Family Run Hotel For Families

The Holyrood is owned and run by the McEniff family. Indeed it’s hard not to mention the much-loved Bundoran hotel without referencing the well-known Donegal Clan. 

The family now own and operate six hotels in different parts of the country. These include the Skylon Hotel, The Westport Woods Hotel, The Sligo Southern Hotel, The Great Northern Hotel and The Yeats Country Hotel and Spa. 

The Holyrood however remains the flagship establishment of their portfolio. 

The hotel dates back to 1949 when the McEniff family purchased a four bedroomed B&B, known as the Lourdesville and located on the main street in Bundoran. But you could say it was born out of love and a romance that was completely unexpected. 

It all began in 1932, when 28-year-old John McEniff, from Newbliss in Co Monaghan, the grandfather of the current owner Seanie McEniff, called to see his sister, Mary McCloy, in Bundoran. John was emigrating to America at the time and his visit was to be short. In fact, he never left.

Persuaded by his sister to stay on in Bundoran, he also happened to meet a young woman by the name of Elizabeth Begley. The pretty 22-year-old from Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, was working in O’Neill’s bar which was owned by her uncle, Barney Kelly, who’d been recently widowed. She too fell head over heels for John and they were married three years later.  

With all the enthusiasm of young love, the couple took over a small shop, that they called McEniff’s bakery, on the main street of Bundoran. They also started taking in lodgers who would visit Bundoran for the breathtaking surrounding scenery and stunning coastline.  

When they purchased the Lourdesville B&B in 1949, it was the beginning of what would become the McEniff hotel empire.

John and Mary went on to have five children – all of whom were involved in the running of the family business and many of whom succeeded in other professions too.

They included: Sean McEniff, an entrepreneur and Fine Fail councilor, Liam, a doctor, Pat, who became a dentist, Brian, a talented GAA player who would later manage the Donegal team, and Mary, who would become a commerce teacher and 
manage the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran.

All of the family helped in the running of the B&B. As Bundoran increased in popularity as a holiday destination, business increased. 

In 1951, the family purchased the Holyrood B&B. This now meant they had two separate buildings side by side, which became three in 1958 when they bought Gordon’s B&B. In 1962, the three guesthouses were joined together. 

Although John McEniff died in 1968, Elizabeth his wife continued to run the business with the help of her children. She was known for her strong work ethic and enthusiasm and remained a firm presence in Bundoran up until she died in 2007.

However after the death of her husband, two of her son’s in particular –Sean and Brian began to take active roles in the running of the business, although both had other interests besides.  

Sean McEniff, would become a Donegal county council and Bundoran town council chairman for several years, while also being chairman of the board of North West Tourism for 55 years.

Brian McEniff meanwhile excelled in his GAA involvement. A talented football player, he became the player manager of the Donegal team which won the first ever Ulster championship. This was repeated in 1974. 

He then went on to win three senior Ulster titles with Donegal – in 1983, 1990 and 1992. In 1992, Donegal won the first ever All Ireland against Dublin, under his management. 

What’s more, between 1982 and 2007 under his management, the Ulster team won the Railway Cup on no less than 15 occasions. 

Brian also managed Ulster from 1982 until 2007, and he coached the Ireland international rules football team to victory over the Australia international rules football team in Australia in 2011.

He had met his wife, Catherine O’Leary from Cork, while studying hotel management at Cathal Brugha Street in Dublin in 1962.

The couple were aged 16 and 17 respectively when they first met and they eloped to Canada shortly afterwards and were married. They remained in Canada for four years before returning to Bundoran in 1966 and becoming more involved in the running of the Holyrood Hotel. 

They went on to have 10 children. They included: Mary, Catherine, Fiona, Seanie, Brianie, Joanne, Tara-Jane, Barry-John, Deirdre-Mary and Francis-Claire. 

Meanwhile, the McEniff hotel business flourished. In 1981, it was further expanded to include the Hamilton Hotel, which had been purchased by the family in 1970. The two hotels were joined together to become the present day Holyrood.

It was further expanded in 1992 to include The Waterfront Bar and an underground bar area. By this time, Seanie McEniff, the son of Brian and Catherine, had taken over as manager and it is he who runs the Holyrood to this day.

Like his father, Seanie was also a talented football player, who in his late teens not only played on the minor Donegal team, but also the under 21’s and the senior team. 

A natural manager, he went on to train the under 21’s team in 2003/4, with 17 of those players making the senior football team and bringing Donegal to victory in 2012.

While he excelled at sport, Seanie’s main passion however has always been business. He worked in Toronto in Canada between 1987 and 1991, gaining invaluable experience, which he later applied to the running of the Holyrood. 

Seanie met his wife Audrey in the summer of 1990 on a visit home from Canada. They were married in 1995 and now have three children – Brandon aged 23 who works in the finance department of the Holyrood, John-Francis aged 17, who is still at school, and Dara, aged 14 who is also still at school. 

A natural people-person, Seanie is now synonymous with the Holyrood. He prides himself on the warm welcome that guests receive at the hotel and takes pleasure in greeting them personally. 

To this day, the Holyrood remains a beloved establishment at the heart of Bundoran and one, which is known, not only throughout Donegal, but Northern Ireland. 

"The Holyrood is like a beacon of light in the dark winter nights. It's also the most atmospheric place to be in the summer" says Seanie. "It attracts local people and tourists alike and for many is a home away from home. It holds a special place in all our hearts".