£1m hotel revamp to put Northern Ireland town firmly on tourist map
A coastal hotel in Northern Ireland which had been closed for several years has announced a £1m expansion, as a sea change in its fortunes continues.
And the architect behind the revamp of Ballycastle's Marine Hotel has said it could help turn the town into a destination with the tourist pull of Cornwall or Galway.
The Marine Hotel was abandoned for more than three years after developer Mervyn McAlister lost control of his assets. But friends and catering experts Colum McLornan and Claire Hunter bought it over four years ago - in the process, reviving the town's only hotel.
Now they have announced a £1m spend on the venue, which will include adding 12 new bedrooms to its tally of 31, as well as an events suite, sushi bar and hot tub. The changes are expected to add another 10 posts to the hotel's workforce of 46.
And Mr McLornan revealed they have appointed architects Ado Belfast - who worked on the trendy Bullitt Hotel in Belfast - to carry out the overhaul.
"When we re-opened the hotel in 2013 it was warmly received by local residents," he said.
"Since then it has been a great source of employment for local people and also a venue for family social occasions, sporting events and conferences, where previously local people had to drive to Coleraine or Ballymena to find a venue to meet their needs.
"As the town now has a hotel, it brings large numbers of foreign tourists to the area whether for lunch on a north coast tour off a cruise ship or to stay overnight and spend money in the local economy in nearby shops, restaurants and bars.
"Once a week we have a CIE (Irish bus company) coachload of Americans staying overnight at the hotel on their tour of the north coast. The hotel seafront location is now the main gathering point for council events and activities on the seafront (for example the fireworks which opened this year's Lammas Fair) and a hub for local businesses to hold meetings with suppliers and staff events."
Ado Architects director John Busteed said: "From our first meetings with Claire and Colum on site, the potential for the Marine was clear, and as soon as we arrived at the hotel, it was a case of one thing after another almost bowling us over with excitement.
"There were amazing crashing waves right across the road from the hotel, the sea views from the hotel rooms were just stunning - and all this in an almost completely intact historic town centre with local shops and good pubs.
"And when we found a world-class chippy across the road from the hotel, we knew that this place should have just as much appeal as the likes of Galway or Cornwall - and all this was in November."