After one of the most difficult years for Irish hospitality, a historic hotel in Cork is set to celebrate a special anniversary this week.
The Imperial Hotel is marking the 60th anniversary of the high-profile visit to Ireland of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco with a special package and an exhibition recalling the excitement and glamour of the royal couple's visit to Cork city in particular.
The royal family drew thousands of people onto the streets of Dublin and Cork during their visit to Ireland in the summer of 1961 to explore Grace Kelly's Irish ancestry.
They visited president Éamon de Valera, dined with the Taoiseach Sean Lemass and his wife Kathleen, and visited her father’s ancestral home in Mayo, Croagh Patrick and the National Stud in Kildare.
Crowds lined Cork’s South Mall to catch a glimpse of the family as they arrived to stay at the Imperial on June 24, 1961, with their children, a young Princess Caroline and Prince Albert, towards the end of the visit.
The Imperial has now created a unique Princess Grace-inspired city break deal to mark the visit by the US-born Oscar-winning actress, whose grandfather, John Peter Kelly, emigrated from Mayo to Philadelphia in 1887.
Following a successful movie career, during which she starred in box office hits includingas well as in Alfred Hitchcock-directed films including and she married Prince Rainier at the age of 26. She died in a car crash in 1982, aged just 52.
Guests who book to stay in the hotel on the anniversary night itself this week will get a €60 per person sharing deal.
The two-night Princess Grace-themed pampering package includes spa treatment and bespoke Princess Grace Afternoon tea featuring artisan handmade pastries inspired by some of her favourite things.
Guests who book dinner at the hotel’s new restaurant, Thyme, will also get two glasses of complimentary champagne to toast the occasion, and the plat du jour will be a royal beef stew - a secret Imperial recipe as a nod to the insistence of the hotel manager back in 1961 that Prince Rainer and Princess Grace sample the traditional dish.
The hotel has also created an exhibition of photographs and articles from thearchives, charting the royal family’s visit, and its other high-profile guests including Michael Collins, Charles Dickens and Maureen O’Hara.
Meanwhile, across the city, the Metropole Hotel celebrated its 124th birthday on Monday.
Among its high-profile guests over the years were Walt Disney, Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Chaplin.
Its general manager, Roger Russell, said the past year has been incredibly challenging for those working in the hotel industry.
“So it’s great to be able to celebrate something so unique. 124 years in business is an incredible achievement. I’m proud to work with an amazing team at The Metropole Hotel and have made so many great friends during my time here,” he said.
“The guests are truly what makes the hotel so special and we are delighted to be welcoming back many of them this summer.”