Located north of Belfast, the magnificent Culloden Estate & Spa is a perfect option for those looking for a retreat from the city, making it a frequent haunt for many celebrities and world leaders over the years. Built as an official palace for high-ranking bishops, the first 5-star hotel in Northern Ireland is steeped in history. It changed hands several times after its inception in 1876, but became internationally renowned with the help of the Sir William Hastings family of Hastings Hotels. Today, its elegant interior draws you inside while the exquisitely manicured gardens and views of Belfast Lough call you to explore the beautiful surroundings.
While this luxury property is not family-focused, make no mistake: Culloden Estate & Spa does a great job of making its younger guests feel welcome. The real differentiator from Belfast city hotels, however, is the vast lawn peppered with sculptures designed specifically for children. Bike rentals are also available for those who want to explore Belfast Lough and the County Antrim coastline.
The 98 rooms and plush lounge spaces are filled with French furnishings and beautiful paintings that offer an air of sophistication without being overly stuffy. Multiple rooming configurations that work for families are tucked among the corridors: Family Rooms (for three), Duplex Rooms (for four) and Corridor Rooms (for up to six) all are adorned with luxurious bed linens and include spacious bathrooms. Those looking for a bit more space could opt for a two-bedroom apartment outfitted with a kitchenette and laundry facilities.
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The award-winning chefs at Culloden Estate & Spa believe that eating well is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and they pride themselves on selecting the best local produce. Vespers, the fine dining restaurant, welcomes guests twice a day for a full Irish breakfast or modern Irish cuisine in the evening. Those wanting to dine at Vespers or the more casual Cultra Inn for Sunday lunch should consider making a reservation in advance. For most meals, families will likely prefer the relaxed atmosphere of Cultra Inn, although both restaurants have a children’s menu. Finally, the Lough Bar has the best views of any restaurant onsite and serves light bites, afternoon tea and pre- or post-dinner drinks.
Little touches like a rubber ducky for bath time make kids feel pampered. Meanwhile, parents will enjoy exclusive ESPA toiletries, luxurious bathrobes and slippers, complimentary mineral water and tea and coffee making facilities in their accommodations. Transport services in a luxury Lexus are also available upon request for a fee.
The luxury health club and ESPA spa offer a multitude of beauty and spa treatments, including facials, massages, scrubs and even specialized treatments for expecting mums. A steam room and Jacuzzi are in place for adult relaxation, while a spacious pool delights active families during specified hours. Those looking to get their heart rate up can use one of the many machines in the health club or enroll in a gym class.
Culloden Estate & Spa is just a 10-minute drive north of the Belfast city center. Standing high amid the hills in the town of Holywood and overlooking Belfast Lough, this location offers many advantages. For families, the most sought-after local attraction is the Ulster Folk Museum, which takes visitors back in time to a village in Northern Ireland complete with historic cottages, handicrafts and vintage vehicles, all brought to life by costumed docents.
Those beginning or ending their time in Belfast should make use of the nearby Belfast City Airport with several flights to London each day. Dublin is easily reachable by train from Belfast if you want to combine the two.
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Editor’s Note: Cary was provided a media rate by Culloden Estate & Spa in order to review the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Cary Walker.
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