First for Divis Mountain as guest house and restaurant to open
A guest house and restaurant bordering Divis Mountain is nearing its launch date as owner and developer Paul McLarnon recruits up to 25 staff.
Standing Stones Lodge, which has been two years in the making and reportedly represents an investment of £1.75m, is virtually completed.
The lodge complex includes a 100-seater restaurant, a six-bed guest house, apartment and 16 self-catering units.
“It’s fitted out to the highest specification. You have to see it to really appreciate it,” said Mr McLarnon.
Standing Stones Lodge sits close to the entrance of the National Trust’s Divis and Black Mountain walking trails, which have experienced a significant increase in footfall since they opened to the public in 2005.
Visitors to the site have risen 200,000 annually, according to the National Trust.
Prior to that the area was owned by the Ministry of Defence and cut off from the public, but with the help of a £1.33m Lottery Fund grant it was restored as a nature trail. Artefacts believed to be more than 4,000 years old have been discovered on recent digs at the site, which is also home to a coffee shop previously leased to independent operators but now run by the trust.
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Mr McLarnon said he invested in the area nearby because it was void of hospitality venues.
“There was nothing there — the people wanted it. I chose that location because it’s an ideal opportunity,” he explained.
While he wouldn’t confirm an opening date, Mr McLarnon said it would be a matter of weeks before operations begin.
He also anticipates business from hikers using Divis Mountain as well as holidaymakers and business travellers, given its 10-mile distance from Belfast International Airport. “It will open in early autumn. We are talking weeks,” he revealed.
“First we will open the accommodation area.
“At the minute the restaurant is tied up with licensing but when that is sorted we hope to be open for business.”
Mr McLarnon said a caravan and motor home area has also been proposed for the site.