The 4* Slieve Donard Hotel, located along the Irish Sea coast where the Mourne hills roll straight into the sea, is only a fifty minute countryside drive south from Belfast airport. Or as they say here, the Slieve. This majestic place – helipad and all – is the first stop of our Northern Ireland (golfing) road trip.
Built over 120 years ago as an end-of-line luxury railway hotel, it still exudes the atmosphere of bygone wealthy days.
But more important: the hotel is adjacent to the world-famous Royal County Down Golf Course. A true links course, exactly what this trip is all about.
‘The Slieve’ room and bathroom
We’ve booked a Resort Double room in the extended wing (2006) of the hotel. White walls and high ceilings make the room feel spacious. The interior is in classic style with a separate sitting area next to the bay window.
No mini-bar but tea & coffee-making facilities ànd a luxurious welcome gift: 3 bell jars with
a. white chocolate coated strawberry (I know, couldn’t resist either),
b. grapes on cheese and
The bed is big, soft and luxurious, with feather duvet and thick cushions. Suits a double function: large enough to set up office with laptop, papers, books and phone spread around me without disturbing mr. B. watching golf on my right.
The large bathroom has a separate bath and shower. Which is a good thing since I dislike standing in a bath tub to shower. I know, first world problem. Amenities by ESPA, the luxury spa brand based on aromatherapy. Love them.
Slieve Donard ESpa Time
There is another large relaxation room, in between both areas which is dimly – purplish, think Marrakech – lit with rest beds, fruits, tea and water. This is where you meet your male companion again.
My senior therapist Andrea started with a sensory test. I had to smell two drops of different essential oils and let her know which one I liked most. That’s the one my body and face needs. It needed rejuvenation. Bring it on!
The Oak Restaurant
The Oak restaurant – spot for fine-dining, high tea and breakfast – takes you back in time with an interior of oak panelled walls, high ceilings, chandeliers and white tablecloths. Seats along the window have a marvelous view of the sea or partly on the car park. Which I don’t understand, why pollute such a great view with lines of cars? An underground park might be the aesthetic solution.
Love the little food heritage booklet on the tablet that introduces small artisan producers of Irish high quality products. Mostly organic, from rapeseed oil to local organic salmon by Glenarm farm.
The menu has a variety of choices for vegan or vegetarians. My favourite is the ballotine of herb crusted organic salmon.
The breakfast is a buffet with variety of cereals, fruits, juices and hot trays. The thing I cannot seem to get used to, is the enormous amount of black pudding, beans and sausages the English-speaking fellow-men-and-women spoon onto their plates. Well, to each his own.
Lucky me there’s a choice of nuts, granola, soy milk (by order) and fresh fruit salad that helps me with a healthy start of the day. Did I mention the oatmeal porridge?
What to see or do in Newcastle?
The little seaside village of Newcastle is just big enough to discover by foot. It takes a half hour stroll along the seaside promenade from the hotel to the yellow Harbour House Inn for local lunch with a view.
Hikers will have a field day with the magnificent Mourne Hills to tackle. Endless views will be the reward. The golfing half of us will enjoy a day on one of the world’s most famous links courses, Royal County Down. If you manage to get a tee-time. Tip: start with this before booking a trip or flight to Northern Ireland. It may changes your schedule.
The mix of old world charm, friendly Irish people and dramatic sea and mountain views makes us change into to a lower pace immediately.
Slieve Donard is part of Hastings Hotels