Historic hotel once owned by Winston Churchill welcomes first new owners in 75 years

Consortium buys 35-bed Carnlough property - once owned by Winston Churchill - from the O’Neill family

The Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough has been a landmark on the Antrim Coast Road since 1848
The Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough, which has been a landmark on the Antrim Coast Road since 1848, is now under new ownership

The historic Londonderry Arms in the Glens of Antrim has had its first change of ownership in 75 years.

Set in picturesque Carnlough, it had been owned and managed by the O’Neill family since 1947.

But following the retirement of Denise O’Neill, a consortium headed by hotelier Adrian McLaughlin, master Irish whiskey distiller Darryl McNally and business entrepreneur Carl Harrison has bought the 35-bedroom property.

And while there are potential development and expansion opportunities in the near future, the new owners say they are keen to emphasise that they are bringing continuity rather than change.

Adrian McLaughlin said: “This is a hotel with an exceptional history, one that will forever be synonymous with the O’Neill family, and we understand and respect that.

“What’s more, Denise and her team have set incredibly high professional standards of quality and service in comfort, food and, of course, Irish whiskey. Maintaining those standards will be our prime consideration.”

The Londonderry Arms began life as a coaching inn, built in 1848 by Frances Ann Vane Tempest, Marchioness of Londonderry.

The estate subsequently passed down through generations and at one point was inherited by Winston Churchill.

His framed deeds of ownership are still on display in the hotel – along with local artworks, antique furniture plus of course many original restored Georgian features.

Following their purchase of the Londonderry Arms, Frank and Moira O’Neill were careful to preserve its heritage, building up the reputation of the hotel until they in turn passed it on to their late son, Frankie, who undertook a significant development programme.

Latterly Frankie’s wife Denise continued to enhance the hotel, attracting both local and international visitors keen to experience its special charm, distinct elegance and unique hospitality.

Over the last seven decades the Londonderry Arms has served the community of Carnlough and communities the length of the Antrim coast.

Denise O’Neill acknowledges how critical this has been to the hotel’s success, and said: “It was symbiotic really. The hotel benefited the small local economy of this beautiful coastline, but without its people, those who worked in the hotel and those who visited as guests, it would not have been the success it has been over so many years.

“As our family exits the business, we want to pay tribute to all of those people for their loyalty to the Londonderry Arms. It has been and will always be greatly appreciated.”

For the O’Neill family, the Londonderry Arms is more than a hotel.

Hospitality veteran, Adrian McLaughlin.
Hospitality veteran Adrian McLaughlin is part of a consortium which has bought the Londonderry Arms Hotel

“We’ve always felt a responsibility to the building and its history – that we were as much stewards as owners, privileged to care for it until it was time to pass it on,” adds Denise O’Neill.

“We’re delighted that Adrian and the team fully understand that. They bring the experience, expertise and commitment that means the Londonderry Arms will continue to define luxury and comfort in this most beautiful part of the world for many more years to come.”

“We have a very busy summer ahead,” adds Adrian McLaughlin.

“We look forward to taking the baton from Denise now, and we wish her all the very best in her retirement.”