The Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast
THE HOTEL: The Culloden is the flagship property of the Hastings Hotel Group and is something of a national treasure in Northern Ireland. The 105 room, five-star hotel is set in 12 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland on the outskirts of Belfast, and the historic main building was originally built as an official palace for the Bishops of Down.
THE CHECK-IN: I was greeted and had my luggage taken by a doorman immediately on arrival. Once inside, by room key was swiftly handed over and later, after a meeting, I was shown to my room.
THE ROOM: I was a little overwhelmed to have been assigned the Palace Suite, an enormous guestroom featuring a spacious living and dining area (with a table seating up to eight people) a marble bathroom and, through double doors, an equally spacious bedroom, plus fine views over Belfast Lough. The décor had a more contemporary feel than much of the hotel’s more traditional design, with pinks and greens adding colour in the form of soft furnishings. There were large flatscreen TVs in both the bedroom and living areas, plus a desk and, among other amenities, a minibar with decanters of complimentary whisky and scotch.
THE BUSINESS: Meeting and event facilities include eight different spaces. The largest room, the Stuart Suite, has capacity for up to 800 people theatre-style and has a separate entrance. The hotel grounds can be used for team-building activities. Delegate rates start from £45pp; meeting room hire is from £350
THE FACILITIES: There’s a spa, pool and well equipped gym. For dining there’s the formal and highly-regarded Mitre restaurant, the Crozier Lounge for afternoon tea and evening drinks, and the Cultra Inn, a separate building, for more informal meals. The hotel also hosts occasional special events – on the night of my stay was a special dinner and evening with celebrity chef Mark Hix at the Cultra Inn.
THE VERDICT: It’s easy to see why this hotel is so highly thought of in Northern Ireland, with its lovely location, convivial service, historic quirks and varied facilities. Only three miles from Belfast City Airport, it's a good choice for large meetings and events.
THE DETAILS: The Culloden, Bangor Rd, HollyWood, Belfast BT18 OEX. Tel: 028 9047 1066. Rates start from £130 per night on bed and breakfast basis. www.hastingshotels.com
Reviewed by Andy Hoskins (2014)