New Start at Rathlin Manor House

Monday 13th March 2023

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One of Northern Ireland’s most iconic accommodation venues will reopen for 2023 under new, local management.

The Manor House on Rathlin Island, originally the home of the island’s landlord, will be operated by Rathlin residents the Cecil family. Michael Cecil is well known as skipper of one of the island ferries, and his wife Shauna and daughter Shannon have recently run a successful catering business, the Hungry Seal.

The Manor House is leased to Rathlin Development and Community Association by the National Trust. When the previous operators indicated in mid-January that they wished to withdraw from the contract, arrangements had to be made speedily to ensure that the Manor House was open for business this year.

Emma Cunningham, North Coast Area Manager for the National Trust said: "I was pleased to hear from the RDCA a few weeks ago about the positive way they were working to put a new operator into place. I congratulate them on their work and send my best wishes to the Cecil family."

Connor McCurdy, Chair of the Rathlin Development Community Interest Company, the Association’s trading arm, said: “When the previous operators said that they wished to withdraw from their contract a year early, we had to act quickly to ensure that the Manor House was available for visitors and islanders this year.

“The CIC members were told of two interested parties, but only one formal Business Plan was submitted by the end of February. An external advisor with hotel experience on the mainland helped assess the plan.

“As a result of this process, last week we were very pleased to formally appoint the Cecil family as operators of the Manor House. They bring a wealth of experience from their existing food business as well as a firm knowledge of the needs of the Rathlin community.”

Shauna Cecil added: “Taking on the Manor House is a significant challenge, but we are determined to ensure that it is a centre for island life as well as providing services to visitors. With the help of previous staff, we want to deliver first class overnight accommodation, as well as meals and refreshments for day visitors.”

“Visitors will be able to step off the boat and straight into the Manor House for tea or coffee while they enjoy the magnificent view over church bay before seeing some of the sights of Rathlin. When they have experienced the Manor House, I am sure that many will wish to return to stay with us.”

Shauna and Michael intend to open the Manor House in time for the Easter Holidays, but will take a few days off later in April as Shannon is getting married to her fiancé Diarmuid Bonner.

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