Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Boost for Ulster north coast after property crash symbol Marine Hotel reopens

New era: Alastair Hamilton of Invest NI with the new owners of the Marine Hotel Claire Hunter and Colum McLornan

A SEASIDE hotel in Co Antrim which became an unfortunate emblem of the property crash has now reopened with the creation of 26 jobs.

The Marine Hotel in Ballycastle had been part of the portfolio of Mervyn McAlister from the town – but his property empire crumbled, leading to the hotel's closure in 2010.

That left the popular tourist town without a hotel – and deprived residents and community groups of a meeting place.

However, it has now been bought at the reported price of £400,000 – half its original price tag – by Armoy woman Claire Hunter and business associate Colum McLornan.

The proposed purchase first came to light last year but was not finalised until March 17 this year, Mr McLornan said.

He and Ms Hunter plan to spend £700,000 on improving the hotel.

Invest NI announced that it had already offered the hotel £78,000 under its Jobs Fund, which aims to enable business owners with expansion plans to create lower-paid jobs more quickly.

Mr McLornan said the venue had experienced "a few up and downs" in its history but that it remained an attractive site.

"We just saw the opportunity there.

"Obviously it's a prime site on the north coast with so many tourists coming into it every day.

"It's got great potential with the location, views, country club, jacuzzi and spa.

"There is no other hotel on the north coast that has leisure facilities."

The hotel's closeness to Rathlin Island also attracted visitors – but he added the leisure facilities would not reopen until next summer.

He said it now has 31 refurbished rooms accommodating 81 beds.

It also has a mini Costa Coffee outlet, Marconi's Bar and Bistro – named after the telecommunications pioneer who resided in the town – and wedding and conference space for up to 450 people.

The management team has experience working at venues such as La Mon outside Belfast and the Hilton, Templepatrick.

Mr McLornan said it had already attracted some weddings and was "almost" fully booked for the Auld Lammas Fair, a traditional fair held at the end of August in the town.

Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton described the opening as "a very significant and timely boost for tourism in the Causeway Coast and Glens".

"In addition to the employment that this investment will provide, the hotel will also offer quality accommodation for visitors to Ballycastle and the surrounding area.

"Our support for the company's ambitious plans underlines Invest NI's commitment to the development of the tourism infrastructure here and to the creation of much needed employment opportunities," he added.

It was also a boon for suppliers, especially in food and drink, he added.

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