Public funds help turn dilapidated Co Armagh castle into luxury hotel

Mick Boyle (left) of Jaramas Investments with Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton and project manager Mark Donohoe
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A LONG-delayed scheme to convert a dilapidated castle in Co Armagh into a luxury 40-bedroom four-star boutique hotel, spa and wellness centre has finally been kick-started with the help of nearly £1 million of taxpayers' money.

Jaramas Investments NI Ltd, fronted by Australian investor Mick Boyle and his wife Robin, will pump more than £6 million of its own cash into the Killeavy Castle Estate project in the shadow of Slieve Gullion.

The couple - who have strong family links to the Killeavy area of south Armagh - bought the castle for £1.2m at a public auction in March 2013. It had had not been occupied for more than 10 years and was sold in a poor state of repair.

They said at the time that their intention was to make Killeavy Castle, hotel and wellness centre "the jewel of south Armagh and a special destination for people from all over the world".

Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton confirmed that the agency has offered £983,000 to Jaramas Investments to support the multi-million pound development.

He said: “This is an exciting investment in South Armagh which will provide a valuable boost to the tourism infrastructure in the region. Our support is enabling Jaramas Investments to build and restore listed buildings into an attractive destination for visitors worldwide.

“The development of Killeavy Castle, hotel and wellness centre is expected to create more than 80 jobs in the Newry, Mourne & Down District Council area, in addition to the employment generated during the construction phase over the next two years.

“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.”

The multi-million project will involve the restoration of the grade A listed Killeavy Castle for use as a guest house and meeting venue; the development of a courtyard of grade B listed outbuildings into a 40-bedroom boutique hotel and spa; and the construction of a permanent marquee as a special events suite, adjacent to the castle which will provide the frontage to this space.

The former walled garden on the 330-acre estate will also be restored and contain a café. Nature treks and walks will also be developed to align with the attractions of the adjacent Slieve Gullion Forest Park.

Mick Boyle 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.”

Mr Boyle emigrated to Australia as a child in the late 1960s with his parents, Michael and Pauline Boyle, who both come from south Armagh.

He and his wife, who also established and own the successful Australian construction company Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure, are regular visitors to the area.

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