Padraig McGillycuddy is a high-flying hotelier. Not only is his preferred mode of transport piloting his own helicopter over the mountain range than bears the family name, but he
has developed Ballygarry House in Tralee from being a popular local hostelry into a destination in its own right.
Born into a hotel family and working in a kitchen since his pre-teens, Padraig took a classical route into hotel-keeping. He studied at GMIT and Lausanne and worked in up-scale hotels like the Ardilaun, Corrib Great Southern, Maryborough House and Hayfield Manor before returning to help his father Owen, run Ballygarry in 2000.
Originally a family dwelling, Ballygarry House was converted into the Manhattan Hotel by three local investors in 1958 and became a popular wedding venue. Gene McGillycuddy was one of the three founders and became the operator. His son Owen trained as a hotel manager in Switzerland and with Great Southern Hotels in Ireland before joining his father in the business in 1968. The hotel flourished and in 1982 it was decided , on the advice of a Bord Fáilte inspector, to revert to the original name of the premises- Ballygarry House. Owen brought his expertise to the enterprise ,adding a banqueting room in 1987. In a natural progression Padraig joined the business in 2000, and became general manager three years later after his father died unexpectedly.
Aged just 27, but already with a wealth of hotel management expertise, Padraig began to expand the hotel, investing €11m in a new guestroom block which brought the room complement to 64, extending the gardens, opening Tralee’s first spa called ‘Nadúr’ and building a large hi-tech kitchen which has since been trebled in size.
This investment paid off and to-day food and beverage sales account for 65% of turnover.
The food offering includes a restaurant called ‘58’ (the year the hotel opened), bar food, casualdining in the ‘Brasserie’, barbecues in the Pavilion area and an extensive banqueting operation.
Asked if he disagreed with hoteliers who say that it is very difficult to make profit on food, Padraig says:
‘We make 70% margin on our food and 64% on beverages. If you can’t make money on those kind of margins you should go back to bed’.
He runs a tight well-managed food and beverage operation, the hub of which is a large energy-efficient ‘intelligent’ kitchen which cost €1.5m.
In 2011, Padraig oversaw the building of The Pavilion, a multifunction venue overlooking the gardens which can double as a conference area or as a drinks area for bigger functions. The Sunset Terrace and The Courtyard were added and wrapped around this area. This complex has its own entrance.
Ballygarry House continues the tradition of the Manhattan as a popular wedding venue and Padraig says that the emergence of the ‘three day wedding’ makes a significant contribution to room sales. Around two thirds of guests are Irish with French and German visitors accounting for most of the balance.
Wedding receptions are held in the Monarch Suite which can accommodate 380 guests. The Brasserie, a new casual dining area was added in 2016 when the hotel bar was revamped and renamed as ‘Owen Mac’s’ .
‘Ballygarry House Hotel is my passion’, says Padraigh, who is joined in the operation by his wife Carmel. ‘I am very proud of the family commitment to building up the hotel to what it is today. But this would not be possible without the same commitment of the many and loyal staff members who have been with us throughout many years; who were with my father and who welcome the same guests back year after year by name.’
Guests, travel agents, guide inspectors and the media have begun to take notice of Ballygarry House. It has just been ranked 5th Best Hotel in Ireland in the Trip Advisor Travellers Choice Awards and was named Irish Hotel Federation’s Top Employer of the Year’ in 2016.
Having taken off, Padraig and Ballygarry House can only fly higher.