DONEGAL TIMES

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November 22nd 2006

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New Five Star Hotel on site of Lough Eske Castle
Complex will incorporate 92 bedrooms, conference facilities,

spa and leisure centre

All the talk of developments in Donegal Town might have distracted our readers attention from the amount of work ongoing out at Lough Eske on the castle grounds. There is more than one type of development and the extensive project presently being undertaken on this scenic site is as worthy of public consideration and publicity as the retail patches being fought over in town.
Harcourt Developments, who bought the 44 acre site at Lough Eske some time ago, are now building a five-star hotel on the grounds of the old castle. The €30 million project will consist of a 92 bedroom hotel, conference facilities, leisure centre and spa, 300 car-parking spaces and a helicopter pad.
Work commenced in September of this year and contractors hope to be out by September 07. The American company Capelo, who will take over the finished product and operate it, have an international reputation for running high-class hotels all over the world.
Contractors, Parkland Construction, presently have 150 people employed - this will increase to 200 over the coming months. Initially a number of chalets were to form part of the complex but, following certain planning problems, the company decided to concentrate on the hotel only.
“Everything is going to plan and, at the moment, we are waiting on the Department of Heritage to come back to tell us how they want to incorporate the old castle into the hotel. We intend to retain the original structure and design - this will mean the front facade of the new hotel will be the actual former entrance to the castle”, foreman John Doherty told me.
Joint foreman Jim McDaid added “The front entrance to the hotel will be via the Johnston gatehouse and the exit at the old sawmill. The spa will be situated where the glass-house was in the orchard - and the leisure centre and pool will also be separate from the hotel.
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There will be walks and gardens and all existing trees will remain in place.
“The locals and neighbours have been very accommodating and helpful and we have a good working relationship with them”, Jim added.
Harcourt Developments, which is controlled by Donegal man Pat Doherty, moved into the black last year. It turned a 2004 pretax loss of close to €6 million into a pretax profit of more than €4 million in 2005. Ireland accounted for €83.4 million of Harcourt’s total revenues of almost €98 million.
Lower interest rates compensated for increased borrowings, the accounts noted. Net debt at the end of 2005 was €271.47 million, up from €264.49 million in 2004. That represented 53.8% of the group’s total assets before liabilities, compared with 64.3%in 2004. No dividends were paid.
Equity shareholder funds reached €147.6 million. An upward revaluation of its group properties resulted in an accumulated surplus of €145 million over book value by the end of 2005.
Harcourt, which is one of the developers backing the planned Luas spur to Citywest, owns property in Ireland, the Bahamas, Jersey and the US.
Among the jewels in its Irish portfolio is a substantial land holding at Citywest, while it also holds two north Dublin sites for industrial development.
Among recent additions to Harcourt’s Irish portfolio was the Parkway Shopping Centre in Limerick, for which it paid more then €50 million this year.
In his home county of Donegal, Mr Doherty expanded and redeveloped the Redcastle Hotel last year. That hotel trades under the Carlton banner, and the accounts note that it was ‘trading very well indeed’ after reopening. Further afield, Harcout owns the Carlisle Bay Hotel in Antigue, which is operated by Campbell Grey. The group is also developing a waterfront condominium in Freeport, Grand Bahama, and two waterfront schemes in St Helier’s, Jersey.
In the US, Harcourt has just launched a $1billion (0.78 billion) project in Las Vegas, which is its first major project in that market.
The Sullivan Square development is a mix of office, retail and residential development, including about 1,300 residential units.
Added to this list of Harcourt Developments will be a five star hotel at Lough Eske and, if everything goes to plan, we could be looking forward to having Christmas lunch 2007 in the grounds of the Castle.


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