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Experiencing Northern Ireland's Gothic Grandeur at the Culloden Estate and Spa

Dec. 23rd, 2018

Europe is known for its historic castles of imposing crenelated stone structures on sprawling estates.  All possess a rich history of colorful characters and wealthy noblemen who lived while making their mark on history. In Northern Ireland just outside of Belfast is such a place overlooking the Belfast Lough. The Culloden Estate and Spa is a landmark and a national treasure as well as a fabulous place to stay and play while visiting Northern Ireland.  


This grand manor sits high on a hillside surrounded by 12 acres of woodlands and well-manicured gardens with colorful flowers and an emerald green lawn. The grounds demand time to stroll and explore as do the captivating outdoor art works. Just beyond is a view of the Belfast Lough and the County Antrim coastline. At any time of year the surrounds are lovely to see.


The Culloden Estate and Spa is the grand dam and leading 5 star hotel in Northern Ireland with a cadre of awards by purveyors of luxury travel. The castle-like estate is impressive if not daunting complete with crenelated and spherical roof tops and ancient walls made of Scottish stone and masonry with rounded turrets.  A long gravel drive leads to the circular way and the grand entrance. One can imagine in eons past noble ladies and gents arriving by horse drawn carriage festooned in fancy period attire for a spectacular gala at the grand mansion.

The gravitas continues inside as one steps in through the grand entrance and is transported back to another place and time. The old world charm and heritage of this 19th century estate is embraced with elaborate interiors filled with vaulted ceilings,  beautiful stained glass windows, ornate chandeliers, invaluable antiques,  and objects d’ arts. There are parlor rooms and sitting areas with original marble fireplaces and life-size Rembrandt-like oil paintings in gilded frames of local royalty and family aristocrats adorn the walls. 


The majestic property is steeped in history and tradition as well as opulence. It was once the official Palace for the Bishops of Down of the Church of Ireland when it was erected  in 1876.  The level of detail and craftsmanship in the era is beyond compare as evidenced throughout the building in the workmanship and detail wood and stone work. As one sees the staircase, an image of the Titanic comes to mind as it makes its way to the second floor above made of rich mahogany wood, intricate bannisters, and detailed craftsmanship.


Adjacent to the entrance is the Crozier Lounge which is filled with comfy sofa, high back chairs and sitting areas ideal for a tet-a-tet  or to curl up with book in front of the blazing fireplace.  There is a long, rich wood bar with all manner of spirts lining the back shelf with a barman ready to prepare your fancy, especially if it’s a pour from their extensive offerings of  whiskey or gin.   


Although the Culloden Estate is a place of immense history and tradition,  it has gone through an extensive renovation so that it is ultra-modern with all the mod cons demanded by today’s traveler.   The property recently opened their new wing, which tastefully blends the historical with the modern in both amenities and décor. The rooms are generous in size with a bright and airy  contemporary décor of rich brown woods, colorful fabrics,  as well as a sitting area, the latest electronics and an uber comfy  King Crown Cloud mattress.   The marble bathrooms are generous in size and made for relaxing as well with a deep soaking tub complete with ESPA bath amenities and a little yellow rubber ducky. 


Just as are the accommodations, the dining experience is fit for royalty as well. The Mitre offers a sophisticated fine dining experience in an elegant setting with a menu of haute cuisine featuring modern Irish cuisine.  It is recognized as among the top in Northern Ireland and helmed by one of the region’s leading chefs, Paul McKnight. 


The emphasis of the cuisine is on sourcing the freshest ingredients from local producers.  Each dish is carefully paired with an offering from their The emphasis of the cuisine is on sourcing the freshest ingredients from local producers.  Each dish is carefully paired with an offering from their extensive wine list of wines from around the world. A few must try options include the King Scallops, Spiced Butternut Squash, Mango, Cod Skin followed by the Mourne Lamb Rump, Black Olive and Feta Risotto, Spring Onion Verde. wine list of wines from around the world. A few must try options include the King Scallops, Spiced Butternut Squash, Mango, Cod Skin followed by the Mourne Lamb RuThe emphasis of the cuisine is on sourcing the freshest ingredients from local producers.  Each dish is carefully paired with an offering from their extensive wine list of wines from around the world. A few must try options include the King Scallops, Spiced Butternut Squash, Mango, Cod Skin followed by the Mourne Lamb Rump, Black Olive and Feta Risotto, Spring Onion Verde.mp, Black Olive and Feta Risotto, Spring Onion Verde.


For a more casual meal, guests take the five minute stroll across the property grounds to the Cultra Inn  which is a historical building as well and part of the estate. Indoors, the traditional Irish pub  is relaxed and comfortable and offers a full complement of  local  dishes such as fish and chips burgers or even a tasty steak. There’s a proper Irish bar there as well and a good place to bend the elbow with locals.


Beyond the rich heritage, idyllic setting, first rate accommodations, fine dining the Culloden also offers guests an exceptional destination spa experience.  The spa at the Culloden offers an extensive menu of ESPA treatments and rituals in luxurious treatment suites. The spa’s facilities are extensive with a decadent relaxation room, Jacuzzi, marble steam room,  top notch fitness center, and a beautiful lake-size octagonal swimming pool under a striking oculus sun window.


Northern Ireland is a special and unique country onto itself. It obviously has a shared history and culture with its bigger relation to the south, but the countries  are very distinct. The Culloden Estate and Spa offers a unique and refined entre into all that this area has to offer and is conveniently located just a 10 minute drive away from Belfast’s city center. Guests will enjoy exploring the city, the cultural highlights of the area as well as the historical with visits to the Titanic exhibit as well as the area’s museums.


For travelers seeking a unique hotel experience steeped in history, elegance and tradition as well as a top notch dining and spa experience, the Culloden Estate and Spa is beyond worth the journey. 

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 100 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)