Hotel Hub: Killeavy Castle Estate, Co Armagh
Jason Foody, general manager
Heritage, provenance and location are at the heart of a £12m project developing the formerly derelict Killeavy Castle into a boutique hotel and spa.
The 19th century Grade A-listed Castle now features four luxury rooms and is linked to a 45-bedroom spa hotel housed in Grade 2-listed former coach house, mill and farm buildings by an underground passageway.
As well as private function facilities in the Castle, hotel dining and a café in the Estate’s walled garden, a permanent marquee has been constructed behind the hotel to host weddings and corporate events.
Located on 350 acres of mixed farm and woodland around Slieve Gullion, the Estate includes a working farm and extensive nature trails for guests.
While the venue only opened on Easter Monday this year, General Manager Jason Foody has been on board since June 2018 to oversee completion of the major restoration project.
Aside from the usual challenges around listed restoration projects, Foody says redevelopment of the Estate progressed without any major problems.
“The reception has been very positive from all aspects, with a good mix of local, national and international visitors,” he says. “It has been very well received, and we’re taking time to find our feet and get the message out.”
And the marquee is taking off as an events space, already hosting four to five weddings, conferences and corporate gatherings per week.
The GM says owners Mick and Robin Boyle are committed to a long-term vision for the Estate, focused around sustainability, stewardship of the woodlands and making a positive contribution to the local community.
HOTEL OPENED: April 22, 2019
OWNERSHIP/REFURBISHMENT HISTORY: Killeavy Castle was purchased by Armagh native Mick Boyle and his wife Robin for £1.2m in 2013. Mick immigrated to Australia with his parents in the late 1960s and lives in Sydney, running a successful construction company. The couple hopes to reinvent South Armagh as a tourism destination, making the most of the Castle’s location and heritage.
EMPLOYEES: 96 full- and part-time
ROOM NUMBERS: 45 in hotel; four luxury rooms in castle; two-bedroom self-catering gate lodge
STAR RATING: 4
STYLE: Grade A-listed Castle – old worldly reflecting the different generations residing in the Castle since 1836 with restored original features and antique furniture; Marquee – contemporary neutral tones to provide a blank canvas for events; Grade 2 listed-Spa Hotel – contemporary décor with an equestrian theme and a focus on natural light, connecting the interior to the views through a neutral palette accentuated by splashes of colour to represent the seasons.
MARKET POSITIONING: Event space is geared towards the incentive side of business, while the hotel, spa and food and beverage offers are focused around adult retreat and wellness experiences.
USPs: Setting and landscape; farm-to-fork ethos with 300 Cheviot sheep and Longhorn cattle on the Estate; separate areas for wedding and incentive market, and leisure and corporate guests.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: Good quality food served well. Meat from the Estate’s own livestock and vegetables from its walled garden are supplemented by local suppliers with a focus on wholesome, seasonal produce. Offer includes a bar open 12-9pm; restaurant serving breakfast and dinner; café in the walled garden, serving bistro-style food, open 10am-5pm; and the events space.