St Vincent de Paul’s (SVP) holiday centre in Newcastle, a lifeline to many, was officially opened today by Sister Anne McCourt, following its recent £1 million facelift.
The original building at the Castle Place location since 1896 was demolished in 2012 and rebuilt to improve facilities, allowing the charity to enhance its offering and cater for even more vulnerable guests.
Clare Lodge was taken over by the SVP in the early 1970’s and from the outset the organisation saw the potential to offer a welcoming holiday experience and essential respite care for those in need within communities, with thousands passing through its doors during the subsequent years. The facility has served as a haven of tranquillity for many, with a number of guests returning regularly. In need of major repairs, the decision was made in 2012 to knock down the building and start afresh.
Brenda McLarnon, manager of Clare Lodge, speaking at the opening event, said: “The former facility did not meet the needs of our guests. It had dormitory style rooms and we were very restricted in what we could offer. We had insufficient space to extend our reach and the variety and range of services required.
“The decision to rebuild has opened up a wealth of new possibilities for our guests. Clare Lodge is very bright, fresh and welcoming and we have stunning views, overlooking the beach. With our new layout we have replaced the communal-style accommodation with spacious ensuite bedrooms suitable for single, double and family stays and larger rooms for community organisations to gather.
“Clare Lodge is more than just a holiday centre. We are very keen to use our new facilities to offer additional outreach programmes that would enrich the experience of people visiting Clare Lodge through a ‘Community Connections Programme’. This would include teaming with other charities and community and voluntary organisations, such as those supporting the elderly, families, those with a disability or those supporting people suffering from mental health issues.
“Overall we are aiming to provide a holistic experience that will encourage participation, develop both confidence and coping skills as well as stimulate a more positive outlook on life.”
Sister Anne McCourt, a long-time supporter of Clare Lodge was invited to officially open the facility. She said: “I am delighted to see Clare Lodge open again and honoured to be a part of the formalities. It has been part of my life for so long and means a lot to not only me but also to all of the many guests that have come through its doors and benefitted from its welcoming warmth and hospitality over the years.
“I’d like to pay tribute to Charlie and Anne Hughes, who looked after Clare Lodge for many years on behalf of SVP. They truly extended the charity’s ethos of caring and Brenda McLarnon, who has taken over from them, has demonstrated the same welcoming warmth to the guests.
“I have already visited the new facility several times with various groups and hope to return many more times this year. Our young people have likened the new building to a ‘first class hotel’ and they thoroughly enjoyed the facilities, atmosphere and the food, as well as the trust and faith extended to them by the entire Clare Lodge team.
“It truly is a beautiful building in an outstanding location, surpassed only by the wonderful caring ethos. I am heartened that Clare Lodge is continuing to be a sanctuary into the future, helping people from all walks of life.”
Pauline Brown, regional manager with SVP, adds: “SVP is continually looking at ways to enhance the wide range of services to communities across Northern Ireland and Clare Lodge is just one of the ways in which we support people in need, offering guests a beautiful, warm location for those in need to spend some quality time. There are many reasons why guests choose to stay at Clare Lodge and breaks are appropriately priced.
“Our hardworking team at Clare Lodge and the many SVP volunteers who befriend guests and spend time helping with the catering thoroughly enjoy what they do and their positivity is truly inspirational. We have an excellent network of 1600 volunteers across Northern Ireland who donate their time and energy to support people in need within communities and we are very grateful for their dedication.”
Brenda McLarnon added: “We have openings still available for 2016 and I would encourage people and groups to get in touch to find out more about what we have to offer and how we might be able to help.”
Clare Lodge is a registered House with Tourism NI and can accommodate 52 people at any one time. As well as the accommodation, the premises also boasts a large dining hall, lounge area and outdoor seating looking onto the sea.
For further information on Clare Lodge or to enquire about availability, call 028 4372 2849 or email:
To find out more about SVP and the Society’s work across Northern Ireland, as well as how to volunteer, please call 028 9035 1561 or email: