Sligo mansion to be transformed into tourist destination

Software developer’s pledge to restore Hazlewood House is welcomed by heritage society

Hazelwood House, Co Sligo, on the shores of Lough Gill. Software developer David Raethorne plans to establish a craft distillery, restaurant and arts initiatives on the site. Photo:Wiki

Hazelwood House, Co Sligo, on the shores of Lough Gill. Software developer David Raethorne plans to establish a craft distillery, restaurant and arts initiatives on the site. Photo:Wiki

 

Hazelwood House on the shores of Lough Gill in Co Sligo, which was built for the Wynne family in the 1720s, has been bought by a software developer who has pledged to transform it into a tourist destination.

The sale has been welcomed by the Hazelwood Heritage Society which has campaigned for years for the preservation of the Palladian mansion.

It was designed by Richard Cassels who also designed Leinster House and Powerscourt House.

The new owner David Raethorne, intends to establish a craft distillery and visitors’ centre in the disused factory building on the estate and to restore the historic house.

The Dublin-based businessman said he and his wife “fell in love with the place” when they first saw it last November, having come to view it with a friend who was thinking of buying it .

“We intend to have a tourism project that will put Sligo on the map,” said Mr Raethorne.

‘Pop-up’ projects

Snia

The new owner said that, as well as a distillery, his long term plans included the provision of a high end restaurant and retail facilities, as well as a number of arts initiatives and a range of outdoor activities.

He predicted that, when up and running, the 80 acre estate could attract up to 200,000 visitors a year.

Mr Raethorne’s proposals were welcomed by local conservation consultant Wendy Lyons, a founder member of the Hazelwood Historical Society.

‘Great for Sligo’

“It was the first one designed by Cassels before Powerscourt, Westport and Russborough,” she explained.

Occupied by the Wynne family until the early 1900s, Hazelwood was bought by a group of local investors, Foresthaze Development, in 2006.

This company which unsuccessfully sought planning permission for 158 detached houses and over 50 apartments there in 2007, was placed in receivership in 2013. The property, including the derelict factory building, was put on the market at an initial asking price of €2.5 million, which was later reduced to €550,000.

Mr Raethorne said he had paid slightly over the asking price but said this figure was “irrelevant”. He said the cost of the developments planned would be “into millions”.

He and his wife, Sue, are the primary shareholders in Hazelwood Demesne Limited, which is backed by “friends and family”.

The proposed distillery would occupy only 5 per cent of the factory where the total floor space “is half the size of Dundrum shopping centre”, according to Mr Raethorne.

Local campaigner Beatrice McDonald, whose grandfather was a gamekeeper on the estate, described the sale as “very good news” for the northwest.