Historic Northern Ireland estate opens doors to the public creating 70 new jobs
The opening of a rural estate in Co Down has created 70 jobs for the local area.
The 400 acre Montalto Estate will open its grounds to visitors for the first time, creating 30 new full and part-time jobs in the tourism sector as well as employing 40 construction workers.
The historic estate, located minutes away from the centre of Ballynahinch, was purchased by the Wilson family in 1995.
The family, who run a range of businesses in Northern Ireland, originally used the manor house as an exclusive venue to host business clients but in 2012 expanded into 'The Carriage Rooms', a luxury wedding venue.
As part of the ongoing business development strategy, the family decided that branching into tourism would support the sustainability of the estate. Recently, the grounds have been renovated to include a welcome area, a 120-seat cafe and a shop that will sell local produce and crafts.
The family hopes that by opening the estate to the public, visitors will reconnect with nature in the picturesque grounds. David Wilson, managing director of Montalto Estate, said: "We are delighted and excited to be opening Montalto Estate to the public.
"This investment is part of our ongoing business growth strategy which includes the award winning 'The Carriage Rooms' at Montalto wedding and conference venue.
"Our aim is to provide a top class visitor attraction which will not only add to the existing Northern Ireland visitor experience but which will encourage visitors into the region."
The Montalto Estate visitor experience will include public access to the estate's gardens, historic walking trails and a play area where children can have fun, explore, and learn about their natural surroundings.
The Montalto (Italian for high hill) Estate was built circa 1765 by the Earl of Moira.
It was purchased in the 19th century by the Ker family from Portavo, who enlarged and updated the house.
Montalto House and the estate remained in the Ker family until the early 20th century when they were bought by Lord Clanwilliam.
It was used as a base for US soldiers during the Second World War before the Clanwilliam family sold it in 1979.
The estate is due to open to the public in the autumn.
Supporting the opening of the grounds John McGrillen, chief executive for Tourism NI, said: "We welcome this investment in Montalto Estate and are delighted to see this new addition to our long list of unique and high quality visitor attractions.
"2017 was another record year for tourism as we welcomed almost five million visitors to Northern Ireland.
"Attractions such as Montalto Estate which enable visitors to connect with the culture, heritage and landscape of Northern Ireland are key to ensuring our continued success in attracting visitors to the region."