Hotel Hub: Ballygally Castle Hotel
Norman McBride, general manager.
“Ballygally Castle has had a great year and occupancy continues to increase with our key audiences in the leisure market and weddings,” says Norman McBride, general manager.
“In 2019, following a £135,000 investment, we introduced our new Belvedere Suite, a stunning wedding pavilion which offers couples a unique venue to hold their wedding ceremony and boasts superb views of the stunning gardens and trout stream. The garden suite can accommodate up to 120 guests and enables us to meet the growing demand for outside ceremonies, without having to worry about the weather.”
Plans for the coming year, meanwhile, include focusing on collaboration with experiential and food producers to help give visitors a more immersive experience.
“The emerging markets have high expectations and, at Hastings Hotels, we pride ourselves on meeting and exceeding those expectations,” says McBride. “There is so much to do along the coast and this can be a surprise for the local market when they see what is there to explore.”
HOTEL OPENED: 1966
OWNERSHIP/REFURBISHMENT HISTORY: Ballygally Castle was purchased by the Hastings Hotels Group in 1966 and, over the years, various extensions and renovations have transformed it to the charming hotel it is today. It received four-star status from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in 2007 and, in 2014, the hotel underwent a further major refurbishment and extension project, with the addition of 10 new coastal deluxe bedrooms, a new larger reception area and the stunning new Kintyre Ballroom. In 2019, Ballygally Castle opened the Belvedere Suite on the grounds of the hotel to accommodate outside ceremonies. All developments at the Castle have been very carefully undertaken so as not to distract from the history of the original building, as the hotel’s distinctive character comes from the fact that it dates back to 1625. Ballygally Castle is unique in that it is the only 17th century building in Northern Ireland still being used as a residence today.
EMPLOYEES: 50 staff (10 full-time & 40 part-time)
ROOM NUMBERS: 54
STAR RATING: 4-star
STYLE: 17th century castle with a modern twist. Perched on the tip of the famous Causeway Coastal Route, the hotel overlooks the golden sands of Ballygally Bay and has uninterrupted views across the Irish Sea.
MARKET POSITIONING: Wedding/leisure guests
GUEST PROFILE: Ballygally Castle is the perfect base for leisure guests and attracts guests from around the world; particularly America, Australia and Canada.
USPs: Elegant décor, a contemporary restaurant and bustling bar. Ballygally Castle is renowned as one of the most haunted places in Northern Ireland and a regular ghostly visitor is thought to be Lady Isabella, wife of James Shaw, who built it. The story goes that her husband only married her to produce an heir and the moment their son was born, he snatched the baby and had Isabella locked in a room at the top of the castle. Trying to escape, she plunged to her death. Guests to the castle are invited to visit the Ghost Room. Ballygally Castle is home to Game of Thrones Door 9, carved from a fallen tree from the Dark Hedges, and depicting a famous battle between House Star and House Bolton in the penultimate episode of Season 6. The hotel is a stunning wedding location and only hosts one a day.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: Garden Restaurant and a lounge menu. Ballygally Castle offers a fabulous range of dining options – including a unique Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea and its famous Grand Sunday Buffet in the Kintyre Ballroom.