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Luxurious retreat for the Irish Open; how does £4,000 a night sound?

By Claire McNeilly

How much would you be willing to pay for a weekend at the Irish Open in Newcastle?

The prestigious golf tournament at Royal County Down, headlined by Rory McIlroy, is already a sell-out, of course, but it is still possible to acquire accommodation in the area... if you're willing to dig deep.

One local estate agent said some hire properties are still available - for around £1,000 for the privilege of being close to the action from May 28-31.

Otherwise, hotels, guest houses, apartments and B&Bs in and around the seaside town have few, if any, vacancies over the next few days.

One Irish firm was taking no chances - two months ago it booked the entire nine bedroom suites of the luxurious Montalto Estate in nearby Ballynahinch for an eye-watering £4,000 a night.

For that, they'll get the run of a place which features, among its many attractions, 400 acres of natural woodland and park.

This year's Irish Open, hosted by four-time major winner and world number one McIlroy's charitable foundation, has attracted some of golf's finest players such as Martin Kaymer, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler.

All four Irish winners of major tournaments in the last decade - McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington - will also be gracing the course's fabulous fairways.

Most of the top players are staying at the Slieve Donard Hotel, which is next door to the world-renowned links course.

The hotel's 181 rooms were snapped up almost immediately after the event was announced and now only has availability for Sunday night, when the cheapest deal (a twin room with breakfast) will set you back £340.

Myrtle McAuley from the Beach House B&B, meanwhile, said they are fully booked from today until Monday.

"The town is buzzing and there's certainly a great atmosphere about the place already," she said.

"Newry, Mourne and Down Council pulled out all the stops to improve the look of the town and everything has been freshened up."

There was no availability at the Amble Inn guesthouse either, the owner Colm McClean confirmed.

"We have three rooms and they've been booked since last May by the big-name players' caddies," he said.

Newcastle estate agent Sheena Kelly from WeletProperty said they have rented out property for up to £3,000 this week.

"We've had a lot of interest in our properties; definitely more than usual for this time of year," she said.

"People are paying anything from £1,200 to £1,500 for smaller houses, but we've rented a four bedroom house with sea views at the harbour for £3,000.

"A few landlords still have properties available, but they would cost £1,000-a-week minimum at this stage."

Keith Graham, from Lindsay Graham in Newcastle, also said there was still limited availability.

"We've had a lot of private rentals for this week but certainly not the volume anticipated," he said.

"People are generally coming for two or three nights and paying between £150 and £200 per night for a two/three bedroom cottage or apartment.

"We don't have a lot of availability left, but there is some."

Mr Graham added: "A lot of fans appear to be happy to commute and then use the Park and Ride facilities."

The action tees off today with the Pro-Am event, featuring celebrities such as Australian cricket legend Shane Warne and Ulster's retired champion jump jockey AP McCoy.

Belfast Telegraph

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