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Woman Of The Year 2014 - Business: Claire Hunter is a hotelier on the crest of a wave

By Stephanie Bell

Claire Hunter not only brought back a vital missing service to one of Northern Ireland’s seaside resorts but also brought hope to her home town of Ballycastle when she took on the huge task of buying the Marine Hotel in 2013.

Our Business Woman of the Year 2014 brought the neglected landmark building back to life — revitalising tourism in |the area, boosting the economy and creating a total of 70 jobs, 26 of which are full-time.

The Marine Hotel, which had been closed for 19 months leaving the resort without any hotel, is now once again the thriving heart for the community, attracting locals as well as day trippers and tourists.

Ballycastle Chamber of Commerce has described it as the town's “flagship” and “focal point”.

Claire, a mother-of-three and a farmer’s wife from Armoy in Co Antrim, bought the hotel with her business partner Colum McLornan last March and re-opened it in June.

Claire and Colum first met at catering college 20 years ago and have worked in the tourism industry ever since, running hotels throughout the world, from small 18-bedroom properties up to international 300-room resorts.

Claire was both surprised and happy to be chosen as our 2014 Business Woman of the Year.

She said: “I didn’t even know I had been nominated, which was a pleasant surprise, and then to win — I was absolutely delighted!

“It’s all the more special because of the hard slog of the past three years.

“It took two years to buy the premises because of all the legal work and then taking on a derelict building was no easy task.

“An awful lot of hard work went into getting it brought back so that we could open in June and I couldn’t have done it without my business partner and best friend Colum.”

Claire dedicated her award to Colum and her team at the Marine, all of whom has been with her since it opened last year.

She said: “We have a fantastic team and this award is not just for me but for them and all their great work.”

On day one of its opening, the hotel catered for 400 lunches and has been going from strength to strength ever since, bringing visitors back to the coastal town.

Claire juggles her job with being a mum to Aimee (8), Tom (4) and Emily (3).

She said: “It is very hard work being a mum and running your own business and I couldn’t do it without my wonderful husband Brian and my mother-in-law and childminder.”

‘It took two years to buy the premises|because of all the legal work and then|taking on a derelict building was no easy task, but we have a fantastic team’

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