Belfast Telegraph

For sale signs back up at Highways Hotel

Former owners hope prospective buyers can give Highways a new lease of life

By Sara Neill

The family that once owned the Highways Hotel in Larne has said they are hopeful it could get a new lease of life after it went back onto the market.

The Ballyloran hotel, which was once one of the town's most popular venues, is on sale again for an undisclosed sum just two years after it last changed hands.

The derelict 36-bedroom premises needs extensive refurbishment to be brought up to date, but estate agents say the site has a lot of potential.

Mark Carron of Osborne King, said: "There's been at least one inquiry for a licensed opportunity, so it could be another hotel."

Lying vacant on its three-acre site, the Highways is now a far cry from its heyday in the 1970s and 80s, when its restaurant and function rooms were packed.

The hotel opened on Good Friday 1973, and for more than 20 years it was run by Larne man Crawford Magill.

His daughter Louise said: "Dad did a deal at the side of the road with the local milkman. They shook hands and the deal was done.

"Dad couldn't afford to have a house as well as the hotel, so he sold the family home. While the hotel was being done up, we lived in caravans outside."

The hotel became one of Larne's best-loved businesses. "It was a beautiful hotel, always buzzing. and one of the busiest at the time," said Louise. "I think everybody from Larne loved the Highways. And everyone knew my dad, because he was always at the door with a rose in his jacket."

Crawford Magill, now 92, has dementia but still remembers the business he built up.

His daughter said: "He would be heartbroken to know that it's lying empty. Dad always called it 'the beautiful house on the hill'.

"We would love to see it back up and running as a hotel, or a nursing home.

"Or it would be great to see it as a dementia hospice in memory of my dad."

The hotel was sold on before eventually closing in 2010. Three years later it was bought at auction by a private buyer, who paid £280,000.

But there were no changes made in those two years. It was put up for a sale again in the last few weeks and has attracted a number of interested parties, according to Mr Carron.

"Internally it is in reasonable condition, but it has been vacant for five years so it is old and damp," he said.

"A lot of work would have to be done for it to be reopened as a hotel. But it's a good site and it hasn't been vandalised."

It is not believed any previous planning applications have been made on the land, which has not been zoned for any specific use.

"It could be licensed, it could be a residential development. This site may suit a number of opportunities," Mr Carron said.

Previous viewers had looked at turning the Highways into a care home.

The recent dualling of the A8 road from Belfast to Larne could improve the site's prospects.

"It's an easy ride down to Larne from Belfast now that the new road's finished," Mr Carron added.

Belfast Telegraph