Your country house in Belfast
Located on a rolling hill overlooking Belfast in Northern Ireland, the majestic 105-room Culloden Estate & Spa is the city’s most luxurious hotel, originally constructed in 1876. The Gothic mansion has quite a colorful history. It was the official home for a series of Irish Bishops, two Ministers of Parliament and an Ulster farmer until it was converted into a hotel with 11 rooms in 1962. The Hastings Hotels Group purchased it in 1967, and over the course of years added a modern wing, multiple meeting spaces and a destination spa that seamlessly integrates into the hallowed estate home.
During a recent visit this winter, the main salon was busy with both locals and tourists for Afternoon Tea, and everyone seemed to be parked on the repro Victorian couches for hours. I ordered some delicious halibut ‘n chips and a Guinness, and another Guinness, and a good two hours slipped by. It was really rather perfect hanging out and talking with new friends around the fireplace, because Culloden feels more like a large family gathering than a hotel.
The pace of life in Belfast is much slower than Dublin, about two hours south, and everyone seems to love to talk with anyone who will listen. People were stopping to say hi to friends at other tables and everyone moved about the rooms like they’d been here many times before. This is a city where family, religion and tradition are deeply rooted in the civic psyche, and there’s also a real curiosity about visitors because Belfast was isolated for some 30 years during the IRA era.
Past guests have included a wealth of Irish and international celebrities from Tony Blair to Tom Jones. Culloden is the kind of place where you can dress up for a black tie gala and show up for breakfast in jeans. The one constant is the cosy, comfortable ambiance and hospitality, even when the hotel is at full capacity. Which has been happening quite a lot lately.
“With the opening of the Titanic Belfast museum, it’s certainly making a difference around here,” says Craig Stewart, operations manager, during our tour. Stewart epitomizes the many people I met in Belfast. Eager and attentive, he’s extremely proud of his city and the British half of Ireland, which for generation has existed in the shadows of Dublin. “We seen a lot more interest lately in Belfast as a cultural destination…. It’s like all of the sudden we’ve been discovered.”
I overnighted in one of the modern wing suites sloping down the hill. The decor is fresh and homey with a hint of Irish country charm, as well as quick WiFi and all new large marble baths. Downstairs, The Spa at Culloden is a destination wellness retreat with ESPA spa products. There are eight newly upgraded treatment rooms surrounding the large, naturally lit pool and supplementary jacuzzi/steam/shower experiences.
Meals at Culloden Estate are served in the large Mitre Restaurant facing a wall of windows overlooking the grand lawn. Company-wide, Hastings Hotels is committed to farm-to-table cuisine. Check out this Food Provenance video created by Hastings. Just listening to the accents of the Northern Irish farmers is worth it.
Down below in the center of the lawn, the Cultra Inn Bistro specializes in local beef. Love the big stone fireplace and beam ceiling, especially during the winter. Try the Hereford ribeye followed by the homemade Armagh Bramley apple crumble.
For meetings, Culloden offers a series of eight meeting spaces and boardrooms on the second floor of the mansion, with the same great views of the manicured grounds surrounding this magnificent estate. All rooms are fully wired for A/V. Check out the Conference Brochure for additional information, which includes an impressive banquet menu. The halibut ‘n chips are highly recommended.