IT is said that when fighting broke out on Easter Monday 1916 between republican and British forces on St Stephen's Green opposite the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, the only thing that got between some upper class ladies and their afternoon tea was a stray bullet which flew through the window of the Lord Mayor's Lounge, clipping a rose petal from one of the diner's hats.

If the threat wasn't quite enough to call a halt to the tea and scones, it at least persuaded them to decamp proceedings to a back room which is now home to the hotel's iconic Horseshoe Bar.

The tale sums up the way in which history and opulence have long intersected at the city's largest and most famous five-star hotel, built in 1824.

For nearly 200 years, the landmark premises has been pivotal in the literary, political, and cultural traditions of Irish society, from a cameo in James Joyce's Ulysses to the venue where the Irish constitution was drafted in 1922 in a meeting chaired by Michael Collins. One of the two original copies of that historic document remain in the ownership of the hotel to this day.

Over the years, the Shelbourne has played host to a string of Hollywood superstars, including John Wayne, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rock Hudson, Orson Welles, and Rita Hayworth.

In 1958, then-Senator John F Kennedy and wife Jackie stayed at the hotel, with JFK returning on an official visit to his ancestral homeland as US president in June 1963 - just months before his assassination.

The suite used by the couple on their 1958 trip has since been renamed in honour of the former president. 

It is now one of the hotel's Signature Suites, named after famous former guests, which are each uniquely decorated, furnished and curated with bespoke memorabilia.

The suites also boast spectacular views over St Stephen's Green, a garden oasis just a few minutes from Dublin's famous Grafton Street and Trinity College, as well as a luxurious marble bathroom with soaking tub and separate stall shower.

The jewel in the crown of the hotel's accommodation, however, is the Princess Grace Suite, where the moviestar-turned-royal - and International Chairwoman of the Irish American Cultural Institute - often stayed with her husband Prince Rainer of Monaco.

HeraldScotland: Princess Grace Suite, Shelbourne Hotel Princess Grace Suite, Shelbourne Hotel

This 1500 sq ft pink-hued, two-bedroom, two-bathroom presidential suite with its plush lounge, dining room, drinks counter and ornate chandeliers is prized by celebrities and big spenders - but comes with a budget-busting (for most) €7,500-a-night (£6,400) price tag.

Even if your bank balance is better-suited to one of the hotel's 265 deluxe bedrooms, however, the Shelbourne still has plenty to offer - especially if your idea of a good holiday involves propping up a few bars and soaking up some of the local "craic".

At the Shelbourne, you can take your pick from three very distinctive bars.

The aforementioned Horseshoe Bar, a windowless room tucked away to the side of the hotel's magnificent grand staircase, has garnered a reputation as the go-to watering hole for discreet meetings between politicians and journalists, sportsmen and movie stars, visiting dignitaries, and local personalities.

Dimly lit with red walls, the flexible glass 'dividers' along the U-shaped, stool-lined bar alos enable drinkers to separate themselves (or not) from neighbouring customers - depending on how secretive are their conversations.

At the top of the staircase is one of Dublin's best-kept secrets: the 1824 bar.

Serving only "top shelf" whiskeys and other spirits, the newly-created 1824 can be hired for private events but otherwise there is a strictly no reservations policy on tables.

With space for just five people around the bar area, a fireplace and book-lined walls, the 1824 has the snug and intimate feel of the kind of library-cum-study you might find in a grand country house.

Add in the vast array of hand-picked whiskeys, Champagne, wine, and premium cocktails - as well as access to an outdoor terrace cocooned from the hustle and bustle of urban life - and it's no surprise the venue is fast becoming one of Dublin's most desirable places to unwind.

HeraldScotland: Horseshoe Bar, Shelbourne HotelHorseshoe Bar, Shelbourne Hotel

HeraldScotland: 1824 Bar1824 Bar

HeraldScotland: No.27 bar, Shelbourne Hotel No.27 bar, Shelbourne Hotel

Downstairs, meanwhile, the Shelbourne's largest bar - the bright and airy No.27 - remains as popular as ever.

Situated to the left of the hotel's stunning flower-draped lobby, the No.27 has long been "the place to see and be seen" in Dublin - the literal antithesis of the Horseshoe Bar.

With its tall windows and a series of specially commissioned artworks by Victor Richardson echoing the views outside on the walls, there is a sense of bringing sunlight and greenery indoors.

Sitting at almost any spot in the bar you get superb views of St Stephen's Green outside - not to mention the potential for 'people watching'.

Always buzzing with locals and tourists alike, the No.27 specialises in creative cocktails as well as serving classic bar favourites and fresh Irish seafood.

For guests keen to delve into the history of one of Ireland's most iconic exports - Guinness - the brewer's vast storehouse is a short taxi ride from the hotel and guided tours are now back up and running following the pandemic.

Visitors can try their hand at pulling a pint of Guinness, and even get an image of their own face imprinted on the foam, before rounding off with the spectacular 360-degree panoramic views over Dublin from the Storehouse's top floor Gravity Bar.

Downstairs, the Storehouse's 1837 Bar & Brasserie offers the chance to sample a seemingly unlikely delicacy: oysters and a pint of Guinness Extra Stout.

The culinary combination was hailed by James Joyce as “probably the best taste sensation in the world”, and it was once a staple for working-class families in Ireland when oysters were more widely available and cheap.

It works (as long as you like oysters) because the malty creaminess of the stout pairs with the saltier, briney flavour of the mollusc.

When all that is over, Shelbourne guests can enjoy the tranquility of the hotel's luxurious, three-floor spa which offers massages and other relaxation therapies using Elemis products or aromatherapy oils from Ireland's own 100% natural, vegan Ground brand.

Unlike most spas where the relaxation areas are low-lit and windowless, the Shelbourne's first-floor spa lounge serves Champagne while guests enjoy prime views over the Green and street outside.

With Aer Lingus operating regular flights from Glasgow to Dublin with a journey time of just one hour 15 minutes, weekend getaways are within easy reach.

The Shelbourne's afternoon tea also remains a top attraction - but these days, it's far less perilous.

Helen McArdle stayed at the Shelbourne Hotel, courtesy of Marriott International

FACTFILE

A deluxe room at the Shelbourne, Dublin starts from €450, with Signature Suites from €1,850.

The Shelbourne Moments package, available until December 31 2022, offers deluxe accommodation, breakfast and dinner

www.theshelbourne.com

Emerald Airlines, exclusive operator of Aer Lingus Regional Services, operate Glasgow to Dublin up to four times daily along with daily flights to Belfast City from £36.99 one-way.
For more information on fares and schedules and to book visit: 

www.aerlingus.com