Luxury hotel Christmas: What do you get for your €2,000?

From the Shelbourne to Ashford Castle: Large number opt for festive hotel packages

While most Irish people will gather at home with their families to enjoy a traditional turkey and ham dinner on Christmas Day, a large number will be dining in style at some of the country’s top hotels. And paying top dollar for the privilege.

The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, the grand old dame of the industry here, will host more than 500 guests on Christmas Day for a "decadent, traditional five-course Christmas feast".

The hotel is charging €195 for lunch per adult and €97.50 for children with meals served between 12.30 and 9pm. Room rates started at €375 per person sharing and €171 for a child under 16 in a parent’s room.

The room rates include lunch, gifts in the room, a Christmas stocking for children and a visit from Santa Claus in the Lord Mayor’s Lounge. The five-star hotel also runs a “festive fun club” for children.


"We are fully booked out for Christmas packages," the Shelbourne's general manager Stephen Hanley told The Irish Times. "We get a lot of repeat guests booking for the following year. Demand is always very high. It's all about making it a special experience for our guests."

It is a similar story at the five-star Ashford Castle in Cong, Co Mayo. General Manager Niall Rochford said it will host 120 guests for Christmas Day dinner, with visitors coming from the United States, Canada and the UK to enjoy the day.

“A lot of people come back year after year,” he said. “We have a couple who are celebrating their 21st Christmas with us this year.”

The couple in question are Caroll Spinney and his wife Deborah, who have Irish roots. Mr Spinney is the man behind the Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch puppets on Sesame Street.

A two-night package with Ashford Castle costs €2,640 per room. This includes a morning cruise on Lough Corrib with hot whiskies, a treasure hunt, falconry and a range of entertainment.

Mr Rochford will spends most of Christmas Day in the hotel. “It goes with the territory but I only live five minutes away and I’ll get to go home in the evening and enjoy Christmas dinner and a drink.”

Elsewhere, a stay in the luxury Ballyfin estate in Co Laois will cost up to €2,000 a night, with a minimum three-night stay required beginning on December 24th.

This includes a horse-drawn carriage around the lake and gardens on Christmas Day, a “magical surprise along the way” and pre-lunch champagne. If you fancy a bit of horse riding, that will cost an extra €100 while falconry is charged at an additional €700 per group.

At the five-star Merrion Hotel, opposite Government Buildings, lunch or dinner with piano accompaniment costs €190 per person while a one-night stay is priced at €417 per person sharing.

In London, a six-course Christmas lunch in the Savoy Grill costs £195 (€230) per person with room packages from £450 (€530) a night. At the Four Seasons in New York, a three-course Christmas lunch will set you back $139 (€133) per person, plus a hefty tip.

By contrast, Christmas Day is relatively a quiet one for Dalata, Ireland's biggest hotel group which operates the Clayton and Maldron brands.

Dalata chief executive Pat McCann said most of his guests on the day are on a bed and breakfast basis, typically “people visiting family and friends”.

Mr McCann has worked in the industry for decades, including a stint running the Jurys Doyle chain, and recalls a time when they would have had hundreds of guests for dinner on Christmas Day.

“In the 80s it was a big thing,” he said. “We’d open the ballroom and would have 500 to 600 people. But that has all changed now, particularly in the cities. Financially it doesn’t make sense.”

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times