Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland stately home is latest in growing list of film locations

 

By Mark Edwards

A stately home in Co Antrim owned by a pharmaceutical tycoon has a new role as the backdrop to the filming of one of The Canterbury Tales.

The Pardoner's Tale is currently being shot at the Dundarave in Bushmills, which was bought by Randox Laboratories founder Dr Peter FitzGerald in 2014.

It is the first time filming has been allowed in the 1,200-acre estate.

Dr FitzGerald said he was happy to open up his property for the shooting of The Pardoner's Tale, based on Geoffrey Chaucer's 14th-century short story, as his company was committed to backing the burgeoning local film industry.

The film is being directed by Dr FitzGerald's 19-year-old son, also called Peter.

His company, Oaktree Productions, is working with Hollywood actor Noah Huntley, who appeared in The Chronicles Of Narnia, Snow White And The Huntsman, and 28 Days Later.

Dr FitzGerald said: "We're delighted to open up Dundarave Estate in Bushmills to this film, because we are committed to supporting the local economy here in the north coast.

"In recent years we've all welcomed the phenomenon of screen tourism in Northern Ireland.

"We know how powerful an asset it is both in terms of the creative industry and in terms of bringing people to the island.

"There are many benefits to being a thriving film location, not least the fact that it brings with it significant sources of income to supporting businesses, local hotels, restaurants and shops. In fact, the film industry was singled out recently as being the second largest contributor to UK GDP growth.

"Whilst we are developing Dundarave Estate into a leadership centre for transformative medicine, it is a beautiful location with a unique history and is therefore well suited for use by the film industry.

"We are keen to maximise every opportunity to enhance both it and the surrounding community."

Screen tourism brings around £18m a year to Northern Ireland with other big productions like Game Of Thrones being filmed at locations such as Castle Ward, which doubled as Winterfell on the HBO fantasy drama.

David Jackson, chief executive of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, said: "Obviously there is a lot of uncertainty about the potential impact of Brexit across the region.

"However, the Causeway Coast is a World Heritage Site, and has four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and dramatic landscapes.

"The area is relatively low cost to visit and continues to expand its excellent hospitality provision.

"In global terms, it is also a relatively safe and stable place.

"Financial incentives are just one element of the film industry proposition.

"This area's competitive advantage is grounded on its fabulous environment, creativity and people."

Dr Fitzgerald, originally from Crumlin in Co Antrim, founded the medical diagnostics manufacturer in 1982. The hugely successful company reported a turnover of nearly £96m and pre-tax profit of nearly £18m last year.

Randox has a workforce of around 1,400, including more than 900 staff here.

Its main manufacturing and research and development sites are in Crumlin, Dungloe in Co Donegal, Bangalore in India and Washington in the US. It also has offices in 20 countries and sells 2,000 products around the world.

The Dundarave Estate was initially bought for corporate hospitality, including helping guests take part in Dr FitzGerald's favourite hobby of polo. Randox recently became the sponsor of the Grand National in a multi-million pound deal, and is opening wellness clinics where customers can walk off the street for testing for disorders using Randox kits.

Dr FitzGerald also bought the former Massereene barracks in Co Antrim for the development of the Randox Science Park.

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