Breckenhill – From ruins to award-winning venue!
“I’ve never heard of you, and I only live down the road” – a refrain we often hear at Breckenhill! We are only half an hour from Belfast, and 5 miles from Ballyclare. The house and estate were originally part of the linen business in the 18th and 19th centuries, but when we (David and Henrietta Reade) bought the house, farm buildings and some land in 1988, the mill workers were long gone and the house was derelict. Over the last 33 years we have restored the house and buildings, and planted thousands of trees, finally completing this planting this year with a further 1680 trees. This work has created an oasis of calm and natural beauty, and this environment is much commented on by visitors.
We opened our outdoor activity centre back in 2006, though in a limited way, as we had other businesses and a growing family. We have continually developed both the barns and the activities on offer and now have indoor accommodation in the two barns to be able to seat up to 130 people in the Green Barn, 80 in the Stone Barn. We went into the wedding market when encouraged in 2008 to host a reception, and now we do around 25 weddings a year, plus other celebrations and gatherings.
We began with some recognised standard activities such as archery and orienteering, but over the years we have devised and built our own challenges and games, including the Cube and the giant catapults, and bought some in that aren’t found anywhere else – the Earthballs and two-seater trikes. Splatmaster kids paintball followed, and we’re about to launch into full-blown paintball this summer, along with children’s kayaks on the pond.
We have regular visits from Hawk Walks NI – they bring beautiful birds of prey to Breckenhill where visitors can learn all about the different birds. Last but not least, we are introducing bush craft for kids – build a den, make a fire, and more!
At the top of the field of new trees there is a camping area, with a beautiful view. Campers can book in, and bring or hire tents, and use our facilities – showers and kitchen – and enjoy some activities.
We were delighted to win Outdoor Venue of the Year at the NI Hospitality Awards in 2017 and 2019.
All activities, camping and experiences must be booked in advance – we are not open on a walk-in basis, but we really want to share what we have created, and let our guests engage with nature, have fun, and relax.