Feast on Ardglass king prawns, Fivemiletown goats’ cheese, Lissara Duck or Hereford steak from Joel Meekes’ Farm in Strangford. I doubt that the mangos for the mango and mint cheesecake were produced locally, but I’m glad they made it to the table. From the Slieve Donard Hotel’s Oak Restaurant, the views over Dundrum Bay are stunning, and you can envision the original setting, little will have changed since 1898 when it first opened its doors.
As you recline with the noise of the ocean lapping on the beach, the joie de vivre in the bar, and sedating effects of scrumptious food, one imagines Dickens reworking Great Expectations to include a trip to the Mourne Mountains en-route to a novel climax.
The hotel arises proudly from the mist of the Irish Sea meeting with the bustle and joviality of an up-market modern hotel. Walk through the foyer of the ‘Slieve’ as it’s known, and you are immediately warmed by a roaring fire. Any thoughts of taking to the famous local hills behind the hotel are quickly dispelled.
Cosy, well designed rooms enjoy balconies, dormers and the sigh of the Clock Tower over this old railway hotel. The mini bar was notably absent; perhaps to encourage a health kick – well, I didn’t climb the hills…. If you would rather gaze at the hotel’s namesake mountain than be blown off it by the squalls from the Irish Sea, venture to the newest part of the building. Health tonics there are; the hotel spa is tranquillity.
The spa straddles 2 floors; the ground floor catering for gym bunnies. It hosts a pool, rock sauna, amethyst steam room, vitality pools, Zen Fitness Suite & drench showers. The top floor is for the more sedate guest; here you lie back and be pampered in ESPA style with a splendid array of treatments.
As in most of Ireland, the weather ‘changes like the wind’. However, if you are feeling energetic, bold against the elements, and fancy yourself as the next Rory McIlroy, take to Royal County Down, one of the worlds greatest golf courses. On the other hand, if the clouds roll in and the cows are lying down, another traditional Irish sign for incoming rain, its best to try another pastime, try partaking in a pint of the black stuff in the ‘Percy French’.
The Percy French Inn sits at the entrance of the path to the Slieve Donard. Percy was one of Ireland’s foremost songwriters and entertainers in his day. He performed many times in the Slieve and wrote the famous song lyrics ‘When the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea’. The Slieve Donard Hotel is a melodic escape, a soothing fireside hideaway – go find it.
A range of airlines fly from the UK and Europe to Belfast International and Belfast City Airports.
The hotel is approximately 30 miles from Belfast City Airport and 50 miles from Belfast International Airport.
The Hotel is approximately 90 miles north of Dublin.
Slieve Donard Resort and Spa
Downs Road, Newcastle
County Down, BT33 0AH
Telephone: +44 (0) 28 4372 1066
Fax: +44 (0) 28 4372 4830