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Killeavy Castle Estate – Striving for Sustainable Tourism in Co. Armagh

Killeavy Castle Estate – Striving for Sustainable Tourism in Co. Armagh 


Killeavy Castle Estate is working to provide a sustainable tourism experience, taking full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, and aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to ensure a positive impact on the environment, community and visitors.  



Tourism is one of Northern Ireland’s most important economic sectors, but globally tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world's carbon emissions, resulting from transport, hotel stays and purchasing souvenirs. High levels of tourism can have additional negative environmental impacts such as increased pollution and waste and increased pressure on natural resources and tourism hot spots.  

While tourists clearly aren’t ready to sacrifice their holiday in the name of sustainability, it is definitely starting to impact their choices. One in three visitors to NI say they would prefer to stay in accommodation with green credentials, following the general trend of increased consumer concern about the environmental and social impacts of their purchases. One local company placing sustainability at the heart of their tourism offering is Killeavy Castle Estate. 

Killeavy Castle Estate is a hotel and spa located in the Slieve Gullion area. Set within 365 acres of mixed farm and woodland, the Estate offers accommodation within its hotel, castle and lodges, along with spa facilities and a venue for weddings and other occasions. Since opening in 2019 the Estate has been striving to provide top quality experiences for visitors, without a high carbon footprint via a sustainability plan which algins with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Areas of Impact 

  • Carbon Footprint Reduction 

  • Social Engagement 

  • Land Use, Food and Agriculture 

  • Biodiversity and Nature 

  • Built Environment 

  • Waste 


  • Silver Award - Sustainable Tourism and Hospitality Initiative of the year – All Ireland Sustainability Awards.  

  • Sustainability Award from the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 

  • The Estate has achieved no waste to landfill. 

  • Aiming to be Carbon Neutral by mid-2024. 

  • Plans for regeneration of over 200 acres of native woodland 

Sustainability Initiatives 

Carbon Footprint Reduction 

The design of the hotel has drawn on sustainability principles, incorporating smart seasonal design concepts, such as window position maximising sun exposure, reducing reliance on artificial lighting, heating and air conditioning. Heat and water are also controlled by a BEMS (Building Energy Management System) to reduce energy consumption and emissions. All the sites lighting is LED and operated by sensors, keeping energy usage from lighting as low as possible. The Estate is moving towards electrification of transport with electric buggies used to transport guests and electric car charging facilities installed in summer 2023. Within the hotel, every effort is made to reduce carbon emissions, for example, laundering of linen was a significant emissions source, so a switch was made to a new product which could be steam cleaned, leading to a significant drop in emissions related to laundry. The carbon reduction measures in place, along with onsite carbon offsets in the form of a significant reforestation scheme are hoped to allow the estate to become carbon neutral by mid-2024.  

Community Support 

The estate supports the local community group Clanrye Slieve Guillion, who work with people of all ages to help them gain skills and qualifications. Opportunities are provided for group members to gain experience in the hotel and gardens. Support and funding are also provided to Bolster Community, a local charity and social enterprise, working with people of all ages and abilities, making products such as candles and soaps, which are then sold within the estate.  

The community is further supported by the job opportunities provided by the estate. Staff are primarily from the local community, with many families having multiple staff members employed, and due to in depth training for all staff, promotion from within is common, ensuring that local people achieve management positions.  

Sustainable Food 

The business prides itself on use of local produce and supplies, with 90% of food used on the estate sourced within 20 miles, reducing food miles emissions. Meals served in the restaurants prioritise seasonal produce. They also try to incorporate ingredients foraged from the local woodlands.  

All beef and lamb used are sourced from the Estates Working Farm, while in spring and summer, vegetables and herbs are sourced from the Walled Garden, with surplus preserved for use in autumn and winter. Even plants traditionally viewed as weeds don’t go to waste in the estates kitchens, with nettles used to make nettle soup, heather used to make estate heather teas and seaweed garnish reused in the Walled Garden to control the spread of slugs. Other flowers and herbs grown on site are incorporated into the spa treatments on offer. 


No single use plastics are used on site and while take away coffee cups are available, they are fully compostable and Nespresso pods are fully recycled by the hotel. All food waste is used on the estate farm, while grass and tree cuttings are composted and used in the Walled Garden. All this means that the estate sends no waste to landfill. 

Guest Experience 

Guests are encouraged to learn more about and engage with the estates sustainability mission. They can explore the estate and surrounding area in a sustainable fashion, with E-bikes and mountain bikes provided for guests along with walking maps. Farm and heritage tours or foraging experiences are also available to visitors, allowing them to learn more about the region and pick up tips they can use at home.   

Guests are made aware that a portion of their room rate is going towards the estate reforestation plans, demonstrating how their stay is having a long term positive impact in the area. They can contribute further by visiting the tree nursery on the estate and planting a tree during their stay. 

Future Plans 

The Estate has more plans in place to further improve their environmental performance over the coming years. They intend to install a water wheel, powered from the estate mill pond and solar panels on the hotel roof, to allow 100% self-sustained electricity, with the aim of being carbon neutral as early as mid-2024.  

Significant plans are in place for replanting and restoration of the estate broadleaf woodland and development of a 200 acre corridor of nature woodland linking the estate into Slieve Gullion Forest Park. This work will have significant carbon sequestration benefits, as well as positive impacts for biodiversity, local communities and visitors.  

While already winning awards for sustainability from the FSB and the All-Ireland Sustainability Awards, Killeavy Castle Estate are aiming to achieve a Michelin Green Star and Green Key award by the end of 2024. We wish them luck with this and with all their sustainability initiatives! 


Visit Killeavy Castle website for more information or to plan your visit.