Culloden Estate was an excellent place to start as it’s easy to get to just 20 minutes from Belfast airport. In fact if you’re hopping over from the UK, it’s perfect for overnight breaks thanks to the low cost airlines that go there.
Here I had the good fortune of meeting a spa duck, who was very pink and a great swimmer although not much of a conversationalist. The whole place looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere, even though it’s not. It’ up on a hill surrounded by beautiful grounds, and the spa is a little bit of a walk through the hotel.
Once in the spa, it’s modern and peaceful, especially in the treatment rooms which are a little way away from the facilities. I particularly enjoyed the juice and fruit bar next to the swimming pool, and the view of the grounds from the water.
The location in Co. Down is delightful. It’s right on the coast and from the hotel you survey the area, looking over a bay and hills so high they could be mountains. The hotel is a country mansion but it has newly built areas including the bedrooms.
The spa and leisure centre is set over two floors. The ground floor includes a bar area for afternoon tea by the open fire – that’s my favourite area, although you can also have tea in the hotel with a rather majestic view of the sea. The leisure facilities are also on the ground floor – it’s all popular with the golfers (did I mention the course nearby?).
Upstairs is all the spa area and you only go up there if you’re on a spa experience. The reception looks out onto the beach, and there’s a light and airy relaxation area as well as a darker one for when you want a snooze..
Kilronan Castle is in the middle of nowhere – it’s marvellous. It’s set in the most amazing grounds and there are really long roads to get to it. It really is a castle as well; old, traditional and magnificent.
The spa itself is a new build off to the side of the castle. As you go past reception into the spa it’s almost like the Roman baths with water features, experience showers, saunas and steam rooms. The relaxation room is a big, darkened room. I kinda wished I had my other half with me because it’s all very romantic.
There are two bar areas in the hotel, one is high vaulted – almost like a courtyard with a glass ceiling, and then there’s a more traditional style of bar with big armchairs and padded sofas to snuggle into. Because you’re sat at the top of the hill there isn’t another building in the view and the location is perfect for walking.
Another one that’s just outside a little village, Corick House Hotel and Spa is an old house, inside which the restaurant and bar are situated, but the majority of accommodation is in a new building.
The spa is small and there’s no swimming pool, but they do have a thermal area with a hydro pool which I very much enjoyed bubbling about it, as well as treatment rooms and a relaxation room. There’s also a double treatment room with its own private outdoor Jacuzzi and loungers (again, superbly romantic).
I must emphasise that the grounds are extremely pretty and there are charming courtyard areas to walk around, particularly when the weather is good.
As the name suggests, this is a castle. It sort of appears out of nowhere, surrounded by countryside – it rather takes your breath away. There are wonderful pieces of artwork throughout the hotel, while the manicured gardens are filled with sculptures and bronzes.
The main castle is old with lots of character, but there are a number of new wings with new bedrooms as well which are a very high standard even by my discerning tastes.
The Solis Spa is separate to the hotel and you go for a gentle stroll outside to get to it. It’s surrounded by knot gardens and herbs that you wander through to reach the spa which is charming and fragrant at the same time.
Once inside, the pool is surrounded by glass, so you look out onto the courtyard as you swim; it’s the same in the relaxation area but it a little darker in there. The colours are all very earthy, adding to the sense of calm. There’s a nail bar, and of course it’s all on the loch as well – hence the name – which adds to the sense of calm.
As the name suggests, Roe Park Resort is actually in a park, and as such, there are lots of walks to go on which I highly recommend. It’s located on the North Atlantic Way, about an hour from Giant’s Causeway, so staying here is a good opportunity to explore the area, especially the rugged coastline and enormous, deserted beaches – the scenery is really special.
The hotel is big on golf, and that pervades its character. There is a bar area and the main restaurant in the hotel itself, and in the clubhouse there’s a bistro looking out onto the 18th hole. You do need to dress up in the main restaurant; it’s a classy place.
In the spa meanwhile, the pool and gym are on the ground floor and can be used by all the guests, but upstairs is where the pampering begins. It’s a large area with treatment rooms and a relaxation room that’s all about zen… I must say I felt very peaceful after my visit.
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