The mental hospital introduced radical new treatment methods in 1883, by abolishing patient restraints where possible, and demolished some of the hospital walls, allowing the inmates to roam freely through the grounds, giving the patients who were usually confined, locked-up or even bound to feel free.
Saint Columbas Lunatic Asylum, which kept up to 1,100 patients, was among the most popular places to work during the early to mid 1900’s in Sligo, according to Gerry Lyons who spent 43 years working in the hospital, and “although many days were happy enough, there were also days so sad”.
“Some patients were never visited, some stayed there for over 40 years, others died there, some committed suicide, but thankfully they were few.”
Following years of declining patient numbers and worsening conditions, St Columbas Lunatic Asylum finally closed its doors in 1992, where it lay derelict and in dire need of repair for 10 years, after which time it was purchased by The Clarion Hotel, a member of the Choice Hotels of Europe group, who have completely rebuilt the building. In fact all that remains of the original structure is the building’s façade and an interior wall.
The Clarion Hotel, which opened on April 22nd 2005 at a cost 45 million Euro, has 167 bedrooms, a 20-metre swimming pool, sauna and treatment rooms, a 60-piece gym and a conference / banqueting hall will cater for up to 400 guests.
The original church and chapel which stand outside, have also been renovated and the hotel hope to use the chapel to host banquets or unique events, and at a later date it is planned that the hotel will be able to use the church for wedding ceremonies.