Manor House Refurbishment Project


This page will keep the Rathlin Island community and those further afield updated on the progress of the Manor House refurbishment project.

ccflogo_1 (1)_0.jpg The Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estate’s marine assets. It is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government and the Devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Monday 3 December 2018

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The Rathlin Development Community Interest Company is delighted to announce that they have appointed a new operator to manage the Manor House for the next five years.

Mary O’Driscoll will take over operations as of today and will spend the next period developing systems of operation, firming up booking systems and progressing marketing and promotions drives. We wish Mary the very best in this new endeavour and hope to see the Manor House back in full operation as soon as practical.

Michael, Ciaran & Shannon

Thursday 19th January 2017

The Manor House has now re-opened, with the new Lighthouse Café and Island Restaurant open for business as of today. Accommodation bookings are also being taken. The Lighthouse Café is open for all day breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, 11.00am - 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday, and the Island Restaurant is open for evening meals on Saturdays 6.30pm - 9.00pm and lunches on Sundays, 12.00pm - 6.00pm. To reserve a table in the Island Restaurant, ring 028 2076 0046.

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Monday 19th December 2016

The following advertisement has been issued seeking staff for the soon to re-open Manor House. If interested, please use the contact details in the ad.

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Friday 16th December 2016

Following a rigorous recruitment process for new operators for the Rathlin Manor House, Brian and Genevieve McLernon, proprietors of the Ardaghmore B&B in Ballycastle for over 20 years, have been appointed and are now in the process of taking over the running of this listed Georgian building.

The operators are now working at high speed to put the finishing touches to the newly refurbished building, turning it from a freshly painted project into a warm and welcoming guest house and restaurant, offering a unique addition to the island’s hospitality. The goal is to bring the Manor House back to fully operational service in January 2017, although some of the facilities may need to be gradually introduced in the coming months and before the fullness of next year’s tourist season.

Additional work is now being done on the Manor House garden and, after some further restoration work it is intended that the garden will be used to supply some of the produce for the restaurant and be restored as a beautiful asset for recreational enjoyment.

The official opening was held on Wednesday 7th December, and was a fine occasion for the community to express our gratitude to those who have made the project possible and, together with the guests, give this adventurous community social enterprise the warmest encouragement for the future as it takes its first steps.

The RDCA Committee, the Manor House Project Board and the Rathlin Development Community Interest Company are grateful for the invaluable support of Coastal Communities Fund and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs that has made this project possible. We are also grateful to the Department for Infrastructure, the National Trust, and to many other agents who have helped the project develop through the last two years.

Last, but by no means least, we are grateful for the patience, understanding and encouragement from the Rathlin community. We look forward with excitement to the new life in the Manor House and its contribution to our life together.

The Manor House now has a new website and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Friday 19th August 2016

The following advertisement has been issued seeking expressions of interest for an operator for the Manor House. If interested, please use the contact details at the bottom of the ad.

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Thursday 28th April 2016

Since the last update, there has been quite a bit of visible and invisible progress.


Visibly, the construction of the Manor House has continued apace over late winter/early spring and the final shape of the Guest Inn is clear to see. The slating of the gable wall has been finished and looks very good. The front ‘lawn’ is being prepared and Cleary’s, our contractors, have assured us that we will have possession of a beautifully refurbished building by 21st May (just two weeks over due from the original date). This will leave time for the furnishings and fittings to be delivered and put in place by our lead consultant and project manager, Donnelly O’Neill Architects.

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Invisibly, the recruitment of a potential operator, complete with ‘island brief’, letter to applicants and a full questionnaire went ahead. We were very lucky in the number of requests for information about being the operator of the Manor House – from over 400 initial requests, 12 people came back to us with completed applications. These have now been whittled down to just a few final operators who have visited the island, talked to project board members, seen the Manor House and are now preparing business plans for the final step.


Alongside this activity, there was a call in April for volunteer directors willing to sit on the board of the Rathlin Hospitality Community Interest Company. This CIC is currently being set up by our lawyer who, most generously, is doing some work for us on a ‘pro bono’ basis. Training of and for proposed directors started in mid April, again on a pro bono basis, by David Hassall who is widely experienced in setting up social enterprises and who will no doubt be called on again in the future.

The remaining potential operators will be interviewed by a panel made up of some project board members, a catering consultant and some directors of the CIC – five people in total to ensure we get the best possible candidate for running the Manor House.

We are hoping for an opening date of early July for all the remaining pieces of the jigsaw (of which there are many) to fall into place and the Manor House Guest Inn become an integral part of island life.

This is my last update as the Manor House project worker – thank you all for your kind welcome and helpfulness over the months of this contract. I wish the residents, the CIC, the operator and the Manor House every success.

Caroline Redmond, Rathlin, April 2016.

Tuesday 15th March 2016

The refurbishment of the Manor House is well under way as you can see from the photos of two of the bedrooms, the reception area/snug and Cathal working very hard.

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The gable end with the beautiful Bangor blue slates is also coming on well and will provide much needed insulation from wind and rain.

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The design for the fixtures and fittings has been finalised by the project board after much discussion with the architect and his design team and these sketches are available to view in the Resource Centre.

The search for an operator, combined with a timely visit from BBC’s Countryfile and a report on UTV Newsline, generated excellent media coverage for both Rathlin and the Manor House and we hope many people will visit because of it.

‘Rathlin Community Interest Company’ (which will be the trading arm of the Rathlin Development and Community Association) will oversee the operator’s licence and contract and will be part of the recruitment process for the operator. The RCIC needs active, interested directors and we will be holding an initial information/training day on the 16th March. (Expressions of interest in being a director are now closed.)

Caroline Redmond, Rathlin, March 2016.

Tuesday 9th February 2016

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An advertisement has been placed in The Caterer magazine inviting expressions of interest for an operator for the Manor House. This brand new venture creates a really exciting opportunity for an operator to plan and execute the opening and running of this newly refurbished Guest Inn on Rathlin Island. Please see the linked ad above for further information.

Wednesday 28th October 2015

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Good to see boots on the ground with visible progress starting on the Manor House refurbishment project as of last Friday. Also, now available are the minutes of the Manor House Steering Group meeting held on the island on Monday 8th June.

Thursday 15th October 2015


We would like to invite Rathlin residents to a meeting on Thursday 22nd October at 2.30 in the Richard Branson Centre to discuss:

1. Information about the Manor House project e.g. who the successful contractor is and the timescales involved.
2. Ideas for the use of a photograph of the community wall - as the floor plans involve the removal of the wall that the community came together to create over 20 years ago, we thought it would be a nice thing to photograph it so that it could be used interpretively elsewhere or in the future.
3. Ideas for the garden around the Manor House.

For further information on the Manor House Refurbishment project please contact me, Caroline Redmond in the Resource Centre any Tuesday, Thursday or Friday (weather permitting).

Monday 10th August 2015

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Caroline Redmond has been appointed as the Key Worker for the Manor House refurbishment project. Caroline will be in post from early August for nine months and will be working part-time from the Resource Centre.

The Key Worker position attracted a very high standard of applicants, and the RDCA is grateful to the interview panel – made up of representatives from DARD, DRD and the Rural Community Network – for their hard work and serious consideration given throughout the process.

The Key Worker role is designed to assist the Project Board to develop and deliver the Manor House refurbishment. This will involve a range of key tasks including providing administrative support to meet the requirements of the Coastal Communities Fund; liaison with the design team and contractor; and providing a communication link between the project board and the Rathlin community.

Residents interested in talking to Caroline about the project can call into the Resource Centre or just have a chat with her if you see her around.

Meanwhile, the overall work on the Manor House is beginning to reach a more visible stage as draft plans have been on display in the Resource Centre for a couple of weeks. Input from various residents has been recorded and is in discussion with the architects. Thank you for this valuable feedback.

The project is, as explained previously, working with some very tight constraints. Time and budget are two major considerations as the entire grant awarded needs to be spent by the end of 2016. When this was explained to the architects it was considered almost out of reach but the team have worked hard to get through a series of ‘first plans’ that then had to be seriously shaved back to options that fit within the second major constraint – the budget. There was then a high degree of rapid negotiation between the architects, the Project Board and Steering Committee, with constant reference to Coastal Communities Fund as more suitable draft plans were re-drawn.

As well as now discussing further input from residents with architects to see what options may be included or altered, the Board is also aware that some of the architects’ original ideas, for example allowing more natural light into the rear of the building, are not possible within the current budget. As the Manor House business develops, it is hoped that other alterations may be possible at a later stage. The possibilities for later additions will be carefully worked into the current plans.

The tender process to appoint the conservation heritage construction team is also underway and should reach a conclusion in the next few weeks.

Wednesday 17th June 2015


A recruitment ad has been placed with the Job Centre Online NI for a Key Worker for the Manor House Project. This post is funded by the Coastal Communities Fund. The full wording is available here. The deadline for applications is Friday 26th June 2015.

Friday 12th June 2015

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Although there is little to see ‘on the ground’ yet, the Manor House project is progressing through various stages of paperwork and preparation that will, we trust, bring us to a point where the actual physical work can begin.

The Letter of Offer from Coastal Communities Fund has been signed, the lease for the building and gardens has been agreed with the National Trust and signed by the RDCA Committee and a Certificate of Title returned to Coastal Communities Fund. The lease document is 35 pages long with comprehensive detail (and available in the Resource Centre). The lease is for 20 years at a nominal rent of £1 per year (“if demanded”). Reaching that point meant considerable communication between the National Trust representatives and the Committee with clear and highly valuable advice and support from our friends in DARD, and with Rory Campbell generously providing legal advice.

We are also pleased to say that a design team, Donnelly O'Neill has been appointed after a short-listing and tender process and the Project Board, with input from the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD provides the NI Public Sector with best value for money procurement services and is assisting our project), are confident that this rigorous process has selected a good and able team to carry the project forward. The Design Team and Project Board are now working on costings and a first draft design that will be brought to the community for consultation and input as soon as possible.

The Project Board made a ‘best practice’ visit to the Causeway Hotel which has recently been through its own process of refurbishment. The visit was very encouraging and some of the contacts made have vast experience in similar projects and will be invited to visit Rathlin and offer support on an ad hoc basis. Another ‘best practice’ visit to a different project will be arranged once the designs are at a more advanced stage.

The Project Board is now finalising the job description and terms of employment for the Key Project Worker and hopes to be able to advertise the post shortly. The part-time job will include overseeing the Coastal Communities Fund grant requirements, coordinating between the design and construction team and the Project Board and Steering Committee, as well as ensuring good communication between all partners and the community. A second post, that of General Manager, will be shaped and recruited at a later stage of the project development but in plenty of time for the Manager to have significant input into the practicalities of the project in preparation for its re-opening.

Tourism NI is also keen to work with the Board on the Manor House Project, and will bring valuable experience and expertise in Hotel/Hospitality and statutory grading.

Preparatory work on the structure of a Community Interest Company, or other suitable Rathlin trading arm to manage the Manor House, is kindly being done for us by Rory Campbell and we look forward to presenting options to the community very soon.

With a new, dedicated bank account set up for the managing of this project, RDCA will shortly claim the first (5%) draw down of funding to meet some of the initial costs.

There will be a formal public launch of the project once designs have been presented and the construction team is ready to begin. Dates and details of the launch will be arranged and announced as soon as possible.

Wednesday 18th March 2015


The minutes of the first Manor House Steering Group meeting, held on Friday 13th February 2015.

Friday 13th March 2015


The following wording has today been placed in the Belfast News Letter, Belfast Telegraph (and Sunday Life and and the Irish News. All queries and submissions must be directed to the address below.



Applications are invited from a Lead Consultant Conservation accredited to make a single appointment of a multi-discipline design team, under the terms of the NEC3 Professional Services Contract, who wish to be considered for inclusion on a Select List for the following project: Manor House, Rathlin Island, Refurbishment to create at minimum a Grade 3 star Guest House.

A shortlist of Consultants will be compiled (on Random Selection basis if over six Applicants) and invited to submit bids for this commission. In Constructionline the commission will be in the Category of Architect, Building Conservation, or Building Surveying, Building Conservation for a period of 18 months and will commence not before May 2015.

The estimated budget cost for the project is £450,000 excluding VAT.

Further details are included in the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire Package (PQQP) which will be issued on receipt of a formal request by letter/e-mail quoting RDCA 1/15 to the address below. The latest date for receipt of your submission and any other additional information requested at the address below is 5pm on Friday 3 April 2015.

Rathlin Development & Community Association
C/O Rural Development Division (South)
Glenree House
Unit 2, Springhill Road
Carnbane Industrial Estate
Carnbane, Newry
BT35 6EF”

Thursday 26th February 2015


Manor House update:

The exciting news to start the year was the announcement from Environment Minister Mark H Durkan of the promise from Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) of a grant to the RDCA for the refurbishment of the Manor House. We then had to wait for direct, formal notification with a letter of offer from CCF and have continued with the ‘final sorting’ of the lease agreement with the National Trust and working on social enterprise governance structures for the future of the project. We are yet to receive the formal Letter of Offer, though expect it to be in the post any moment now.

- Steering Group: On Friday 13th February 2015, the Manor House Steering Group was convened for us by DARD and DRD and met in the Richard Branson Centre. The group brings together a bank of people who represent valuable expertise on a variety of necessary fields to help the project have its strongest chance of success as well as assuring Coastal Communities Fund of the skilled support for the project in which they are investing almost three quarters of a million pounds. As well as a number of members from the RDCA Committee, the Group includes DARD and DRD representatives (John Waddell, Lucy Murphy and Jackie King), members from the Department of Finance & Personnel Central Procurement Directorate (CPD), Tourism Northern Ireland (formerly NITB), Social Enterprise NI, Invest NI, Moyle District Council (Building Control, Economic Development), NIEA Built Heritage Department and the National Trust.

The meeting, as well as an introduction to all involved, reviewed the current position – awaiting the letter of offer, almost at the signing stage with the lease from National Trust and working on the options for the development of a Community Interest Company as and when it is appropriate.

There was discussion on the Project Management arrangements for the period of the grant.Representatives from CPD will provide guidance on the whole process of preparing tenders for the Consultants (architects and designers), for the short-listing of the Consultants and assisting RDCA with the appointments. While this process is underway, CPD will assist with drawing up tenders for the appointment of contractors and similarly work through a process with the RDCA Committee until the contractors are chosen. CPD representatives will then continue to provide guidance on the design and constructions practicalities of the project in accordance with RDCA agreements.

The award includes funding for a key worker to help develop and liaise between the work and the community throughout the grant award period and until the Guest House has been operating successfully for an initial period.

As soon as the Letter of Offer is received and accepted, and following the tender design process as set out above, the appointment of a design team and contractor can begin. This will be by way of public advertisement by RDCA. RDCA will work with North Antrim Community Network to draw up a job description and supporting papers to begin the process of recruiting a key worker to support the project.

The Steering Group expects to meet quarterly, with an option of consultation with its members at any stage in the process.

- Project Board: To manage the day to day running of the project a smaller Project Board has been formed. This consists of one member from DARD, one from the National Trust and two members of the RDCA Committee. The new key worker will report to the Project Board. This Board expects to meet at least monthly or as and when necessary, until the project is completed and appropriate Manor House staff can take more responsibility.

On Friday 20th 2015, Stephen Leitch (Coastal Communities Fund/BIG Lottery, Glasgow) and Steve Dunn (Capital build, BIG Lottery, Newcastle) met with the Project Board - Michael Cecil, Patricia McCurdy, John Waddell (DARD) and Frank Devlin (National Trust) to take us through the terms and conditions of the Coastal Communities Fund award.

The morning session covered a wide ranging agenda, including how and when the project can start, complexities of compliance statements for the general grant and for the Capital build aspects, review of progress indicators, monitoring, reports, accounts requirements, financial procedures, how and when grant portions can be claimed, how to manage any necessary changes and (let’s hope not!) what to do if it all goes wrong... There were many questions and clarifications but, by the end of a long session, it is fair to say that both Stephen and Steve had assured us they are part of a team to help the project succeed rather than police and judge to catch us out if we stray. This was the start of much more communication with them and with Coastal Communities Fund.

The Project Board then continued with its own meeting, covering its own draft terms of reference and looking at timing for the project.

If the Letter of Offer is signed within the next week or so, (also dependent on successful signing of the lease with the National Trust) we then expect the advertising for the Consultant lead (architect and design team) to be ready by about the second week in March, with a few weeks for returns before they may then be appointed by the end of March. In the meantime, CPD will assist with the preparation of a tender for contractors and we hope that process will be complete by early May and the work can begin. Ideally, work will be complete within a year and the Manor House can re-open for the 2016 season.

After the legal letters are signed, the above process gets underway and will then take us to a formal and public launch of the project. The community will then start to receive regular updates - through news sheets, a webpage, notices and opportunities for questions and answers and community input.

For now, thank you for your patience with this slow and complex process. Waiting for more information can be taxing and can create speculation as to what ‘might be going on behind closed doors’. Nothing will be hidden and minutes from the Steering Group and the Project Board will be made available as the project continues.

Thank you also to our friends in DARD and DRD. This could not have happened without them. Not only has it involved a considerable amount of time and work on their part, but they have also managed to draw together a considerable bank of experts and supporters who will be available to us throughout the process. The time and skill they bring to the project is support we could not afford if we had to pay. In some cases, where there are additional costs, there is valuable support from friends in the Departments. Some have offered their professional support at no charge to the community, because they believe in the project and wish to offer their support.

This is the fruit of many years labour from the Committee and other residents who have developed relationships and raised the positive profile of the community to the point where many are ready to do what they can to make this, and other projects succeed, for the future of the island and those who come to enjoy it all. There will not be enough rooms or ‘wings’ of the Manor House to name after everyone but the foundations are being laid with a high degree of goodwill.

Wednesday 7th January 2015

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The RDCA Committee is delighted to announce that an Award of £734,642 from Coastal Communities Fund for refurbishment of the Manor House has been confirmed.

A public announcement has just been released by the Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan MLA with news of almost £1.5 million granted to projects across Northern Ireland.

We are delighted to congratulate our friends in Rathlin’s ‘Islander Kelp’, who have also been successful in their application.

Meanwhile, the RDCA is awaiting the formal ‘letter of offer’ so more details will follow as soon as possible.

For now, thanks to all who have worked with us towards this opportunity and we look forward to moving on with the project.

ccflogo_1 (1)_0.jpg The Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estate’s marine assets. It is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government and the Devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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