Our Vision

Our Vision

GUYSMERE: A SHARED VISION FOR A SHARED SPACE

Guysmere Trust was formed in 2020 to explore the potential for the development of a Residential and Conference Centre on the site of the former Guysmere Centre in Castlerock, five miles west of Coleraine. The Trust has leased the site from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

From the outset, the aim of the project has been clear – to create a world-class facility that is available to a wide-ranging marketplace of users and visitors and where faith can be discovered and explored; this aim remains at the core of the Trust’s mission.

A Multi-faceted Approach

Over the past four years, we have engaged with a wide range of individuals and organisations – local, national and international – as we have sought to develop a clear vision of what the ‘New Guysmere’ could comprise.  In our discussions, a range of exciting ideas for the development of the site have emerged. It has also become clear that, to sustain a facility of the scale and impact that we envisage, the Centre will need to be multi-functional in terms of meeting the needs, and, in doing so, attracting the patronage and associated income/funding, of a range of market sectors.

Guysmere – The Development Proposal

Having considered the various options available, our strategy now is clear – to develop a facility that will offer a community of uses, underpinned by our values.  We now wish to take forward a Development Proposal which will see the Centre comprising of 3 key elements with culture and faith being at the core of each.  Collaborating with a range of organisations, who share our vision, we intend that the new Guysmere will be a Centre for –

Element 1 : Exploring Ulster’s Christian Heritage.

A Residential and Conference facility located on the iconic North Coast in a designated  ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.

In bringing forward this Element of the Development Proposal, we will work closely with Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland and also with private sector Faith and Cultural Tourism tour operators.

There is a growing international Faith Tourism market with church groups and faith student groups – particularly from North America – keen to visit and, in many cases, undertake mission work while here. There is also a significant indigenous Faith Tourism market amongst NI and GB-based church groups and organisations, who are keen to enjoy fellowship and share learning in facilities where their religious beliefs will not be compromised.

Faith Tourism is recognised by Tourism NI as a potential growth market and a Faith Tourism group comprising Tour Operators and Faith Tourism facility operators has been established to develop a Strategy and Action Plan for promoting this market opportunity.

We are also keen to attract and assist Diaspora groups who plan to travel to Ireland to trace their family trees particularly those with an Ulster-Scots heritage.

It is envisaged that the residential provision will be for 60 beds across a range of accommodation options including, single, double and dormitory rooms.

In addition to the accommodation and conference/meeting room offering, the centre will also have provision for guests to take part in outdoor sporting pursuits such as walking, surfing, kayaking etc.

Element 2: Learning from CS Lewis: his Roots and Legacy.

The CS Lewis Centre at Guysmere –  a School for Academic Study and Research into the life and work of CS Lewis.

In bringing forward this Element of the Development Proposal we will work closely with and take guidance from the Union Theological College (UTC).

Family holidays in Castlerock proved to be a formative experience for Lewis in his childhood and, as a result, the town has become a ‘must visit’ destination for those tracing the writer’s journey.  Academically, there is significant interest (especially in the United States) in postgraduate and sabbatical study of the work of Lewis.

In collaboration with UTC, a  ‘CS Lewis Scholar in Residence’ will be appointed to be based at Guysmere, to deliver CS Lewis studies up to PhD level. The excellent transport link to and from Union College, providing access to the Gamble Library and research facilities, will also be a significant benefit.

Element 3: Discovering the Ulster-Scots – their History, Faith and Culture.

An exhibition telling the story of the Faith and Culture of the Ulster-Scots people and how they have shaped Ireland and the New World.

In bringing forward this Element of the Development Proposal, we will engage with The Ulster-Scots Agency

The presentation of the inspirational story of the Ulster-Scots people.  A story of persecution, hardship, endeavor and entrepreneurship. The exhibition will highlight the international reach of the Ulster-Scots people through the ages, including their political, cultural and socio-economic impact in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Among others, the life and work of Rev W.F. Marshall will be highlighted in the exhibition. Born in County Tyrone in 1888 and went to University in Queen’s College Galway (now the University of Galway). He served as a Presbyterian minister in two churches in County Tyrone and was immersed in the local dialect throughout his formative years. His Ulster-Scots poetry was very popular and he was widely known as “The Bard of Tyrone”. However, he was also a serious scholar and became a leading authority on Mid-Ulster English (the predominant dialect of Ulster) and its three formative elements, Elizabethan English, Lowland Scots and Ulster Gaelic. His mastery in this field was recognised by his election to the Royal Irish Academy in 1942. He ended his ministry in Castlerock Presbyterian Church (1928 – 54) and died in 1959.

This Ulster-Scots-led element of the facility will make Guysmere a significant stop on the North Coast stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way.  In addition to being a general tourist attraction, a visit to Guysmere will be of particular interest to the Ulster-Scots Diaspora across the World.

  1. It is envisaged that as the project development plan moves forward other opportunities for the Centre will emerge and these will likely see other collaborators and stakeholders coming on board.

Providing A Valuable Community Asset

The Residential, Conference and Activity facilities at Guysmere will be available to the local Castlerock community for events, meetings, exhibitions and outdoor sports.  This initiative is widely welcomed across the Castlerock community.  In recent times, sites in the town have been acquired by property developers who have subsequently built holiday homes and apartments. In our engagement with local people, it is clear that they would greatly welcome a facility of the type envisaged by Guysmere Trust which would attract people to the village and would also be available for local use.

Management of the Guysmere Centre

The management of the Centre will be the responsibility of an Executive Team who will be responsible to a Board of Trustees comprising representatives of key stakeholders.

Our Vision
Our Vision
Our Vision

Our Vision

The new Guysmere Centre will promote spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing and the conservation of our God-given planet home. This will be achieved through Christian programmes, tailored to meet the needs of a wide variety of faith-based and secular groups, both local and global.

The Centre will be a shared space available to the local community and will foster strong links with Castlerock Presbyterian Church and other churches.

As befits the location – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and our setting – with direct access to a Blue Flag beach and An Area of Special Scientific Interest – the Centre will be of world class sustainable design and meet the highest environmental management standards.

Key elements of the building will include –

  • Residential accommodation for up to 60 guests

  • A range of training and study rooms

  • Flexible conference, exhibition and activity space

  • Kitchen and dining facilities

  • Coffee dock and meeting space

  • Direct access to the beach

To Transform

This is a truly transformative project – physically for the beachfront at Castlerock and spiritually for the people from all walks of life who will come together at the new Guysmere Centre to explore, discover or renew their Christian faith.

We envisage the Centre being a vibrant and busy Hub for faith and community based activities throughout the year. These will include –

  • Mission and ministry programmes of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

  • Programmes which will look at the Christian response to current societal issues and challenges

  • Conferences and events

  • A programme stream focussing on the life and witness of CS Lewis

  • Physical and creative activities inspired by our environmental, historical and cultural location

All facilities will be designed to ensure the Centre is fully accessible for people of all abilities and for carers.

Project Timeline

Autumn 2024

Design Competition Launched

Spring 2025

Design Team Appointed

Autumn 2026

Planning Approval

January 2027

Commence Construction

Spring 2029

Official Opening

Estimated Project Cost £7M +

Fund Raising Target Stage One: £300k

Fund Raising Target Stage Two: £7M +

Project Timeline

Summer 2022

Design Competition Launched

Winter 2022

Design Team Appointed

Spring 2024

Planning Approval

Summer 2024

Commence Construction

Spring 2026

Official Opening

Estimated Project Cost £6M

Fund Raising Target £6M