If you’re looking for a luxury hotel for a Northern Irish getaway, we’ve found just the place….Welcome to The Culloden Estate & Spa.
By Julianna Barnaby
The Culloden Estate & Spa. Northern Ireland’s leading luxury hotel has just completed a £4.8m renovation – if it was a desirable destination before the makeover, it certainly has cemented that reputation now. Guests can indulge whilst lodging in completely revamped rooms, an upgraded spa and restaurant.
The Culloden Estate & Spa First Impressions
I’d read about the Culloden’s reputation as Northern Ireland’s leading luxury five-star hotel, but nothing had quite prepared me for the view as we swept up the drive to hotel.
It was once a Bishop’s Palace, and sits grandly atop a small hill, overlooking acres of landscaped gardens and, beyond that Strangford Lough. As first impressions go, The Culloden certainly does well.
A Luxury Bolthole
Luckily, the rest of the experience doesn’t disappoint. The Culloden has been owned and run by the Hastings family for fifty years. As they’ve expanded, modernised and developed the hotel, they have been careful to prioritise one thing that so many hotels seem to overlook: the guest experience.
Every aspect of my stay at The Culloden Estate & Spa showed that this was a hotel at the very top of its game – with a reputation built by time, experience and expertise. You don’t need to take my word for it – The Culloden has won a slew of awards over the years: including being named as luxury hotel of the year at the 2017 Irish Hotel Awards.
So what makes The Culloden Estate & Spa such a stellar hotel? If I were to choose four things alone (and that is very tough), I’d say the rooms, the food, the service and the spa.
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The rooms were spacious, stylish and comfortable – the holy triumvirate of hotel room perfection. I’d like to say that I carefully unpacked and the room remained as perfect when I left as it was when I arrived but that wouldn’t be the truth. To say that I settled in (rather untidily), sat by the window to eat my welcome chocolatey treat and soaked in the views would be closer to reality.
Food wise, guests to The Culloden are really spoilt for choice. The Mitre, the hotel’s main restaurant dishes up fine-dining cuisine using local ingredients to great success. Even at breakfast, there was a small booklet perched on the table detailing the provenance of the produce being served. Less formal, but no less delicious is the standalone Cultra Inn, which serves hearty fare to both guests and visitors alike.
Spa & Chill
Soon enough, it was time to settle in for a spell in the spa. The Culloden’s Spa was also given a new look as part of the recent renovations and is very much a destination in itself. Treatments use the high-end ESPA range, and the only problem posed by the extensive menu was picking one treatment alone. I opted for a hot stones massage to help soothe away the (non-existent) tensions of the weekend, a choice I would thoroughly recommend to others.
Attention to Detail
Service wise, the staff were friendly and faultless. I’d timed my visit to coincide with the Culloden’s 50th birthday party, celebrating 50 years of ownership by the Hastings family. On the day of the party itself, there were hundreds of guests spread out throughout the hotel’s various party stations, before coming together for speeches and toasts towards the end of the evening. Even then, at a time when many hotels would have struggled to maintain their high level of service, The Culloden shone.
More mini-break inspiration needed? You may also like our review of Knockinaam Lodge on the wild Scottish coast.
Like all good things, my perfect weekend in Northern Ireland had to come to an end and it was with a heavy heart that I repacked my bags to make my way to the airport. But if I took one thing away from the whole experience, it was that next time I’d book for at least a week.
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Julianna Barnaby was hosted by Hastings Hotels & Tourism Northern Ireland. As ever, all views and opinions are our own.