For sale: Cold War nuclear bunker in Ballymena on market for £575k
The shelter that would have given refuge to Northern Ireland's elite could now be your very own bolthole in Co Antrim
A Bond villain's lair. Unique guesthouse. Cold War museum. Secure document store.
All possible uses for Northern Ireland's only nuclear bunker.
The heavily fortified underground building near Ballymena is up for sale with a price tag of more than half a million pounds. Estate agent Andrew Fraser of Lambert Smith Hampton, who normally values land and office buildings, was thrilled to take on such an unusual property.
"I was surprised to know that we even had a nuclear bunker in Northern Ireland," said Andrew. "It was fascinating walking around and seeing all the fixtures and fittings. I didn't feel at all claustrophobic, but if you were inside for a long time, during an emergency, some people might feel that way."
Work on the bunker, officially known as the Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ), began in 1987. Two others planned for Craigavon and Omagh were never built.
The Ballymena bunker opened in 1990 and was designed to hold 235 people, including Northern Ireland's top VIPs.
"Ballymena was deemed by the authorities to be the most logistically efficient place in Northern Ireland because of its strategic location between Belfast and Londonderry and it's close to the M2.
"The bunker is in a very good state of repair and has been well maintained over the years. It has everything that would be needed in a state of emergency."
Inside the underground reinforced walls are bunkrooms, showers, a television studio, meeting rooms and a fully-equipped stainless steel kitchen, complete with food.
"There's quite a lot of tinned food," said Andrew. "I don't know how old it is and I wouldn't like to try any of it - I don't even know if it's still edible!"
Andrew explained that the bunker, on Woodside Road, is within the development limit of Ballymena and is zoned as 'white land', which means it can be used for residential or commercial purposes, subject to planning permission. There are houses and business premises nearby.
"There are some bunkers in England and Scotland which have been turned into museums," said Andrew. "The Ballymena bunker would likely be suitable for something like this. It could be used for secure data or document storage. It's quite large, at 46,000 sq ft, and occupies a self-contained site. Security could be racked up if needed."
Considering its solid construction and roomy interior, could the bunker be used as a guesthouse or private home? Perhaps for a Bond-type villain and his fluffy white cat?
"It certainly could be used as a house," said Andrew, "although it would be the most secure house in the world.
"I'm not sure who would want to live underground, but the property is open to any individual's interpretation, as weird and wacky as they like, subject to planning, of course."