With just two weeks left until the eagerly anticipated official opening of The Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Derry’s city centre, there is a palpable sense of excitement as the Northern Counties building on Bishop Street makes the final transition from a construction site to a luxury hotel.
And the transformation of the iconic building and adjacent properties in London Street - including the former Talk of the Town Bar - into a 31 bedroom hotel has really got people talking.
Earlier this week, the ‘neighbours’ were invited in to have a look around the refurbished properties and they were not disappointed by what they saw.
Some had fond memories of the elegant building with its revolving brass and mahogany door and sweeping staircase; others had vague memories of the same revolving door guarded by an austere uniformed doorman giving chase to any errant children who had the temerity to try and get past him. But, without exception, they were well impressed by what they saw and promised to return when the hotel opens for business.
The project’s completion is a major milestone for the Inner City Buildings Preservation Trust, a specialist arm of the Inner City Trust dedicated to retaining the built heritage of the 17th Walled City.
More than fifty jobs have already been created and, when the hotel is fully operational, the number directly employed will rise to 63. Much employment was also generated during the restoration and fitting out stages of the project and, in keeping with the Trust’s ethos of supporting the local economy, local manufacturers and suppliers were used, which created a significant ‘multiplier effect’.
The Trust has appointed Derry man Ciaran O’Neill – recently elected President of the Northern Ireland Hotels’ Federation - as Hotel Operator. Ciaran previously managed Da Vinci’s Hotel and the City Hotel.
He says the imminent opening of the Bishop’s Gate Hotel ha s generated a lot of interest within the industry but even he is surprised by the level of interest.
He says: “There has been a lot of genuine interest which has translated into bookings with six weddings already confirmed... Coming into the hotel’s reception area will be like stepping back in time and that’s the impression we want to create for our visitors.This is not just another hotel but a unique venue in the heart of the historic inner city which has an ambience of yesterday with all the comforts expected in a modern luxury hotel.”
WB Yeats, Edward Carson, and Winston Churchill were among the luminaries who stayed in the Northern Counties as guests of local members.
Now, more than a century later - and some would say not before time - the latest reincarnation of the iconic building will let people know that the historic Walled City is open for business and ready to give locals and visitors alike a warm hospitable welcome.