Killeavy Castle

Special Killeavy homecoming for Sydney Irish family

An Armagh couple who left Ireland for Australia more than 50 years ago has been drawn back by an unbelievable family feat.

Michael and Pauline Boyle’s son Mick has lived out his fantasy of restoring a castle estate in Killeavy, which has opened as a luxury country retreat.

It was a grand homecoming for the parents, who were invited to cut the ribbon at the hotel’s opening in their home county.

Mr Boyle Snr said his son’s venture would share the magic of the area to visitors from far and wide.

“South Armagh has always been a special place for Pauline and I, and we are so happy to be able to return to open this hotel that will showcase its beauty to the world,” he said.

Michael and Pauline started their family in South Armagh before migrating to Australia in the 1960s when Mick Boyle Jnr was just five years old.

A proud Pauline and Michael Boyle officially declared Killeavy Castle open for business.

A proud Pauline and Michael Boyle officially declared Killeavy Castle open for business.

After falling into disrepair, Killeavy’s 1836 castle was purchased by the Boyles for £1.3million six years ago, with the younger generation embracing the chance to honour their origins.

The castle has since undergone extensive restoration.

The 350 acre estate is an hour’s drive from Dublin, featuring a spa, restaurant and event space, and the extensively renovated castle at its centre.

It is hoped the 45-bedroom venue will become a destination for both international travellers and those holidaying within Ireland, as well as a popular choice to host weddings and corporate events.

Earlier Story: Expat businessman’s fairytale castle project complete

Owner Mick Boyle relished in the opportunity not only to restore a “significant historic building”, but also to create local employment, with nearly 100 staff recruited.

Mick Boyle Jnr, Robin Boyle, Pauline Boyle and Michael Boyle Snr have re-established family ties to South Armagh.

Mick Boyle Jnr, Robin Boyle, Pauline Boyle and Michael Boyle Snr have re-established family ties to South Armagh.

Despite only recently opening the establishment, Mr Boyle’s wife Robin said the hotel had its sights set firmly on the future.

With the hotel situated adjacent to the Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Ms Boyle said they were committed to improving Ireland’s environmental conditions and embracing the nature surrounding the site.

The restaurant’s menu features ingredients foraged from the woodlands, and the owners have extensive plans to improve the vitality of the forest cover.

“We are talking with the Woodland Trust and Northern Ireland Forestry Service about a scheme we have developed to plant…an additional 100 acres of broadleaf woodlands.”

“What a gift that would be for future generations.”

Expat businessman's fairytale castle project complete

KING OF THE CASTLE: Killeavy Castle’s owner Mick Boyle with key players in the renovation, Jason Foody, Clare Clarke and Gary Flynn.

KING OF THE CASTLE: Killeavy Castle’s owner Mick Boyle with key players in the renovation, Jason Foody, Clare Clarke and Gary Flynn.

A Sydney Irish businessman has completed a fairytale project in his old hometown.

Mick Boyle, who was born in South Armagh, and his wife Robin have restored the 180-year-old Killeavy Castle to its former glory.

In doing so, they have also launched a new hotel business, creating 85 jobs in the border region.

“Robin and I wanted to change the way people think about South Armagh,” said Mr Boyle, who runs a successful construction business in Sydney.

“We want to create a destination venue where tourists and local people can come to and enjoy great dining, access the beautiful mountain walks and feel very connected with their natural surroundings.

“We want Killeavy Castle to be a world-class destination where people can escape the busyness of modern life and get closer to what’s important.”

It was 2013 when Mr Boyle first became aware that Killeavy Castle was on the market.

The old building, originally designed in 1836 by architect George Papworth of Dublin, had fallen into disrepair after sitting derelict for more than a decade. The Boyles bought the property for £1.3million in 2013 and set about restoring it.

The £12 million renovation involved more than 90 local contractors, from design to construction and landscaping companies, with the expertise to undertake the extensive renovations with painstaking care and to ensure the 19th century building has been fully restored to its former glory.

Killeavy Castle now has four luxury bedrooms, a formal dining room, a cellar bar and private function facilities, all with period features that have undergone significant restoration. Behind the castle there is a permanent marquee for weddings, retreats and corporate events.

An underground tunnel once used as a servant’s passageway now links the castle to the newly built 45-bed boutique spa hotel, a Grade 2 listed building that was once a coach house, a mill and farm buildings.

Mr Boyle says the renovations will put a modern twist on the traditional charm of the castle.

“What makes us unique is our location and heritage. We are situated at the foot of the mighty Slieve Gullion, with unrivalled natural beauty and incredible views. Our heritage and provenance are at the heart of everything we do.

The restoration includes a luxury hotel with five-star wedding facilities.

The restoration includes a luxury hotel with five-star wedding facilities.

“Our food will be sourced locally or grown in our walled garden; our 85 staff [mostly] live locally, and we have incorporated the beauty of the countryside into the design and interior of the castle and hotel. We also have a working farm with Cheviot sheep and longhorned cattle.”

Asked what the impact of Brexit might have on his new venture, Mr Boyle replied: “I haven’t a clue. I don’t think anyone has a clue.”

Mr Boyle and his family are well-known to the Irish community in Sydney.

Mick senior and Pauline Boyle

emigrated from south Armagh in the 1960s. Young Mick was just five when the Boyles settled in St Mary’s in Sydney’s western suburbs.

“My father was active for many years in Penrith Gaels and was president for several years at around the time the new club opened up,” he recalls.

In the 1990s, Mick junior set up his company Abergeldie, which provides complex infrastructure like roads, bridges, dams, shafts, tunnels, rail and water infrastructure. The firm now employs more than 500 people and has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland and now, Newry, Co Down.

The general manager of Killeavy Castle Estate, Jason Foody, said the new hotel was already attracting business from across Ireland and overseas.

“There has been a great demand for our unique facilities, with 50 events already booked in, from fairy-tale wedding ceremonies to glamorous receptions. We have had inquiries from all over the world, with people excited to visit the estate and take in the breath-taking scenery.”

The castle and hotel are located at the foot of Slieve Gullion in south Armagh

The castle and hotel are located at the foot of Slieve Gullion in south Armagh

Congratulating the owners on the development, Gary Flynn, business acquisition manager at First Trust Bank, which helped finance the project added: “We are incredibly proud to have played a part in the restoration of Killeavy Castle. The exceptional attention to detail at every step of the project has resulted in the creation of one of the most stunning venues on the island of Ireland.

“Mick’s passion for South Armagh is infectious. It’s clear he is committed to creating hospitality excellence and showcasing the beauty and charm of the local area on a global stage.

“The castle itself still has so many of its quirky period features, sympathetically restored to its former glory.

“So often we see investments of this scale taking place in our cities, so it’s great to see such a high-quality development of this kind enhancing our rural communities and is testament to the potential that is there to be harnessed,” Mr Flynn said.