for one night accommodation for two in a luxurious Deluxe Room. Enjoy full use of the spa facilities including pool, gymnasium, steam room and sauna.

- For bookings and enquires call 003531 6634500 or book online at

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