Fodor's Expert Review Culloden Estate & Spa

142 Bangor Rd., Holywood, Co. Down, BT18 0EX, Northern Ireland Fodor's Choice

This imposing, grand vision in Belfast stone presides over the forested slopes of the Holywood hills and the busy waters of Belfast Lough. Antiques and silk-and-velvet fabrics grace guest rooms, which—thanks to a £1 million renovation in 2017—have increased in size; all rooms have fine views. The famed Cloud Beds by King Koil come with a deep pillow-top layer and pocket-sprung mattresses that conform to your body shape, providing extra back support and ensuring a sound night's sleep. Topped off with a storybook turret and crenellated tower, the Scottish Baronial mansion, built in 1876, was greatly enlarged in the early 20th century when it was given as a residence to the bishops of Down. In 1969, it was transformed into a hotel and now ranks as one of Ireland's finest. The restyled Vespers restaurant, refurbished in 2019, has been given a smart look in delicate shades of sky blue and serves dishes such as Mourne Mountain lamb, Atlantic cod, fillet of beef or wild mushroom and truffle risotto. Light bites and drinks are available in the newly located Lough bar---with its jazzy swirling blue carpets bringing a splash of bright color---where visitors can enjoy floor-to-ceiling views of Belfast Lough to the accompaniment of a pianist on weekends. Here you may sample one of the 21 different types of gin such as Bombay Sapphire or Shortcross, which is Northern Ireland's first gin, distilled in small batches and resonating with an aromatic and smooth long finish. The hotel is close to both the village of Holywood (temptingly filled with boutiques and tearooms) and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Or spend the afternoon at the upgraded hotel spa, a glamorous Beverly Hills–type affair.


  • mansion is rich in character
  • comfy Egyptian-cotton bedding
  • fairy-tale setting with great views


  • restaurant can get busy
  • massages, manicures, and vintage champagne don't come cheap
  • 10-minute drive from city center




Phones: 028-9042–1066


98 rooms
Rate Includes: Free Breakfast

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