Heartbreak Hotel

St Helen's Hotel

Sitting on the clifftop overlooking Rosslare Harbour is yet another monument to the “Celtic Tiger” .

St Helen’s Hotel (formerly the Great Southern) was a popular hotel with both locals and the many tourists that visit the seaside village.

It wasn’t the Four Seasons, but it was a good place to stay – a clean, comfortable hotel in a great location in the heart of the sunny south east. It was, essentially, a nice hotel for ordinary families, ordinary people.

It was the location for countless wedding receptions, birthday parties, gigs, family holidays and all sorts of special and not so special occasions. It also provided employment in the locality.

I’m tempted to use the word “modest”, but that became a dirty word in Ireland several years ago. Modest hotels? Modest profits? Modest prices? No thanks. The site was earmarked for property development.

Read all about the “stylish, modern” hotel here and see some photos of what it looked like not so long ago here. These are just two of many websites still advertising St Helen’s Hotel, indicating how swift its demise has been.


Dining room overlooking the harbour


In the space of a year St Helen’s Hotel has become a significant eyesore and a safety hazard. It has been destroyed as quickly and extensively as our economy was.

I paid it a visit and brought a camera with me, capturing the images you see here. It was sad to see what has become of a once fine hotel. This, I couldn’t help thinking, is modern Ireland.

The hotel was closed after a Dublin-based property development company was granted permission to demolish it and build sheltered accommodation for the elderly. You’d pay a pretty penny to retire in Rosslare Harbour.

However, that plan was conceived in different times – no apartments have been built and the hotel has not been demolished, instead it has been allowed to go to rack and ruin. Maybe the hope is that it will eventually be pulled completely apart.

Mirror behind the bar counter reflecting the damage

Dining room

Broken window - grass and glass

The owners gave the St Vincent de Paul charity permission to take out and sell off all the fixtures and fittings – from beds to radiators and kitchen equipment to mirrors – that were left in it when it closed as it was to be demolished.

The hotel has since been stripped even further, with holes in ceilings, walls and floors, and it is now instead full of all kinds of debris and rubbish – broken glass, beer cans and all the usual suspects.

It is completely accessible from all sides – through a huge amount of doors and broken windows – and, as a result, is attracting plenty of unwelcome visitors and activities.

Swimming pool and playful seal


Rear window

There have been plenty of complaints about the hotel and Wexford County Council have carried out an inspection and are in contact with the owners, making it clear what they want to see done – sooner rather than later.

Wexford Area Engineer Craig Innes said that there are two main priorities. Firstly, the hotel needs to be cleaned up. He said this would effectively just be a clear out as “there’s nothing of value in it anymore”.

He said that site also has to be made secure, which will involve boarding it up. Mr Innes said this will have to be done in a particular way. “We don’t want it left as an eyesore either, we want it look presentable,” he said, pointing out that it may be some time before the planned development for the site goes ahead – if it ever does.

To-do list in the dining room



For the full details on this story check out the Wexford People on Wednesday. The photos above and as many more again from the hotel are in the following slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted on October 31, 2011, in Environment, Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. How sad to see something like that in complete disarray.

  2. Nice photos Conor.
    I generally find urban exploration exciting, but I suppose these days it is often tinged with sadness. Your use of monochrome certainly lends this piece a sombre tone.

    Perhaps myself and “herself” will take a look at the site next time we are in the area.

  3. How sad, yet visually interesting. Great photography! I like your choice to use black and white for this subject.

  4. An allegory for our times Conor. Well written and illustrated. Sad, but thanks for highlighting it.

  5. After over forty year’s of serving visitors and locals alike, St.Helen’s hotel closes its doors for the final time > > > http://vimeo.com/28339688

  6. I love the jacuzzi photograph.. it’s just perfect.

  7. Michele Burgess-Young

    This article makes me very sad. From 2001-2008 we stayed here every summer. The hotel was a bit dated, but nevertheless nostalgic. We always had lovely meals and got to know many of the staff. Imelda in the creche used to look after my children in her own time to let my husband and I play golf and she would take them out and buy them sweets and toys. My daughter is 15 now but still talks about “the yellow hotel”. I didn’t know it had closed, very sad.

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