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LCN’s smaller Hotel of the Year award was taken back to Fermanagh this year where the family-owned Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel, a valued FastHouse client, is continuing to make waves…

The Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh is back in the news this month. Following the unveiling of 14 new lakeside cottages earlier this year and the hosting of the NI Tourism Conference and Gala Awards there in May, this renowned venue has now been named LCN Hotel of the Year (up to 75 rooms).

General manager, David Morrison and Patricia Kavanagh from the hotel collected the accolade on stage at the Europa in June during the seventh Licensed & Catering News Gala Awards. Later, she told LCN that she couldn’t be happier with the support: “It’s just been fantastic”, she said. “It’s been an incredible night and we’re delighted to have been recognised tonight among such illustrious competition.”

The judges for this year’s LCN Awards said of their visit to the Enniskillen venue: “Guests were well cared for in this comfortable and elegant hotel. Attentive and engaging staff, combined with the beautiful setting, made this stay a real treat.”

And speaking to LCN in the days after the win, general manager David Morrison said: “We are delighted to have won such a prestigious award. This is a great achievement for the entire team and fantastic recognition of all the hard work and dedication that they’ve put into their work throughout the hotel.”

Last year marked four decades in the hotel for the Watson family. When they took it on in 1976, it was a successful 30 bedroom venue and since that time, there have been four major expansions to the premises, including the addition of leisure facilities and 30 new bedrooms at a cost of £4 million in 2005.

The new lakeside lodges, added to the hotel’s offering in the spring, replaced 13 older units on the same site. Fully glazed at the front, they offer stunning views out over Lough Erne and add to director Leigh Watson’s conviction that Killyhevlin’s enviable location has become an important part of the hotel’s appeal: “We spent a lot of time with our design team to ensure that the lakeside lodges merged perfectly with the breathtaking scenery of Lough Erne and made the most of those scenic views”, she told LCN.

The new cabins are only the latest stage in an ongoing process of development and expansion that has characterised the Watson family’s ownership of the iconic Fermanagh venue. The Killyhevlin Hotel came into their hands in the mid-70s. Archie Watson and his wife Pearl brought the Drumsill House Hotel in Armagh in 1970 and then moved to Fermanagh six years later after acquiring the new hotel.

Trading throughout the Troubles, the Killyhevlin was targeted by the Continuity IRA in 1996 when they detonated a 1400lb bomb there, destroying a large party of the fabric of the newly refurbished building and injuring 17 people. It took the family around a year to put right the damage caused by the blast, but they traded throughout by keeping their function room and a small number of bedrooms open.

These days, the hotel employs more than 150 staff and provides a valuable hub for local activities as well as an appealing destination for holidaymakers and those on short breaks. In April last year, a £1.5 million refurbishment of the interior of the hotel was unveiled. It took 18 months to complete and involved a total transformation of the venue’s main a la carte restaurant and a renewal of the Riverside Room on the lake-side of the hotel to provide plush new surroundings for conference gatherings and family get togethers.

A new conservatory area was also created to link the hotel’s public areas with its function room facilities and the lounge and grill bar were completely revamped.

“Obviously, refurbishment is a continuous process at the Killyhevlin and our priority now will be to ensure that we are able to capitalise fully on the investment that’s recently been made” says David Morrison. “It’s out job to stay ahead of the game and see things happening before they happen so that we’re able to take the right action in time”

 

This article originally appeared in Licensed & Catering News, June/July 2017

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