PAUL Walsh runs the family business, Springfort Hall Country House Hotel, an 18th Century building in Mallow, County Cork.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the business - which won the title of ‘Ireland’s Wedding Venue of The Year’ in the respected Wedding Suppliers Industry Awards.
Springfort Hall is the perfect base to explore all that North Cork has to offer. You can take a hike or a bike in the Ballyhoura Mountains. You can visit the Ballyhass Lake outdoor adventure centre or the historic Doneraile Park. There are plenty of beautiful golf courses to choose from, or maybe you want to visit the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll.
Here, Paul tells us about the family business, past, present and future...
In the Beginning
I was 21 and we probably started at a very difficult time for business, it was the ’80s and it was quite a grim time for many. I was lucky in that my family was very supportive both in terms of encouragement and hands on practical help. We all just put our shoulders to the wheel, so to speak, as we truly believed that we could make Springfort Hall a huge success.
As a family business, it’s wonderful for my mother and my two sisters, who all play a vital role in the success of Springfort Hall, to see our family-owned hotel succeed and grow, and be recognised as one of Ireland’s premier wedding spots.
I’m glad to say that the past four decades have borne this out and we are excited about the next four and what they will bring.
My son Alan is now working alongside me here and it is great to see his enthusiasm, work ethic and dedication.
Onwards and upwards
We are so proud to have built up a very strong reputation for hosting weddings and are recognised as one of the premier hotels to cater weddings in the country. We have won several awards for both our many weddings and our food. We recently added another award to our repertoire when we took the Highly Commended ‘Ireland’s Wedding Venue of The Year’ in the respected Wedding Suppliers Industry Awards.
Loving the Job
I genuinely love what I do and I count myself very lucky. We all know the saying that if you find a job you love, it will never feel like work.
I enjoy the interaction with staff and guests, it’s constantly buzzing, we’re all on the go and the prize is happy and contented guests and customers who feel valued. They come back time and time again, we have a very loyal base of generations of satisfied customers which is such a privilege.
Good food is central to the experience here, we offer hearty, beautifully cooked and presented food that our guests truly like and appreciate. It is central to our offering here.
Our 12-hour slow-cooked feather blade beef is our signature dish and it is a firm favourite amongst our visitors.
Running a hotel is a perfect example of multitasking! On a day to day basis, I meet suppliers, prospective new suppliers, customers, catch up with the staff here who are my right arm and generally ensure that everything is in tip top shape for functions and guests.
Not enough hours in the day to be honest! Hospitality is not the easiest industry to be in; at the moment the spiralling energy prices are causing major financial pain; for example, our energy bill was €10,000 a month two years ago, today it is €20,000.
It is difficult but retaining the VAT at 9% until the autumn for hotels and restaurants is a welcome help.
Our colleagues make us what we are. They love Springfort Hall as much as I do. They are warm, welcoming and genuinely do all they can for our guests, they love what they do and it shows. You can’t fake that sort of genuine hospitality. They are our biggest asset, they are just fantastic, all of the customer reviews are mainly about our employees and how great they are, we all get on well together and work as a team. My two sisters are great also, they have a great eye for design and interiors and have helped to create the lovely warm décor at Springfort Hall.
From catering for eight weddings in 1983 to the current 80 a year, catering for up to 300 guests at a time, I think it is fair to say we have come a long way! I would like us to do even more weddings as it is always great to be central to a happy couple’s special day.
We have undertaken some major upgrading over the past year. We have revamped our bedrooms, public areas and our beautiful banquet hall and greatly increased our capacity to 51 bedrooms as well as developing five luxury log cabins on our grounds. Guests love them, they are beautifully furnished, light, bright and airy and offer lovely views from their individual balconies.
We also renovated a beautiful old stone cottage and now have a cosy and character- filled two-bedroom cottage with its own courtyard which offers privacy, tranquillity and space. The people who like to bring their pet dogs love the fact that the dogs have space to walk around, we have 17 acres of beautiful woodlands and gardens here and it all adds to the relaxed, warm and luxurious ambience of Springfort Hall.
This is shaping up to be a very good year for us and we are looking forward to showcasing the extensive work we have done on Springfort Hall.
Bookings are very strong both from within Ireland and outside, which is extremely encouraging.
I like getting to grips with my garden so I can be found weeding, planting, mowing; I find it very relaxing. I also follow most sports, with Munster Rugby and the GAA being favourites. As a Corkman, I grudgingly admire Kerry football as well as my beloved Cork, but I suppose that fact that David Clifford is my cousin means I just have to.
My weekends are short enough and this is true for anybody in the hospitality industry. I do like getting away with either my wife or the whole family for a weekend away. I was in Donegal last year and it was absolutely beautiful. My mother is from Kerry so that is always a firm favourite too.