£20m hotel project to provide NW200 permanent home

An aerial view of the proposed Merrow Hotel and Spa complex.
An aerial view of the proposed Merrow Hotel and Spa complex.
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Groundworks are expected to start in early Spring on a new £20 million four-star hotel complex in Portstewart.

It follows planning approval for the Merrow Hotel and Spa from Causeway Glens and Borough Council.

Pioneered by C&V Developments Ltd and hotel management company, Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts, the project plans to create over 100 jobs on completion.

And it is anticipated the development will provide valuable employment in the construction sector over the course of the next 24 months.

Vivienne Gilholm, from C&V Developments, said: “A successful outcome for the team would be to create the North Coast’s first luxury seafront hotel and spa. A number of experts collaborated on the design to ensure the end result was a destination hotel complex that was sympathetic to its surroundings. With the number of tourists to the North Coast on the increase, we wish to provide accommodation and leisure facilities to meet demand.”

The proposal is to provide 118 rooms, a luxury spa with sea views, a leisure club with a 20m pool, a glass sauna and infinity pool, a steam room, a gym and studio, a demonstration restaurant, a bar/bistro restaurant, a signature cocktail bar, a conference space, meeting rooms and nine chalets serviced by the hotel.

The Merrow complex would be located on Ballyreagh Road, Portstewart, would also become the official home of the NW200, with the event offices located within the grounds.

Commenting on what the complex would mean to the North West 200, Mervyn Whyte MBE said: “We wish to create a permanent home for this world famous road race. This is a truly exciting proposition for the NW200. The project team plans to develop an administration facility, exhibition space and heritage centre to ensure that all the great stories that have unfolded over the many years of racing can be displayed and shared for many years to come.

“The Merrow Hotel and Spa complex hopes to provide the NW200 with a unique opportunity to create a constant presence at its true home on the North Coast as well as providing much needed leisure and hospitality services in the area.”

The developers added it is hoped the groundworks start in early Spring.

Ben Wilson, of Wilson McMullen Architects, said: “This would be a very prestigious and important landmark project for the North Coast. As someone who has grown up here and now returned to live and work in the area, it is very rewarding to be offered the opportunity to create a significant piece of architecture so close to home.

“The concept for the design of the hotel was to propose a low lying building, predominantly three storey, set within its landscape that reached out to the coast and the NW200 circuit, wrapped around sun-filled courtyard spaces and that could become a focal or signature building for the area. The sea views of Inishowen, North Donegal, and the Scottish islands of Islay and Jura are also an important influence in the design.”

With two world class courses on its doorstep, the Merrow is seen as an ideal destination for golfing enthusiasts. Portstewart has an excellent links course and is frequently described as one of Northern Ireland’s hidden gems, while Royal Portrush, which will host the 2019 Open Championship, is only a few miles away.

Interstate Europe’s managing director for the UK, Nicholas Northam, said: “We are really excited to be a part of the Merrow Hotel and Spa’s development. With tourist numbers on the rise in the area the addition of a hotel which would offer high-end accommodation and leisure facilities, as well as meetings and events space, makes perfect sense and we’re confident the proposed development would bring major benefits - both to visitors to Portstewart and the local community, alike.”

Welcoming the plans Janice Gault, chief executive of NI Hotels Federation added: “There has been considerable interest in developing hotels in the North Coast over the last eighteen months. The Merrow would add a new dimension to the area’s accommodation offering and its opening should appeal to and attract additional visitors to the region.”

Her views were echoed by the new councillor for the area, Angela Mullholland who described it as a “massive” investment that “will do much to create prosperity for the whole Portrush-Portstewart area”.

“It will bring new business, which in the past had to be turned away and it will incentivise other investors to put

money into the tourist industry on the Causeway Coast,” added the SDLP representative.