A perfect place to watch the stars and sunrise – Blackrock House B&B
By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 11 June, 2016
Portrush’s first five-star B&B is a fantastic place to stay if you’re visiting the North Coast. Live It Experience It journalist, Claire Savage, speaks to Nicola Neill from Blackrock House B&B – a Live It Experience It ‘Great Place To Stay’
Take a passion for tourism and travel, add a dash of ambition and lots of hard work, and you have the recipe for creating the first-ever five-star bed and breakfast in Portrush.
Blackrock House B&B was runner up and commended at the NI Tourism Awards 2016 in the Most Promising New Tourism Business category at the awards ceremony which took place in Derry-Londonderry on May 26.
The woman behind the luxurious B&B that everyone’s raving about is Nicola Neill, who has a travel and tourism degree and previously worked across Europe and in New Zealand.
Returning to Northern Ireland a few years ago, Nicola took up a position with the National Trust before joining what is now Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council (CCGBC).
Speaking to Live It Experience It (LIEI), a cluster of tourism businesses which promotes Northern Ireland through its recreational activities, food, drink, and great places to stay, Nicola said: “It all began when I started thinking about how I could combine my skills and experience to be self-employed.”
Purchasing an old Edwardian house in Portrush back in 2010, Nicola realised that building a B&B business was the perfect solution and, so, the idea for Blackrock House B&B was born.
“The house was converted from two flats back to the original house,” she says. “We put in new windows to bring in a lot of light, as the Edwardian style meant it had very small windows. We also knocked down a few walls and repositioned them to create ensuites.”
Now housing four luxury guest rooms, the B&B also has to function as a home for Nicola, so the space was carefully designed to fulfil both her guests and her own needs.
“One of the nicest things we did was put in a balcony, and there’s also a snug and a lounge area,” she says. “There are views of West Bay and the Giant’s Causeway and guests have told me they like to lie and watch the stars at night, or the sunrise in the morning. Feedback has been great and already there’s been repeat business.”
Indeed, feedback has been exceptional, with Blackrock House B&B awarded its five-star rating by the NI Tourist Board back in December 2015. The news was officially announced in February this year however, to tie in with opening the B&B full-time from April 1.
“It was a bit of a shock,” says Nicola, now on a career break from CCGBC. “There was no five-star hotel or B&B in Portrush at the time and you have to get over 85% to get the five stars. It’s been a great year.”
Eleanor McGillie, director of Live It Experience It, said: “The North Coast is a stunning location and we are delighted to be able to showcase our members and the experiences they can provide for international travellers, people living in Northern Ireland and of course other businesses who can cluster together to provide unique experiences.
“Nicola is an inspiring woman and she has created a business which, rightly so, features as a household name on the North Coast.”
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