Patrick And Aileen Hanley Of Lansdowne Kenmare

By Emily Hourican
Patrick And Aileen Hanley Of Lansdowne Kenmare

Patrick and Aileen Hanley tell Hospitality Ireland about their long careers in the industry and getting back to basics with the family business.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in February of 2024.

Kenmare native Patrick Hanley has worked in hospitality since his teens, starting in the family business, the Lansdowne Kenmare, in Co. Kerry – his parents, Breda and Bobby Hanley, owned and ran the hotel, known then as the Lansdowne Arms, from 1972 until 2000 – before working overseas in Europe and the USA.

When Patrick returned to Ireland, he worked as the general manager of two five-star hotels in Kenmare: Sheen Falls Lodge and the Park Hotel. His wife, Aileen, who hails from Co. Meath, has worked in a number of senior management positions – at Sheen Falls Lodge and Bellinter House, in Co. Meath – and as general manager of the Eccles Hotel, in Glengarriff, Co. Cork.

Now, Patrick and Aileen have taken over the running of the Lansdowne Kenmare. The 28-bedroom hotel is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, as well as Ireland’s Blue Book. They will also continue to run their seaside restaurant, the Strand Cahore, in Co. Wexford, which they bought in 2018.


What first drew you to hospitality?

P: I was raised in the Lansdowne Kenmare and knew nothing else. I lived all my life in it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I then studied in Shannon College of Hotel Management, where I met lifelong friends, and, early in my career, I met my wife while working in the industry, so you could say fate is what drew me to it.

A: I began working at the age of 13 in the shop on the Hill of Tara, and it brought out the very best in me. I thrived in that space, and despite having gone on to study accounting and finance in third level, I was never going to work in any other industry. I love it – I love working with people, and I love giving a service to people.

When did you first realise that you wanted to do this professionally?

P: When I met my wife!


A: When I was in college, I knew I was studying to go back to hospitality, and that is when I knew I wanted to do it professionally. It’s such an amazing and rewarding vocation.

What was your first big role?

A: Food-and-beverage manager in Bellinter House Hotel, Co. Meath.

P: Front-office supervisor at the front desk in the Four Seasons Pierre Hotel, Fifth Avenue.

What was that like?


A: I was part of the opening team for Bellinter House in 2006 and worked for the late John Reynolds, Eoin Foyle and Jay Bourke, and this was exciting, in my early twenties, and being part of their magnetic work ethic and projects, such as Eoin’s Odessa Club in Dublin, John Reynolds’ Electric Picnic, and Jay Bourke’s Eden restaurant in Temple Bar. I had great exposure and training with these mentors.

P: It was like being on a movie set. I got to live in the hotel for a month while I found my feet and was cared for like any of the guests. At the time, New York was a very exciting place. It was post-9/11 revitalisation that made it a very interesting and exciting place to be. I lived the dream and would love for my girls to do something similar when they grow up. It’s something every person should do – live and work in a major city.

Patrick, did you always think of returning to the Lansdowne Kenmare?

At the time my parents decided to retire, I was not one bit interested in owning and running the hotel. I wanted to branch out and focus on becoming a GM. I was lucky, at that age, having worked for some very inspirational people, like Peter McCann, Richard Bourke and Adriaan Bartels.

However, when I met my wife and we were both in hospitality, we would often talk about a place of our own. By then, I had some more experience and I had worked closely with both the Brennans on three projects. I had a close view of the Blue Book properties, and that association is all about people – the owners and their families – and they operate these heavens of hospitality.


From the early 2010s, I did make enquiries on a few occasions, but the time was never right. Then [the Strand] Cahore came along, but, to be honest, I still felt like we would end up back at the Lansdowne Kenmare. I didn’t know how or when, but I just always felt it would happen.

Literally, there was no plan – it was a sort of sense of ‘what’s for you won’t pass you by’ and this will happen one day, and it did.

What’s it been like, going back?

P: Impossible to describe. The welcome has been overwhelming, and the sense of place so natural. Every corner of the building holds many special memories. This was my home – we lived on site. I learned to walk, talk, and clear tables here, and now my own children will get to say they grew up here, too!

Aileen, how are you finding it?

I’m really enjoying it. We both love a challenge and to keep busy while trying to balance our personal life. We don’t rest well. We enjoy work. You could say we love working, so it’s great to be sinking our teeth into something big again.

Our last big challenge was the Strand Cahore, and we’re seven years into it now, and our team are amazing and running it extremely well when we’re focusing on the Lansdowne, and we would be lost without them. If it weren’t for them, we couldn’t take on the Lansdowne – it just wouldn’t be possible – so to say that I am happy to have this new challenge and goal ahead of us is fantastic.

Tell us about the hotel – the ethos, food, service, etc.

P: When you are in a place like Kenmare, it breathes history, and we are now in one of the oldest buildings in the town. There is a certain sense of privilege and responsibility in this, especially when your parents ran such a loved business in it for 28 years. Our ethos is care, warmth and welcome. Our food is nostalgic – it evokes memories and happiness – and our service is care.

We want you to feel welcomed in our home. We want you to enjoy every minute of it, and we want you to want to come back, time and time again.

What makes a great hotel?

A: The feeling. The natural aesthetics and soul are so important, and people can ‘feel’ this when they enter a building, so it is extremely important to get that ‘feeling’ right, and that’s achieved through your character, your personal touch, your style, your warmth, and, most importantly, your team and their contentment working in their environment – this will exude to your guest.

You can really tell if a place is loved and if people love being in it, and that’s what makes a great hotel.

What are the changing trends in hospitality – people’s expectations, new elements, etc.?

P: When we started out in the hotel industry, our owners were the leaders in terms of creating their hotels around a sense of place, where everyone wanted to be, but everyone catches up and copies that. So, the challenges now are knowing what people want.

What are the major challenges at the moment?

A: The major challenges – which are of no surprise to anyone – are the rising costs in this industry. The hospitality industry was never given a chance to recover properly from the impacts of Covid, and it was positive and uplifting to see leaders in the industry using this time to enhance their properties and their offering. It was a ticket and a freedom that you don’t have in this industry, as the margins are so tight. It’s such a labour-intensive industry, and it should be viewed through a different lens than that of other service industries. You have so many people operating that don’t get the recognition.

Irish hospitality workers and their employers need meaningful change. They deserve smart policies and practical programmes delivered by smart politicians, enabling them to achieve their goals and ensure that they are recognised as being part of the most competitive and economic sector in Ireland. Tourism and hospitality employs between 150,000 and 250,000 people in Ireland annually, earning €5.6 billion in revenue and welcoming 10.6 billion people from abroad.

What are the main opportunities?

P: Often, this industry is overlooked in relation to education and skills and can be seen as unattractive for people to obtain a career. However, I believe, with the right environment and education, this is a very rewarding and exciting industry to be part of. Aileen and I are hugely passionate about further education, and now, with Kenmare Culinary School [Skills Centre] as part of Kerry ETB on our doorstep, and with the support of Munster Technological University, we will encourage and promote this opportunity within our team.

What do you do when you’re not working?

P: We spend all of our time together –work, rest and play! People are baffled by it, but we really enjoy each other’s company, our family life, and our time as a family together. We love to hike with the kids, kayak and cycle, and every Wednesday in the season, we play golf with our two girls, Emilie and Moya, and go for a meal afterwards. As the girls say, it will be a core memory later in life.

Any other plans on the horizon for the next year or so?

P: We plan to enhance our offering by adding our character and soul to the Lansdowne and will look at completing a soft refurb on bedrooms and public areas to reflect this, and we hope to add rooms to the Strand Cahore, so, once we have that done, we will have a lovely synergy for our guests in two of our favourite parts of the country.