Visitor Centre for Dunluce Castle

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A County Antrim farmer has been granted permission to build his own visitors centre and car park at Dunluce Castle.

Sean McKinley, who owns a farm beside the castle on the north coast, plans to build the centre just opposite it.

After a planning debacle that has lasted for years, the Planning Appeals Commission has now granted outline planning approval for the development.

It allows for the demolition of the existing tea rooms at Dunluce and some farm buildings.

They will be replaced with a “visitor centre building incorporating tourism, recreational, educational, hot food, retail and conference and office uses”.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his plan, Mr McKinley said that he hopes to begin work on the centre within the next 12 to 18 months.

“This kicked off approximately five years ago because of tourist numbers increasing on the site,” he said.

“I personally felt there was an opportunity for me to enhance the site, and not be selfish on the site, and facilitate the people who come from all around the world.

“Equally important is that people in the private sector in the area also get a spin out of this. That was my intention from the start and still is.”

His plan includes provision for a car park. Unlike at the Giant’s Causeway, parking at Dunluce Castle is free.

Scheme architect Johann Muldoon said: “We are beyond delighted. Projects like this at an iconic site beside a national monument only come along once in a lifetime.”

Mr McKinley first applied for planning approval several years ago, he brought his case to the appeals commission for adjudication. It has now found in his favour and granted him the approval to go ahead with his scheme, subject to more detailed plans being submitted.