Staff at the Donegal hotel with the famous views have shared an inside view into their everyday craic and drama.
The Shandon Hotel & Spa hosted a glamorous premiere party this week to launch a new TV series – only the staff were the stars for the show!
An exclusive preview screening of ‘An Shandon’ was held in the Port na Blagh hotel on Thursday.
The four-part series for TG4 is a fly-on-the-wall documentary which invites viewers to spend a year in the Shandon at its idyllic hilltop location on Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way.
Cameras followed the highs and lows of hotel life through the eyes of staff and guests and captured the major changes and events taking place the four star hotel.
Filming took place at a time when the Shandon was undergoing construction to add 18 new bedrooms, so there’s plenty of drama in seeing guests check into a hotel that is literally being built around them.
What stands out in the show is the craic that is enjoyed among the 120-strong staff force. The team may keep a packed hotel running smoothly and make every guest feel like a VIP, but there’s always time for some great Donegal humour.
The first episode airs on October 18th on TG4.
Thursday’s premiere was an entertaining watch for some staff who made their on-screen debut. For Shandon General Manager Carolynne Harrison, it was an incredibly proud moment.
Ms Harrison told Donegal Daily: Seeing the programme today, I’m really proud of the team. Seeing everything we’ve been through, all the developments, it makes me really proud of them all.
“The main storyline of An Shandon is the people, and adding to that was the substantial development we have done since March 2016.
“We have added 18 new bedrooms, we have added a new restaurant, a new hair salon. The hotel was being built around us. We had such high occupancy levels as well.
“It was difficult at times and that comes across in the programme but the staff still remained positive and warm. They were great,” she said.
Carolynne, who has seen all four episodes, hints that viewers are in for an emotional journey:
“Watching the programme was quite emotional at times, because you forget all the struggles and all the things that we’ve done.
“We had our first gay wedding, that was quite emotional too because the couple came here as guests and then got married here.
“I won’t give too much away but there are a few nice storylines between staff who sparked a relationship and kept things under wraps,” Carolynne added.
Last night was a celebration of achievements and the main characters of the show. Two stars also made a special return to the Shandon a year after their wedding.
Mark and Liam Black celebrated the first same-sex marriage at the hotel. In fact, they decided they would be married there before they even got engaged!
The Belfast-based couple feature in a later episode of An Shandon, which only strengthens their special connection to the venue.
Mark told Donegal Daily: “My family is originally from Dunfanaghy and when we were younger we used to come here every summer and Christmas. The Shandon has always been about for us.
“When it reopened I jumped on the opportunity to stay. Liam and I came here for three nights and just fell in love with the place. Then I lost my Dad, he was from Horn Head, so whenever we finally decided that we were going to get married, there was that special connection for me here,” he said.
It is the personal stories that shine through on the show. From Donegal Rose 2018 Niamh Duggan to hotel owner Warren McCarthy and his mother Breda, viewers discover how everyone has a close connection to the seaside hotel.
Series Director Sínead Inglodsy from Paper Owl films commended the Shandon staff for their openness to the camera crew.
Ms Inglodsy said: “Carolynne was great to give us full access to the Shandon. Not only did she let the cameras in, she understood that we wanted it to be as real and as personal as possible. This made the programme much more real and we got to know the people much better.
“We filmed over four seasons. We saw the hotel in Christmas, summer, Hurricane Ophelia, the first gay wedding and the Donegal rally. Of course the whole place was being renovated at the same time.”
Sínead said the staff were so welcoming and there were so many unique characters that it was hard to choose who to focus on. Many of the gaeilgeoirí feature in the Irish language series and there is no shortage of familiar faces in the cast.
The premiere party ended with a big ‘bualadh bos’ for the TV stars, for Paper Owl Productions, for TG4 and for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund.
The screening was followed by a luxury banquet dinner and music from Brian Kennedy – who also has a cameo in An Shandon!
The new series of An Shandon airs on TG4 on October 18th at 8pm.