£10m plan to turn derelict Killeavy Castle into top hotel
A Northern Ireland man who emigrated to Australia as a child has embarked on a £10m project to convert a historic castle in the area into a luxury hotel and spa.
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Mick Boyle, who moved Down Under at the age of four, has received almost £1m in backing from economic development agency Invest NI to transform Killeavy Castle.
It was built in the middle of the 19th century and has been derelict for around 10 years. It was formerly a private home.
Mr Boyle made regular visits to family and friends in Co Armagh, and decided to buy the castle when it became available for auction in 2013.
He and his wife paid £1.2m for the property and its grounds.
As well as a boutique hotel and spa, it will also feature a wellness centre promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Mr Boyle's company Jaramas Investments NI Ltd will receive £983,000 from Invest NI to help towards the costs of conversion.
Mr Boyle, who has a construction company in Australia, said: "We want to create a distinct visitor attraction that maximises the heritage and beauty of the Killeavy Castle Estate and makes a positive contribution to the local community.
"Support from Invest NI and Newry, Mourne and Down District will make a vital contribution in enabling us to undertake the extensive building and restoration works.
"Progress on the project is well under way and the hotel, spa and wellness centre is on track to be operational by late 2018."
The project will involve restoring the Grade A-listed castle and converting it into a guest house and meeting venue. Mr Boyle will also develop outbuildings and build a permanent marquee.
Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: "This is an exciting investment in south Armagh which will provide a valuable boost to the tourism infrastructure in the region.
"Invest NI's support is enabling Jaramas Investments to build and restore listed buildings into an attractive destination for visitors worldwide."
He said the project would create more than 80 jobs in the area, and also generate employment during construction.
Mr Hamilton added: "The economic benefits of this project also extend to the local supply chain, which stands to benefit from the purchasing of consumables once the hotel and spa is operational in 2018."
Mr Boyle will use the castle's proximity to Slieve Gullion Forest Park to plan nature treks and walks for guests.