Northern Ireland hotel's £5m plan to become luxury spa resort
Co Antrim's Tullyglass House Hotel is in line for a £5m expansion that will turn the venue into a luxury spa retreat.
The family-owned hotel also hopes to tap into the demand from tourists visiting sites associated with Game of Thrones, as well as other traditional north coast destinations.
The business has lodged an application to build a four-storey extension, tree-top spa, juice bar, lounge, gym, hair, beauty and nail salon and a new reception area at the historic Ballymena hotel.
The spa and extra space will create more than 80 jobs while also protecting the existing 200 full and part-time jobs.
The plans could also see the hotel's main entrance changed from the Sourhill Road to an "impressive" new entrance off the Galgorm Road.
If approved, the revamp will include eight beauty treatment rooms, a sauna and steam room and 100 extra car parking spaces.
Managing director Gus McConville, the son of Kathleen and Chris McConville, who bought the venue in 1993, said: "I'm very excited to announce plans for a £5m expansion of the Tullyglass House Hotel.
"This expansion will consist of 45 new bedrooms and a boutique tree-top spa with a luxury continental coffee lounge.
"The development will be located on six acres of prime land recently acquired to the front of the hotel.
"The project will be built primarily for tourists to use as a base while visiting the Causeway Coastal Route.
"This route takes in great tourist locations such as the Glens, Slemish Mountain, the Gobbins Cliff Path, Giant's Causeway, Bushmills Distillery, the Dark Hedges, and the huge box office success Game of Thrones, which has set locations dotted all over the north Antrim countryside."
Mr McConville also insisted the revamp would have no impact on the day-to-day running of the hotel.
"It will be a separate build away from the main hotel, screened by the existing tree line, and it will also have its own site entrance," he said.
"I feel this project is the perfect next step in the hotel's development and will secure the hotel's future for many years."
Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, said the spa and wellness market was becoming a great opportunity for the local hotels sector.
She added: "Providing services of this nature widens an establishment's appeal in the domestic and international markets.
"A number of hotels in Northern Ireland have invested significantly in this area with considerable success, and it is a sector that continues to provide good return.
"The hotel sector is currently experiencing unprecedented growth, with nearly 40 projects in the pick-up domain.
"A number of these will include a spa and others may consider adding a facility of this nature if demand is sustained."
Tullyglass House Hotel already boasts one of Northern Ireland's largest conferencing and banqueting facilities, with a space that can hold 2,500 people.
It has a rich history steeped in horse racing and whiskey production - and has been described as "the Downton Abbey of its day".
In recent years, it has become a popular venue with dancers and is well-known for its regular entertainment nights, with country music legend Big Tom due to perform next Saturday.
The hotel was originally known as Rainsford House and was built in 1880.
It was owned by James McAllister, the businessman behind McAllister Whiskey.
The McAllister Whiskey brand was acquired by a subsidiary of Guinness in 1942, but has since fallen from use.
Other notable owners included the O'Kane family, known for developing large-scale commercial chicken processing.
Two years ago, the owners spent £2m on acquiring land, landscaping work, a fountain, a gazebo, rear car park, perimeter wall and new entrance from Sourhill Road.
In 2005, approximately £5m was spent on a new conference and banqueting facility and disabled access lifts. A covered drop-off area for guests was also added during renovations.