As I walked along the Newcastle promenade on a bitter cold February day, I saw Clare Lodge positioned at the seas’ edge and with a fantastic view of the Mournes and a snow capped Slieve Donard and knew the location could not be bettered, situated in the heart of Newcastle.
Following on from the high level of interest shown in Clare Lodge’s ‘Open House’ event held in May last year, staff at Newcastle Clare Lodge centre for well-being organised a second drop-in opportunity for local organisations and groups to familiarise themselves with their facilities.
The 2018 Open Day took place on Tuesday 27 February 2018 and representatives from statutory and voluntary organisations and groups were welcomed throughout the day.
Run by the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the aim of Clare Lodge is to provide a haven of peace and tranquillity and offer a unique social experience for individuals, families and groups who may need some respite with a short break and a time for reflection.
The warmth of the staff was very reassuring as I arrived in the reception, and as I fuelled up with a cup of tea and a scone, Brenda McLarnon, Centre manager, said: “The Centre’s facilities are open to other charities, churches, community, statutory and voluntary organisations across the island of Ireland and can be used by groups and individuals of all ages and abilities.
“We are delighted that Clare Lodge has become very popular with groups far and wide since its re-opening after a major refurbishment in March 2016. Its reputation as a venue for well-being and restoration especially with disadvantaged groups has grown immensely.
“The groups are impressed by our state-of-the-art building and the breadth of what we have on offer. When you add the spectacular views of the sea and Mournes, our proximity to a wealth of amenities including shops, amusements, the beach, the local cinema, Royal County Down Golf Club and Donard Park, and local festivals such as the Festival of Flight and Hallowtides, as well as our exceptionally friendly and happy team, Clare Lodge is a fantastic place to visit and is a great base to stay in Newcastle which is a gateway to the Mournes.
“We can accomodate groups up to 62 persons and this past weekend we had a group of 58.
“We can tailor what we offer to each group’s individual needs and are happy to discuss this with leaders who are interested in booking a short break with us. For example, if they would just like somewhere for their group to lay their heads in Newcastle after a day hiking in the Mournes, that is no problem.
“If another group wants us to organise a full-board, action packed short-break with a range of activities, we can do that too, or perhaps it’s space for the day for group meetings or training sessions or a quiet, reflective retreat. We have had groups of all ages stay with us and have wheelchair-friendly rooms and a lift for ease of access so we really can cater for everyone.
“We have had the local health trust, the Council, and Newry Mourne and Enterprise Agency using it for training purposes too. And we also have a range of alternative therapists who work with us too and provide a range of health-related services which people find very beneficial.
“Basically, we are very flexible and work with the groups to meet their needs… we’ll provide lunch for them or even prepare a packed lunch if they are travelling around. We are here to ensure all people enjoy their stay here and feel better for it afterwards. All groups are very welcome from across the wider community.”
Clare Lodge is a registered House with Tourism NI and has a mixture of twin, double and group bedrooms, all with ensuite facilities. As well as the accommodation, the premises also boasts a large dining hall/indoor activity area, lounge and outdoor seating area looking onto the sea.
I ventured back out into the cold winter air coming down from the Mournes, and stopped again for a moment to take in the view… and what a view!
For more information about Clare Lodge, please call:
028 4372 2849