Luxury Irish spa resort offers ‘timeless indulgence’ in Covid-safe getaway
- Credit: Jack Hardy/ Hastings Hotels
A fairytale setting with the grandeur of a Victorian hotel and modern-day comforts of home – the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa is the perfect post-lockdown escape.
“The jewel in the crown of County Down” and “the hotel you don’t want to leave”, are the quotes I’m greeted with upon arrival. And they’re right – as in my mind I’m still there now.
Maybe it’s the unmistakable Irish elegance of yesteryear or the soaring views of the Mourne Mountains, but whatever it is, the Northern Ireland resort leaves a lasting impression.
What strikes me the most is how a hotel with 180 rooms, an award-winning spa and exquisite private grounds has staff who personally get to know guests so well.
Nothing is too much trouble and within a few days stay I had that déjà vu feeling of having been there before. But maybe that’s Slieve Donard’s magic spell you fall under.
It was originally built by the Belfast and County Down Railway, as an “end of line” luxury holiday destination. Construction started in 1896 and two years later it was open to the public – and plenty of VIPs.
Famous guests such as Charlie Chaplin, songwriter Percy French and King Leopold of Belgium have graced the hallways, while modern day stars such as Dame Judi Dench, Jack Charlton and Archbishop Tutu have enjoyed a stay at the resort.
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Even Daniel Craig has starred in a film that was set there in 2000.
Its timeless indulgence is mirrored in bars and lounges named after notable figures and hotel rooms tastefully decorated to high standards while keeping in character with its period charm.
And the views are something else. When the mist descends over the coast there’s a nostalgic longing in the air. But also, a reminder that there’s no time for regret – as there’s too much to enjoy in the here and now.
The Slieve Donard Resort and Spa is within pitching distance of several golf courses and sits next door to the globally acclaimed Royal County Down.
The Irish Open was held there in 2015 and golfing legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and local hero Rory McIlroy have spent a night at the resort.
The hotel, which is part of the Hastings group, boasts an extensive range of dining and socialising options including Chaplin’s Bar and the Lighthouse Lounge.
The Percy French Inn, complete with log fire, is a cosy informal bar and restaurant which lies within the grounds of the resort - perfect for a tasty lunch or pint by the fireside.
Breakfast choices range from a continental selection of fresh fruit, granola yoghurt pots, cheese and the resort’s very own yummy bakery muffins.
The vegetarian Irish breakfast is truly tasty and comes with a choice of eggs, baked beans, meat free sausages and Irwin’s potato bread. It really is the best start to the day.
However, my favourite meal was The Oak restaurant’s Carnbrooke Free Range Chicken Supreme – it was just delicious.
Waiters were on-point in making sure dishes were cooked to everyone’s taste and their disability friendly ethos was also lovely to witness.
They even offer an indulgent Bridgerton-inspired afternoon tea – and with Rége-Jean Page recently spotted filming in Belfast, how can you resist?
The award-winning spa underwent a £550,000 renovation last year too, so guests can escape to a cocoon of calm with over two floors of tranquillity, including a magnificent 20-metre swimming pool and vitality pool, amethyst steam room and high-tech fitness studio.
It was pure bliss to unwind in the pool while overlooking the idyllic shores of the Irish Sea on Newcastle Bay.
In fact, the whole experience at the resort was like stepping into a movie scene and being charmed off your feet.
Wonderful staff, and manager Michael, were second to none in ensuring a sense of safety after leaving lockdown...and I can’t wait to be back "where the dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea".
Prices start from £110pp for a Sparkling Staycation or an Advance Purchase of £72pp which includes a full Irish breakfast. Visit: https://www.hastingshotels.com/slieve-donard-resort-and-spa/ or search @Slievedonard on social media.