The Culloden Hotel, located about 6 miles outside of Belfast in Cultra was the first five star Hotel in Northern Ireland and was built as far back as 1876. It originally became the residence for a number of bishops before becoming a hotel in 1963 and was then bought over by Northern Ireland's famouse Hastings Hotel Group in 1967, transforming and expanding considerably since then - without taking too much away from its original look and structure. It was granted its five star status in 1996 and has since added it's health club and spa.
The hotel is very popular with VIPs and celebrities visiting Belfast due to its location, outside of Belfast City centre, more secluded and with nice surroundings. These have included politicians from all over the world, pop stars such as Robbie Williams, Enrique Iglesias, Bono from U2, The Corrs, Westlife and not forgetting S Club 7 to name a few!! There have also been a number of football teams staying over the years such as the England team and the French winning world cup team. Living in the area myself and being a frequent visitor to the local hotel bar I got to bump into a few of these celebs myself - The Corrs, S Club 7, Van Morrison, George & Alex Best and Billy Connolly so it is quite a good hotel for star spotting if you are into that sort of thing! I also met the 'number one fans' of Garth Brooks and Enrique Iglesias who were practically camped out at the hotel in wait of them when they were staying! Complete stalkers!!
The hotel is very handy to Belfast - 6 miles east of Belfast City centre on the main Belfast to Bangor Road (A2). From the City centre follow the M3 east onto the A2 towards Bangor. This is one of Northern Ireland's wealthiest areas locally nicknamed 'The Gold Coast' and there are a lot of very large expensive houses in the area and a lot of very flashy cars being driven about!
The hotel is convenient enough to get to with a train stop right beside it with a direct link to Belfast Central Station stopping at the next town of Holywood on the way or else you can get the train to the next town of Bangor in the other direction if you wanted to go there for the day. Northern Ireland's main airport, Belfast International Airport is about 25 miles away or the much handier George Best Belfast City Airport is only 5 miles away. There is also complimentary car parking at the hotel for up to 500 cars.
The hotel has about 100 rooms in total, many of which have great views out over Belfast Lough - though these are probaby going to be the more expensive ones! The rooms range from 1 Palace Presidential Suite to various other suites, executive rooms and double rooms. These range greatly in price from about £650 per night for the Presidential Suite to £250 for twins/doubles which is pretty expensive but its worth while checking for any particular offers which can sometimes be pretty good value.
The hotel also has its own Spa and Health Club for paying members which Hotel guests can use for free. It has a fitness suite, swimming pool, Jacuzzi and steam room as well as various treatments. However, I believe it's used mainly by the local ladies as a place to meet for a cup of coffee and a chat rather than for anything else! It's a good opportunity to make the most of it though if you are a guest getting it included in your price.
The Culloden hotel is very popular for weddings, formals and awards ceremonies. I've been to all such events at it over the years and I have to say they always manager to put on a very well organised event and are very good at catering for large amounts of people whilst maintaining a high standard of service. The only thing is that for the large events the food is mass produced and ready waiting to go in advance which sometimes means that the food may not be quite as nice as what you would get going into the restaurant on a normal day.
The hotel has a nice restuarant in it ' 'The Mitre fine dining' which can be quite expensive but you should get good service. For a more relaxed atmosphere, slightly cheaper prices, traditional food and somewhere to have a few drinks by an open fire you should visit the Cultra Inn bar and restaurant which is owned by the hotel and in its gounds - it's just a short walk down the hill and can be seen from the hotel. This is were the local residents would come to eat and drink as its a short walk from most of their houses and everyone tends to know everyone else. The food is usually good enough though the service can be a bit hit or miss! I haven't actually been in it for a year or two now so maybe it has improved again! The bar used to be packed every weekend but this has died away over recent years as Belfast became safer to go out in at night and as a lot more places opened in Belfast. It's nice now if you just want to go for a few relaxing drinks.
As for things to do in the area, the hotel is a short walk from the coastal path where you can walk along the shore or else as i have mentioned you can travel into the nearby town of Holywood (5 mins away) or Bangor, in the other direction which is just a little bit further. This can be done by train but if you have a car it will give you a bit more freedom to be able to come and go as you please. Belfast is also very handy to get to for the main shopping and nightlife and would be about £10 in a taxi.
Next door is the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum which is definitely worth a visit for tourists as it recreates Northern Irish life as it would have been a century ago with historic houses, schools, and churches brought here and restored. As you walk around, it's like walking around an historical village and they have people on site dressed in the clothes of the time carrying out activities as would have been done such as weaving linen or making candles.
In my opinion this is a nice hotel to stay in if you have plenty of money, if you feel like treating yourself or want a nice relaxing break somewhere. It's not the place to come if you are on a tight budget as there are plenty of cheaper places available in Belfast City Centre. It is a good venue though for weddings, formals, conferences etc and nice to go to for a meal.