Belfast Telegraph

Kilkeel locals warm invitation to Harry and Meghan, the new Baron and Baroness

By Allan Preston

It might be a quiet fishing town at the foot of the Mournes - but at least two billion TV viewers who saw the royal wedding have now heard of Kilkeel.

A short drive from stunning mountain views and the Silent Valley reservoir, the streets of the Co Down town were largely empty yesterday after the excitement of Prince Harry and Meghan's nuptials - now the Baron and Baroness of Kilkeel.

Already local business owners said they had high hopes the association with the two - who will be mainly known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex - would put them on the tourism map.

The anticipation of a royal visit in the near future is already building with reports circulating that the newlyweds will embark on a 'mini-moon' to Ireland.

Samuel Hamilton owns the Kilmorey Arms Hotel, an establishment that is no stranger to international dignitaries, with both Churchill and Eisenhower staying there during the war years.

"I was in absolute shock when I heard on Saturday," he said.

"I had to ask my wife if there was another Kilkeel.

"I think we've sadly been neglected by the tourist board in this part of the world, so this is one of the things we hope will give Kilkeel and the Mourne area a bit more vibrancy and bring people to the area."

Prince Charles previously visited Kilkeel harbour last year, but Mr Hamilton said a royal visit from Harry and Meghan would make history.

"I'm glad an invite has been tabled at the council because we would welcome them with open arms and accommodate them in every way we can," he said.

"It would be great to have them in Kilkeel. The whole Mourne area has so much to offer but the north coast seems to get all the publicity and we've missed out big time."

Across the road sits an attractive art shop and cafe, Made in Mourne, which also functions as a not-for-profit social enterprise providing a workspace for local creative talent.

Managing director Jenna Stevenson said she hoped young entrepreneurs would seize the opportunity.

"We are isolated in a rural and coastal area so it is good to have that exposure to be able to put us on the world map," she said.

"Nobody would have known about us otherwise, now people from all over the world will be googling Kilkeel.

"We realised there wasn't a lot of content online so we very quickly put together a blog showcasing the region."

She continued: "We'd love to give them a tour here, especially with Meghan being so outspoken on empowering women.

"We are 90% female entrepreneurs in this space, so it would be lovely to show her everything we have going on.

"Since I started my own business I've been running up and down the road for networking opportunities.

"That's hard work when you're a young mum and wife, so I felt I had to give up growing my business. But this has given me, and other women, a chance to showcase our work on a global platform."

A short walk from the town centre reveals the captivating sight of Kilkeel harbour, which boasts the largest fishing fleet in Northern Ireland.

Admiring the view, and taking the time for an ice cream, was Shelagh Roberts.

"I thought it was fabulous, I'm amazed that they even knew where Kilkeel was," she said.

"But I think it's very nice and great for the area. It's such a beautiful part of the world with the mountains of Mourne flowing down to the sea and my own hometown of Rostrevor just around the corner."

Glued to the television like so many on Saturday, she said: "I loved the dress, the day was fabulous because the sun was shining and it was lovely, bright and glorious for the happy couple.

"It would be so good for the area if Harry and Meghan visited. They're young, happy and in love so what more would you need to bring a ray of sunshine to the area?"

Ulster Unionist councillor Jill McAuley said it was a "very proud moment" for Kilkeel.

"It's one we share with the rest of the community in the kingdom of Mourne. Hopefully, we'll be seeing the Baron and Baroness here very soon.

"If they did come they could see the natural beauty of Mourne and south Down that is very unique," she said.

"There's Silent Valley, the beautiful coastal drive from Newcastle to Kilkeel and the higher road in the Mournes just to begin with.

"It really is just a massive tourism opportunity for us, we have a tourism strategy in place and that will now become a huge priority for our council."

The DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson added that he was "thrilled" Prince Harry was named as Baron Kilkeel.

"The folk in my native Mourne will be over the moon," he said.

"A truly historic day for Kilkeel."

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