Hotel Hub: The Marine Hotel, Ballycastle
Marine Hotel owners Colum McLornan and Claire Hunter are pictured with Stephen Comer from First Trust Bank
At the forefront of efforts to boost the accommodation offer on the North Coast, The Marine Hotel in Ballycastle has just completed phase one of a £1m expansion programme.
All 33 rooms have been renovated, as have its seafood restaurant Marconi’s Bar & Bistro and function room. A second phase is to follow, adding 12 new executive bedrooms and an additional event space, as well as upgrading the exterior of the hotel.
Rescued from receivership by Colum McLornan and Claire Hunter in 2013, 36 new jobs have been created since then with a further 10 to be added when the second phase is completed ahead of The Open golf tournament coming to Royal Portrush in 2019.
“I’m pleased to say that sales have continued to increase year on year allowing us to steadily grow our offering to guests,” says Hunter. “Myself and business partner Colum McLornan have dedicated a lot of time and effort to plan how we would help futureproof the hotel. This involved market research trips to hotels in the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Cornwall to get inspiration for the Marine Hotel theme and feel.
“Being so close to Ballycastle beach, we wanted to incorporate the coastline into our interior, bringing the feeling of outside, indoors.”
The business has also invested in a new, more user-friendly website and introduced a new staff structure aimed at improving customer service, while consultant Mary O’Neill has been assisting The Marine Hotel in targeting group business through tour operators including the Asian market.
HOTEL OPENED: It is believed there has been an inn on the Marine Hotel’s site since the 1600s. The hotel was demolished by a bomb in 1979, and then rebuilt between 1989 and 1991.
OWNERSHIP & HISTORY: Bought from receivership by Colum McLornan and Claire Hunter in 2013. Having been closed since 2010, parts of the hotel had fallen into disrepair. Claire and Colum were unable to borrow from a bank at that point due to a restrictive covenant on the site, so improvements were made as and when the business allowed, in conjunction with Tennent’s NI and Invest NI. The covenant has now been removed at High Court, allowing refurbishment plans to progress. The refurbishment plan has included: Winter 2013/14 – 16 bedrooms and the re-upholstering of bistro furniture; Winter 2014/15 – remaining 15 bedrooms including the Bridal Suite; Winter 2015/16 – addition of three new modern, beach theme bedrooms to replace two small meeting rooms and refurbishment of Proud to Serve Costa Coffee shop; Winter 2017/18 – complete remodelling of ground floor including the bistro and bar, new bistro kitchen, addition of a bar to the old breakfast room, replacement of furniture to facilitate tour groups and small conferences, and transformation of the ballroom and function/conference space.
EMPLOYEES: 41 full time-equivalent.
ROOM NUMBERS: 34 with planning permission for the addition of 12 next winter.
STAR RATING: 3
STYLE: Mid-priced, beach style hotel with an open plan lobby complete with coffee shop and Seafront bistro.
MARKET POSITIONING: Leisure, groups, experiential leisure, weddings, conference.
GUEST PROFILE: The location makes the hotel attractive to self-drive European guests, families, leisure breaks, golf groups, walking groups, cyclists, bird watching and nature enthusiasts. Midweek includes local retirees from RoI and NI.
USPs: Only sea front hotel on North Coast with function facilities, a perfect location for exploring both Glens of Antrim and Causeway Coast. Access to Rathlin Island, NI’s only inhabited island. Bedrooms styled to incorporate the feel of the beach, with 31 of the 34 bedrooms having a sea view. Dog friendly rooms available. Vegan and gluten free menus available as standard.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: Marconi’s Bistro – seafood and steak, largely made up of daily local seafood specials. Proud to Serve Costa Coffee – selling paninis, homemade soups, sausage rolls and quiches. Marine restaurant – serving groups of up to 80 people with bar facilities. Kintyre Suite and Murlough Suite – renovated to serve 250 at weddings and functions.
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