Belfast Telegraph

Historic pub forced to call time: Grace Neill's pub in Donaghadee shuts over 'unforeseen fault'

Famous hostelry closes over 'unforeseen fault' with gas line

By David Young

One of Northern Ireland's most famous pubs has shut its doors this weekend.

The historic Grace Neill's pub in Donaghadee has closed because of what its website describes as an "unforeseen fault"'.

The website gives no indication as to when the 17th century pub is likely to reopen.

A message that has been left on the award-winning pub's answering machine for callers says that "due to a gas line problem within the building, we are unable to open the premises until further notice".

Over its 400-year history, Grace Neill's has been visited by both royalty and literary giants, as well as slaking the thirsts of generations of locals.

Russian Czar Peter the Great was a visitor while on his way to Warrenpoint to study boatbuilding.

Poet John Keats and novelist Daniel Defoe, who wrote Robinson Crusoe, also dropped in during visits to Ireland.

Tourist information centres in Bangor and Newtownards were unaware of the closure of the historic tourist magnet.

The closure also came as a surprise to neighbouring business owners and local councillors.

According to one businesswoman - who did not want to be named - the popular hostelry had been open on Wednesday, closing suddenly yesterday afternoon.

UUP councillor Mark Brooks, who also runs the Bow Bells restaurant in the seaside town, told the Belfast Telegraph: "Grace Neill's is a vital part of the town's tourism offer, as well as having been a fixture of the town's commercial and social life for over 400 years.

"I have been assured that Grace Neill's will be reopening next week, in time to catch the lucrative Easter tourist trade," he said.

However, efforts to contact the Donaghadee-based owners of Grace Neill's last night for further information about the reasons for the shock closure - and to find out when the historic pub could be expected to reopen - proved unsuccessful.

Factfile

The Donaghadee pub now known as Grace Neill's opened in 1611 as The King's Arms - a name it carried for more than 300 years.

Grace Neill herself was a noted resident of the seaside town - and by family tradition she was given the King's Arms as a wedding present from her father, retaining it until her death in 1918 at the age of 98.

The pub was then renamed in her honour and has carried her name ever since.

Renowned for the quality of its cuisine, Grace Neill's featured in the Michelin Eating Out In Pubs guide 2010.

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