The New Owners Of The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel On Their Plans

By Robert McHugh
The New Owners Of The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel On Their Plans

Mark Scott-Lennon and Joseph Scott-Lennon discuss becoming the third generation of the family business owners to take the helm at The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel.

The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel is an eighteenth-century four-star luxury property located near the historic village of Dalkey and the coastal town of Dun Laoghaire, and only minutes from Killiney Beach. It was first built by Col. John Mapas in 1740. The castle exchanged hands over the next two centuries, before Paddy Fitzpatrick and his wife, Eithne, bought the property in 1971.

The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel is celebrating a significant milestone this year, as the third generation of the family business owners take the helm of the four-star Killiney retreat. Leading the property into the next generation, managing director Mark Scott-Lennon and hotel manager Joseph Scott-Lennon will be the new co-directors of the hotel.

The brothers plan to invest €10 million over the next five years, specifically in the areas of property enhancements, sustainability, and expansion. They spoke exclusively to Robert McHugh recently about the heavy sense of responsibility that they felt when taking over the castle, and how their grandfather's example has influenced them both professionally and personally.

How does it feel to be the third generation of the family business owners to take the helm at the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel?


Mark: There is certainly a huge amount of pride also coupled with a certain responsibility. We often talk about my grandad who started the company in 1970, there are still staff present who worked for him when he opened the hotel originally. So we do feel the weight of all that he achieved and the name that he built for the hotel. There is huge excitement and pride. The history is worth something.

Joseph: Pride is the overwhelming feeling along with excitement for the future. As the generations before, we want to put our own stamp on to the property and bring it forward for the next generation. We plan to make our offering exciting, while respecting our heritage and tradition. We want to continue to evolve while keeping the essence of the castle the same. On a personal level, it's the realisation of an ambition for me and Mark of taking the castle over and hopefully expanding into a group in the future.

You announced plans in February to invest €10 million over the next five years? Tell us more about this?

Mark: We have actually spent a €1 million in the last year, €500,000 of which was spent on sustainability projects. We engaged with a company to reduce our carbon footprint and usage by 30%. We spent a lot of money on upgrading our equipment, which was no small thing for a 1740 castle!

We also spent half a million euro on upgrading the property in Killiney. We do hope to expand the group and we have started a fund to be able to acquire other properties.


Joseph: Sustainability has definitely been a strong focus. We have performed energy audits. We have changed heating systems in the rooms, we have upgraded windows and worked on the front of the castle. We continuously upgrade the rooms and have spent money on the bar downstairs.

There is also the acquisition of the funds that we have set aside, to once again, realise our grandad's ambition, and ours, to build into a group again and hopefully grow in the future.

Mark: We would have grown up as kids with my grandad having hotels in Cork. There were Fitzpatrick hotels in New York. A lot of our Easter and Halloween holidays would have been spent there. It was a big part of our childhood, and definitely a big ambition for us.

Our uncle proudly still runs the two hotels in New York. We are definitely looking to expand the group as our grandad did.

Tell us about your background – where you grew up, studied, etc.


Mark: We both grew up in Blackrock and went to school there. I went on to UCD and studied Economics.

I came into the family business in my early 20s and did a manager training program here. Our grandad always said you can't manage someone unless you've stood in their shoes so I worked in all different departments. I spent three or four months in the kitchen, then three or four months in front desk and sales, to get a feel for the business. It was very beneficial.

After that, I went into manager roles in the hotel and did a Masters in DIT in hospitality management. I took over as general manager ten years ago. I also did some J1s abroad in hotels such as the Marriot in Vancouver and Gurney's Montauk Resort in New York. I wanted to see what it is like to work for other people and I always wanted to work in hospitality abroad.

Joseph has more experience in that regard.

Joseph: I studied Economics as well. Throughout school, I was working in the castle and then I did a trainee management program over a year.


I decided in 2017 to move to New York. I worked for a year in the InterContinental New York Barclay. I was the assistant food and beverage manger. From there, I got an internal transfer to Dubai Central City where I worked for the Intercontinental and managed three of their outlets and banqueting bars.

After this, I moved to the Caribbean for three years with Sandy Lane Yacht Club, a sister hotel to Sandy Lane Barbados. I was the resort manager there.

I then decided to come back here to join the family business with Mark. It was the transition of mum starting to retire. I rejoined as hotel manager.

Who was your first mentor in hospitality, and how did his/her/their guidance influence your growth and development as a hospitality professional?

Mark: I suppose from an early age it would have been my parents who both worked in hospitality. My love for hospitality definitely would have started there.

My dad owned the Abbey Tavern in Howth and I enjoyed being there for big ballad show nights selling t-shirts. I loved the buzz of busy nights. Mum was the sales and marketing director for the hotel group, so on holidays I would go with her on her work trips.

Working here, Syed Rizvi was a huge mentor to me. He was director of operations at the castle. He taught me a lot about hard work and using different systems. He is now general manager of Castleknock Hotel. On the financial side, it was Paul Cunningham. When I took over as general manager, we were doing a big refinance and he was a great mentor on business matters.

Joseph: As Mark said, our parents initially. Also Sean Dempsey who was a chef here for 50 years. Grandad employed him initially for two months and he never left. Working with Sean was great. What he would do for a guest and his attention to detail along with anticipating guest needs was a big eye opener. You never heard him complain about anything that was ever requested, he always went above and beyond to make sure things were right. He said everything you serve under the Fitzpatrick name, regardless of whether guests are paying for biscuits or champagne, is a representation of us. Everything had to be done to a high standard.

Mark: I would like to add to my previous answer. Sean definitely taught me the essence of what hospitality is all about. He went above and beyond his duties as a head chef at the hotel. He knew what time everyone was in, what functions were on, what they were having. He knew absolutely everything. He would guide all the young staff. He worked phenomenal hours and was always here.

We did not get the opportunity to work with our grandad but you got his ethos from Sean. That was an amazing feeling.

Joseph: Robert, what is your policy on stealing answers?!

Mark: (Laughs) You caught me on the hop. I knew I was forgetting someone. Sean was big part of the hotel with all the change, all the managers that we have had, he always kept the standards of the hotel going.

Do you have a business motto?

Joseph: We have an internal and external motto. Our theme is 'From our family to yours.' We are lucky enough to be involved in the lifecycle of other people's events. From christenings, communions and confirmations, and sadly, funerals. It should feel like we are part of that experience, that it is from our family to yours.

Within the hotel, there is an African phrase, 'I am because we all are.' It is about collective ownership and responsibility. The staff are an extension of our family and we want our guests to feel that.

Mark: We are all in this together to make this a business to be proud of, 'I am because we all are,' is what we tell people at the induction here.

In your experience, what makes a great hotel?

Mark: The personal touch. From day one, our biggest training priority is all about customer care. We are here to look after people and to show respect and kindness to everyone that comes into the hotel. It's definitely about the people. We believe that you go back to the castle because of the experience and because the team have gone above and beyond to offer a great stay.

Joseph: The people in the hotel have to buy into your ethos and what you want to deliver. Great hospitality is the ability to give a little piece of yourself whether that is a smile or your time. We are very lucky because we can have an impact on a person's stay every day. That should always be seen as a privilege. It is the sharing of that view internally so that hopefully guests feel it externally.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Mark: At the moment it is spending time with my family, my wife Susan and two kids. Socialising with friends. I also like cycling and the gym.

Joseph: I'm a big fan of sports. We built paddle courts here recently so I use them twice a week. I enjoy golf, kite surfing and I'm a big travel enthusiast. I love to go to any countries in the world that I can get time off for!

Mark: You can tell he doesn't have kids yet!

Joseph: Both myself and Mark are big rugby enthusiasts and we were lucky to play rugby together for a number of years. Our other brother David was also involved and we played down in Stradbrook Rugby Club up until recently. The three of us got to play together in All-Ireland leagues at certain points.