Westport House gets €50m hotel investment

The Browne family were reluctant to sell their ancestral Mayo home...

The historic Westport House and Estate's future has been "secured", as Hotel Westport reaches a deal with the Browne family.

The family had "reluctantly" agreed to sell the grand Georgian era property in February 2016.

Robert Ganly of Ganly Walters extensively marketed the estate at home and abroad and it attracted significant interest, with the Browne family eager for the estate to be developed as an integrated tourist attraction.

Hotel Westport has met the conditions that the plans and ambitions of the late Lord Altamont Jeremy Browne, the 11th Marquess of Sligo, would be followed to ensure it fulfills its potential as one of Mayo's top attractions.

The estate is one of the oldest in Ireland and comprises a range of buildings and facilities. The façade of the present house dates to 1778, although the Browne family had owned it for even longer, going back some 400 years. The family traces its lineage back to the 16th century Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley.

It has been open to the public since 1960. A report commissioned by Mayo Council in 2015 found that it had created 47 jobs and accounts for €50.7 million of indirect expenditure for the region. Westport House Estate has also shown significant growth in recent years with over 162,000 paying customers in 2014 – up 82% on the 89,000 visitors in 2009.

The 18th century house and 183.8ha (455 acre) estate was put on the market as a tourist concern. The house is set in a magnificent landscape with views of Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick. The Carrowbeg River flows through the extensive parklands of Westport House.

Sheelyn Browne stated:

“This is an emotional day for our family. On the one hand, we are handing over custody of our ancestral family home after hundreds of years but we are doing so in the knowledge that the new owners are committed to bringing to fruition the ambitions and dreams of our late and much loved father Jeremy Browne. We are indebted to the estate administrators Con Casey and Dermot Furey for their unrelenting efforts to secure the future of the estate."

She also gave a "special mention" to the small team at Westport House, as well as the people of Westport for their support over a "difficult" number of years. Browne continued:

“Our fervent hope and wish was that someone would buy the house and estate, invest in it to secure its future and to keep it open to the public so that it can continue to be the cornerstone of the tourist offering in our beloved Westport. We are delighted that today these hopes have been realised. The entire family wishes the new owners, the Hughes family every success as the custodians of this wonderful and magical place. We are sure that everyone in Westport will wish them well with this new venture.”

Vital for Mayo tourism

Cathal Hughes, chairman of the Hotel Westport, said:

"As a local business family, we are delighted to be able to make this investment in our home town. We realise the importance of Westport house as a tourist amenity to the whole of Mayo and we will work very closely with the planners in Mayo County Council to ensure that the integrity of Westport House and estate is maintained whilst at the same time creating a viable sustainable business model that is in everybody’s interest long-term."

Mayo County Council's chief executive Peter Hynes stated:

“Mayo County Council has always been very keen to ensure the future of Westport House. A study commissioned by this council in 2015 found that in an on-site survey, 60.9% of respondents cited Westport House as their principal motivation for travelling to Mayo. In terms of economic value generated by Westport House, some €50 million was spent in Mayo and the wider region by visitors to the house throughout the year.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny added: 

“I am delighted that this issue has been resolved. Westport House has been a very important amenity for generations of Mayo people and an important asset for tourism in the West of Ireland. I hope that the new arrangement will allow this to continue for generations to come."