Business management

The rise of the staycation helps resurgence of iconic NI inn

Having survived the pandemic, a historic hotel on the north coast is looking to the future.

Indeed, in June Economy Minister Gordon Lyons affirmed plans to make tourism here a £2bn industry, up from a pre-Covid value of approximately £1bn (Northern Ireland Domestic Tourism Strategy, March 2020). And with good reason. Flights booked to Northern Ireland in July 2022 represent 85% of July 2019 levels (Tourism Ireland, Situation & Outlook Analysis Report, June 2022), signalling strength in a sector that elsewhere in the UK is struggling due to the rising cost of living. 

Arguably the most iconic of Northern Ireland’s visitor attractions is that geological mystery the Giant’s Causeway. In the three years before the pandemic, around a million tourists (Statista, March 2022) came annually to marvel at the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. With such a footfall (and, in parts, climb), many businesses in the nearby Bushmills village rely on tourism, including the eponymous whiskey distillery. 

One of Northern Ireland’s best-known hospitality destinations

A favourite venue among visitors wanting to stay for a night or more is the Bushmills Inn, which, with a recent buyout by investment company Wirefox and support from Ulster Bank, is turning the corner after a challenging pandemic. 

The hotel is a former coaching inn on the Dunluce Road in Bushmills and dates back to the early 17th century. It was restored and extended in recent years and now has more than 40 rooms and suites along with its restaurant, bar and loft. Of course, Covid-19 put a halt to operations throughout 2020 and beyond.

With the venue’s strong reputation, the north coast’s ongoing popularity, and the expertise of Wirefox, the Bushmills Inn has a great platform to enjoy continued success

Lisa Allen
Relationship Director, Ulster Bank

Ulster Bank’s Head of Corporate and Property, Kenton Hilman, says: “The tourism and leisure sectors were amongst the most severely affected by the pandemic and Ulster Bank provided a wide range of support to help customers through the impacts of the various restrictions.”

His colleague, Relationship Director Lisa Allen, adds: “The Bushmills Inn is one of the best-known hospitality destinations in Northern Ireland and has a fantastic location on the north coast. Ulster Bank worked closely with Wirefox to provide the financial support for the deal. With the venue’s strong reputation, the north coast’s ongoing popularity, and the expertise of Wirefox, the Bushmills Inn has a great platform to enjoy continued success into the future.”

Investing in the long-term growth of NI tourism

It is that long-term potential, Kenton says, that the bank appreciates not just in Bushmills but in other businesses in a vital sector for Northern Ireland.

“We have worked closely with customers in the sector to help them benefit from the recovery and indeed to plan for future growth,” he says. “We expect strong investment in the sector to continue for the foreseeable.”

This support was warmly received, according to Kathryn Robinson, investment director at Wirefox. “We are delighted to welcome this fantastic team and impressive property to our growing portfolio of interests and look forward to acting as custodian of such an iconic asset in the months and years ahead,” she says. “Ulster Bank’s help was extremely valuable to us, and we are grateful to the team for the expertise and support.”

Read more leisure industry content here.

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