Historic Killeavy Castle development welcomed

November 7, 2016

News that work is finally due to start in the new year on a much-anticipated project to convert the historic Killeavy Castle into a luxury 42 bedroom, four-star boutique hotel, spa and wellness centre has been welcomed throughout the district.

Owners of the Killeavy Castle Estate, Jaramas Investments NI Ltd, announced last week that construction on the multi-million pound development will commence in early 2017 with a view to the new facility being open to the public by late 2018.

The hotel will be built on the site of what once were the Killeavy Castle coach house, mill and farm buildings, and will incorporate many of the original features of the buildings.

Killeavy Castle, the iconic A-grade listed building sitting on the slopes of Slieve Gullion will also be fully restored and become a function centre situated just a short distance from the hotel.

The castle sits on a 330-acre estate and within its expansive grounds lies a walled garden, which it is hoped will also be redeveloped and opened to the public with a new cafe and shop on site to give visitors somewhere to relax and enjoy refreshments while enjoying the natural beauty of the walled garden.

The redevelopment of the castle and grounds is expected to create around 90 new jobs when it is completed and up and running, as well as more during the construction phase.

Jaramas Investments NI is owned by Mick Boyle and his wife Robin. Mick has strong links to the area as his parents, Michael and Pauline Boyle both hail from south Armagh.  He emigrated to Australia with his parents in the late 1960s and Mick and his wife have also established and own the successful Australian construction company, Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure.  Regular visitors to the area, the couple bought the dilapidated Killeavy Castle for £1.2m at a public auction in March 2013.

Confirming that work will begin on the scheme in early 2017, Mick said,

“It has taken a bit longer than we would have liked to get our proposed development to this stage, but we are excited to finally be getting the project under way.

“Our aim now is to make Killeavy Castle, Hotel and Wellness Centre one of Ireland’s must-see destinations. The Ring of Gullion countryside is an area of outstanding natural beauty and the setting of Killeavy Castle within it is no less than breathtaking.

“We are certain it will become the jewel of south Armagh and be a special destination for people from all over the world.”

Mr Boyle added that his “connection to the area and its people” means he is keen for the project to be “good for the local economy.”

Newry-based architects O’Hagan & Associates have been appointed to lead the project, which is also being supported by Newry, Mourne & Down District Council, which will carry out an upgrade of the Ballintemple Road and lease public access to parts of the estate.

“Being a local company, Pat O’Hagan, Lorraine Fegan and their team have a deep appreciation of the heritage and natural beauty of the site and that is reflected in the design they have created,” said  Mick who added that the entire development “will blend sympathetically into the magnificent woodlands of the estate.”

The project is being supported by a grant from Invest NI and Mr Boyle said the fact that the project has been given the green light “demonstrates that the Northern Ireland government and the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council share our view of the potential for tourism development in south Armagh.”

SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty welcomed the news of an imminent start date for construction, describing it as “a fantastic day for south Armagh.

“This is an exciting project for this area and one which will be warmly welcomed on the foothills of Slieve Gullion,” he said.  Paying tribute to all involved, Mr McNulty added,

“The developer and design team have been sensitive towards the architectural, historic and natural heritage of the site whilst creating a modern boutique hotel.

“For those of us from this area, we’ve always thought of this wonderful castle as a hidden gem.

“The natural beauty of Slieve Gullion and the tranquil landscape make an ideal location for a boutique hotel and I look forward to its opening in 2018. We are all excited about the positive impact this development will have on south Armagh.”

South Armagh MLA Megan Fearon said she was delighted that the long awaited scheme had been given the go ahead.

“This is something that myself, Conor Murphy and our party colleagues in Newry, Mourne and Down Council have been working on for several years now so it is hugely satisfying to see the project get a concrete start date,” she said.

Ms Fearon said the development had the potential to boost the burgeoning tourism industry in South Armagh and bring it into the spotlight.

“While everyone is excited to see this project get under way I want to offer my particular thanks and congratulations to developer Mick Boyle who stuck with the project, even when things got tough, and worked closely with us to ensure it got the support it needed.”

Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson Gillian Fitzpatrick – who is one of very few brides to have had her wedding photographs taken at Killeavy Castle – said the confirmation of a start date for the £5 million redevelopment scheme was “seriously fantastic news locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.”

“We are a District to be proud of and how amazing will this be for our area,” added Gillian, before wishing Mick Boyle and his wife Robin “all the very best in this amazing venture.”