TRAVEL GUIDE: Culloden Estate and Spa
You can’t buy class, the saying goes. I beg to differ.
Take a visit to the Culloden Estate and Spa — Northern Ireland’s original five-star hotel — and you can experience a masterclass in, well, class. A lesson in luxury. A schooling in sumptuousness. An exercise in indulgence.
For the Culloden is the ultimate hedonistic hideaway resort in the province, which, if my stay is anything to go by, is guaranteed to provide every patron — be it in their spa, restaurant or lavish rooms — with an unforgettable experience.
We only made the short trip from Belfast but it seemed like a world away, such was the sense of serenity my wife and I felt. When you appreciate everything that the Culloden has to offer, the extent of the opulence is mind-blowing.
There is the beautiful landscaped gardens, the view over Belfast Lough and the historic Gothic mansion — the majestic centre-piece of this fine resort.
As well as resplendent rooms and the sensational spa there is the Mitre restaurant offering fine dining, which truly is of Michelin-star quality.
The list goes on, not forgetting the little gem that is The Cultra Inn which is nestled in the grounds.
We stayed in the Blackwood Suite, which is in the tower of the old original building.
It was built in 1876, having taken two and a half years to complete, by William Auchinleck Robinson, a JP and former MP. He named it Culloden House and after he died his widow gifted it to the Church of Ireland, who used it as the official residence of the Bishop of Down, Cromore and Connor, which earned it the name “the Bishop’s Palace”.
It changed hands a number of times until the Hastings Hotels Group bought it in 1967 and transformed it into a world-class hotel — including the chapel which is today used as the hotel’s bar.
Our room was huge and luxurious as you’d expect from a suite and we had a wonderful view of the lawns and the lough which enhanced our relaxation.
My wife Tara enjoyed the hotel’s spa, which she said was a wonderful escape from the stresses in life as the hotel’s expertly-trained staff spoiled and pampered her.
She was treated to the ESPA Total Body Care Treatment, which involves exfoliation and aromatherapy massage to the body and scalp.
We visited The Cultra Inn for a pre-dinner drink and it had a cracking cosy pub feel, the kind of place you’d love to be on a cold winter night with a hot whiskey beside the roaring fire.
The highlight of our stay for me was the magnificent Mitre restaurant, where I can honestly say I enjoyed one of the best meals of my life and my wife was equally ecstatic about the fine dining food we savoured.
My wife had sublime seared scallops with butternut squash, Chorizo and Fava beans to start, while I had succulent Clandeboye Woodland Pigeon, winter parsnip puree, salted parsnip crisps, micro herbs and beetroot paint.
Tara again picked well with a wonderful wild Wicklow venison main, which came with barley risotto, beetroot tart tatin with liquorish and blackcurrant jus. I had slow cooked daube of Dorset pedigree lamb with white beans, roast organic carrots and herb dumplings, which was exquisite.
On top of this, the maître d’ marshalled the restaurant superbly and we were made to feel special — a common theme with the staff throughout the hotel.
And the Culloden itself is something special.
It should be cherished as a Northern Irish treasure which has showcased the best in what our local hospitality can offer for years — with many famous visitors enjoying its delights.Tony Blair, Bono, David Beckham, Sir Cliff Richard, John McEnroe...to name but a few.
Illustrious company indeed, and it’s easy to see why they were attracted to the Culloden.
But the hotel has packages to suit every budget, not just the rich and famous. So you can buy class after all.