The Co Down castle Tayto wants to turn into boutique hotel
A shore-side Co Down castle has been earmarked to be transformed into a boutique hotel - but the Ards Peninsula beauty spot will not be taking bookings from the public any time soon.
A company linked to crisp manufacturer Tayto has submitted a planning application to turn Quintin Castle into an eight-bedroom private hotel that will be used exclusively by food industry high-fliers and employees and guests of the firm.
The original building, which has its own portcullis and stone turrets and dates back to Norman times, could also at some point be used for weddings, but other than this, members of the public will not even be allowed on the grounds of the estate.
Paul Neill, an aviation enthusiast and property developer, bought the impressive castle in 2006, just as the property boom was about to hit its peak, then began to renovate it.
However, it became the most expensive property ever to be repossessed in Northern Ireland after he was declared bankrupt.
At one point, Mr Neill had a huge portfolio of properties in Belfast and Co Down and owned specially commissioned pieces of art. His main company, Kilbright Developments, even had a Hawker 850 private aircraft that was valued at more than £5m.
However, in 2011 things changed dramatically for the businessman. The former Anglo Irish Bank took control of two of Mr Neill's retail parks in Bangor over a debt of £37m, and the property developer was later declared bankrupt.
Then, in April 2012, the Irish government's National Asset Management Agency repossessed the castle.
The building, which still has the remains of a demolished heliport standing in its grounds, was later placed on the market with an asking price of £1.65m.
Now potentially Tayto's second castle in the UK, if planning permission is granted for a hotel, it is thought that the development will be the only one of its type owned by the company.
Set on 22 acres, the beautifully restored castle comes complete with stone turrets.
It also has a private jetty, portcullis, roof terrace, formal garden, library, study, billiards room, breakfast room and, of course, a kitchen.
An inside source told the Belfast Telegraph that any changes would be "technical, internal changes", and that the firm would not alter the exterior.
The application to transform the building was lodged by owners Mullahead Property Company Ltd, which requested permission for "alterations, extension and change of use from dwelling house to boutique hotel and conference centre, including garden ancillary building".
It is understood that the proposed modifications adhere to modern regulations.
The existing building was built in the Victorian era around the ruins of a 12th century Norman castle.
The planning application noted that developers hope to transform it into an eight-bedroom hotel and potentially a "bespoke wedding venue".
The submission also proposes the addition of a marquee-style covering over the courtyard.
It additionally states that improved road links between the castle and Portaferry will be required if permission is granted.