The setting couldn’t be more fitting. Nestled amid the mystical Nine Glens of Antrim and boasting breath-taking views across a wild Atlantic vista, The Salthouse eco-hotel is off to the perfect start…
Joann and Nigel McGarrity opened the doors to The Salthouse – a new 24-bed luxury hotel and spa in Ballycastle – in July. Since then, accommodation and restaurant business has been steady, they report, particularly at weekends.
This is the second venture that the pair have undertaken in the area. Since 2012, they have been developing The Red Door Café, which they opened at Ballintoy. Located close to the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, the thriving little tea room and licensed bistro enjoys strong seasonal business from tourists.
Speaking to LCN this month, Joann McGarrity said that the experience of the running the Red Door Café fed through to the development process at The Salthouse:
‘Because of its location, the Red Door is particularly seasonal and that experience was a big part of our thinking around the hotel, we knew we had the capacity to take on more and so we began to look around the area for our next big project,’ she says.
Joann is a native of Ballycastle while husband, Nigel, operated the family Honda dealership in Belfast, where the couple lived, for more than 30 years. Throughout much of that time, they kept a summer house in Ballycastle and eventually, they re-located to it from their home in Belfast, commuting to work for a time before selling the family business and retiring to the Glens.
The Salthouse project was born after local property developer, Denis McHenry, showed the couple a stunning site on the slopes of Knocklayde mountain:
‘We fell in love with it straight away,’ recalls Nigel. ‘The views were just amazing, looking straight out over the Causeway Coast to Islay, Rathlin and Scotland. We knew that this was absolutely the right location and the right fit for everything we wanted to do with the hotel.’
Construction of the hotel on the Dunamallaght Road took around a year, but the planning and design stages of the project took much longer. Denis McHenry says that during that process, around 50 specialist craftspeople were involved in ensuring that the end result would be a fully sustainable hotel complex:
‘Embracing sustainability at every level, this build took ‘green’ to the next level,’ he says. ‘That goes for everything from structural build to the water that the guests will drink.’
An onsite wind turbine and a solar farm have been integrated into the design of The Salthouse and the energy that they produce powers the hotel and spa. A ‘no single-use plastics’ policy is also in force and the hotel draws its water needs from its own borehole.
Inside the hotel, smart technology means that guests have complete control of many of the features in their rooms including lighting, heating and entertainment.
And in the bathrooms, there are none of the familiar 30ml complimentary toiletry bottles. Instead, soap and shampoo are available from refillable, wall-mounted dispensers.
‘Because we’re in such a beautiful location, we really don’t think that we have the right to damage it any more than we absolutely have to,’ explains Nigel. ‘We aren’t claiming that we’re perfect, but we are trying our best to reduce our energy use and to make less impact on the environment around us.’
As for priorities, the spa at The Salthouse opened its doors about a month ago and Joann and Nigel hope it will be a key element in their drive to ensure that the hotel remains viable year-round:
‘To be entirely honest, the north coast dies a little in the winter time and what we hope is that with things like the spa, our customers will continue to visit us and we’ll be able to keep trading and providing local jobs.’
At present, around 30 people are employed at The Salthouse, including Joann and Nigel’s son, Carl, who is the venue’s GM and Emma, their daughter, who works in the spa.
‘In future, we do want to expand The Salthouse, make the spa larger and perhaps, add a function room,’ says Joann. ‘And while we are not actively planning to open anywhere else at this stage, we do always have our eyes open for new opportunities.’
Our picture above shows Joann and Nigel McGarrity in the bar at The Salthouse.