Golf & Hydropathic Hotel / Castle Erin

The Portrush Hydropathic and Golf Hotel opened in May 1893. Guests had commanding views of the ocean and the adjacent golf links and were within walking distance of the railway station and the Pleasure Grounds. The original hydropathic services were offered as water therapy treatments to the guests, however it is believed they were never fully installed. The proprietor, Thomas Murray, suffered two terrible family tragedies within months of opening, when he lost his wife and daughter.  He was grief stricken but carried on running the hotel. In Dalbeattie, Scotland, on 9th June 1896 Thomas Murray re-marries; to Euphemia Inglis, a widow, who perhaps he had met while she was on holiday at the Golf Hotel. At the start of the 1899 season a Mr R. Fletcher is listed as the Manager.

Golf & Hydropathic Hotel from south-west c1910.

Golf & Hydropathic Hotel from south-east c1910.

In 1902 the hotel has a new owner, Mr Basil McCrea of 50 Cliftonville Road, Belfast. He apparently sets about upgrading and refurbishing the hotel and in the Northern Whig of 9th June 1904 he is advertising that:

“This new and commodious hotel has been recently Repaired and Improved regardless of Expense: is beautifully situated quite close to the sea, with a southern aspect; adjacent to Railway Station, and overlooking Golf Links: is replete with every modern improvement. It contains Drawing, Dining, Coffee, Billiard, and Smoking Rooms, Bathrooms, upwards of thirty-six Bedrooms, and is specially adapted for the comfort and convenience of Families and Tourists, and will be Open to receive Visitors on and after 1st July next.”

Castle Erin – The Lounge

Castle Erin – The Drawing Room

In 1907 Rebecca Jane McCrea became the licensee and presumably the hotel proprietor, following the death of Basil McCrea. The hotel continued to offer a high standard of service and amenities up to and during the Great War – the First World War. In September 1918 the Golf Hotel was taken over by the Ministry of Pensions as a Convalescent Home for Disabled Ex-servicemen. The Home would be managed by a committee nominated by the Right Honourable John Hodge M.P., Minister for Pensions of which Miss Hamilton, chairman of the Portrush Urban District Council would be chairman of the Portrush Pensions Sub-Committee.

The object was to provide:

“convalescent treatment for men who had been discharged from the forces and who, in the opinion of the medical referees, do not require further medical or surgical treatment, but who will be able to resume work after a short period of rest.”

The report in the Northern Whig concludes that:

“It is confidently expected that the bracing air of Portrush, with good food and good rest, will work wonders on the men who are fortunate enough to be sent there for a brief stay.”

By June 1920 the hotel has changed hands again having been purchased by a “recently formed hotel syndicate” – Northern Marine Hotels Ltd. – whose Managing Director was Mr John R. Donnelly, a director of Messrs Thompson Ltd. proprietors of well-known restaurants in Belfast. However, despite the syndicate’s stated wish to “obtain possession in the immediate future” and carry out a renovation scheme, it appears to continue operating as a Pensions Home as the Ballymena Observer reports on 16th September 1921 that:

“The orthopaedic clinic established by the County Derry War Pensions Committee at the Pensions Home (formerly the Golf Hotel), Portrush, at a cost of £600, supplied by the Joint Council of the Order of St. John and the British Red Cross Society, was opened on Saturday by Mrs Chichester, M.P.”

The dignitaries present in Portrush for that opening on 10th September is impressive. Headed by Sir John Ross, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who presided it included Lady Ross, Miss Hamilton J.P., Sir Hiram Wilkinson, High Sheriff of County Londonderry, and Mr J.B. Adams, secretary to the Londonderry County Council amongst others.

The same newspaper had earlier reported that the clinic was being established to provide massage and electrical treatment for discharged soldiers in the area. The contract for the supply and installation of the necessary equipment was awarded to Messrs Coates & Co., a firm of electrical engineers. By June 1924 the hotel is once again for sale: the Pensions Home having, presumably ceased operations and vacated the premises.

Castle Erin Christian Endeavour Home c1950/60s.

In 1927, the hotel took on a new name and character when it was purchased as a new holiday home by the Christian Endeavour Movement in Ireland, an “undenominational body”, and re-named Castle Erin. A “Sale by Auction of Household Furniture” was advertised for Monday 2nd May with the catalogued items including furniture and fixtures more suited to a grand Victorian/Edwardian Hotel than to a Holiday Home. The new owners completely transformed, redecorated and refurnished the building in anticipation of an opening in June of that year. The movement had created a new company – The Irish Christian Endeavour Holiday homes Ltd. – to operate the home. The holiday home was to be open to anyone and everyone with special attention being paid to conferences of public or religious organisations. One hundred guests could be accommodated and attention is drawn in one newspaper report to:

“The house, which is fitted throughout with electric light and contains many labour saving devices, is on the telephone.”

A large extension was added to the building mid-20th century and the home continued operating until the early years of the current century. The building and its glorious site was sold in 2006 to a consortium who planned to redevelop it as private holiday accommodation consisting of houses and apartments. Castle Erin, having withstood the north coast weather for more than 110 years was demolished in February 2007.