From mighty mountains to rugged coastline and sweeping loughs (or lakes), the topography of Northern Ireland will help you reconnect with your essential nature.
With semi-palatial lakeside resorts and private island getaways, in recent years Northern Ireland has been staking its claim as the destination to beat. Just a short journey from the UK mainland, it’s the ideal staycation spot when overseas travel proves difficult – giving new meaning to the idea of exploring your own backyard. Here’s a selection of great places to stay on your next trip.
You could come to Bushmills just for the distillery and the Giant’s Causeway, but if you stay at the Bushmills Inn, you won’t want to leave. This 17th-century coaching house, with sleigh and four-poster beds, button-back leather chairs and antiques, creates an old-world feel across its 41 traditionally styled rooms, yet with welcome luxe modern touches including Nespresso coffee machines, robes and slippers, Elemis toiletries and crisp Irish linens. The restaurant, set in the former stables, serves imaginative modern cuisine, while the wine-cellar-turned-bar is super cosy. There’s an in-hotel cinema, too, which can be booked as part of a two-course dinner and popcorn package on Thursdays and Fridays. Sweet!
The five-storey Italianate exterior of what was once the Provincial Bank of Ireland may look imposing, but don’t be fooled; inside, it’s as welcoming as they come. All 21 rooms are contemporary in style, with a distinct nod to comfort and relaxation, from plush carpets underfoot to tasteful textiles. Added extras like chocolate and biscuits create a sense of home; yet touches such as organic Irish toiletries offer a gentle reminder that outside lie the city walls of vibrant Derry, and the many natural wonders of Northern Ireland. Along with a stylish, intimate atmosphere, the Lock & Quay bar offers a fine cocktail menu.
This Grade B1-listed hotel sits in Derry City’s Cathedral Quarter, amid many historic landmarks. The decor leans toward old-world, with four-poster beds and a deep plum palette, while also offering all the necessary amenities such as flat-screen TVs and fast wifi. There are views over the city from most of the rooms, which you can enjoy over breakfast in bed, while those wanting to get out and about can sign up for a cycle tour to explore the city by bike.
The Clandeboye Lodge is next door to one of the best golf courses in Northern Ireland – quite a feat in a part of the UK that’s famous for its world-class courses. But even if golf isn’t your activity of choice, there’s plenty of outdoorsiness to distract you, from paddleboarding and cycling to long country walks. That’s assuming you can drag yourself away from the lodge itself. Set amid rolling woodland, it has an enormous bar and restaurant serving locally sourced dishes such as Irish crab salad and roast duck breast, so you may struggle to leave here at all.
Just 10 minutes from the centre of Derry city, yet seemingly a world away from civilisation, Beech Hill Country House is housed on 32 acres (13ha) of bucolic woodland. History buffs will love uncovering the secrets held within the walls of this sprawling 400-year-old manor house – tidbits that include housing 750 US Marines during World War II, and the connections it has to the original Derry Walls. With roll-top baths, opulent drapery and sparkling chandeliers in the rooms, the decor feels like an homage to the building’s exotic past.
The Westville Hotel is set in the haunting topography of Enniskillen, with the Fermanagh lakelands and craggy Northern Irish wilderness within easy reach. Keen fishermen can try their hand at angling in the nearby lakes, while those looking to breathe in the countryside air can go for a jaunt around the numerous bodies of water nearby. A must-see, however, is the eerie Marble Arch Caves, a series of limestone caves in County Fermanagh that you can explore with an experienced guide.
A sort of medieval bolthole – all mahogany wood panelling, four-poster beds and deep red drapery – this historic hotel, dating back to the 1600s, has housed a number of famous guests over the centuries. A favourite spot for author CS Lewis (who wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), it still attracts arty and literary types, which is no surprise given the quaint vibes and seasonal dining – think locally sourced fish cakes or Irish sirloin steaks – with a great wine list to choose from.
In the seaside town of Portrush, on a teeny peninsula that pokes out into the sea, the Portrush Atlantic Hotel has an enviable waterfront spot from which you can explore the rugged Atlantic coastline. The town played host to the Gold Open in 2019, which should give you a good indication as to the quality of the golf courses in the area – making this a real draw for fans of the sport. Spend the day swinging your club with incredible views, then retreat to your cosy room for a soak in the bathtub with sweeping views over the ocean.
This striking 1898 building dominates Newcastle Main Street, although you wouldn’t think it when you’re sitting with a drink in your hand in the library lounge. Ultra-modern yet with trad touches – think Tetris-like tiled flooring and electric-blue-velvet couches – it’s a great place to nurse a pint while playing one of the many board games on offer. The seafront prom is perfect for a peaceful morning walk, while those looking to explore further afield can head to the spectacular Mourne mountains.
This quintessential lakeside hotel, with its fairytale turreted structure, Lough Erne Resort is set on a rolling green golf course with the water sparkling in the background. While it would be easy to spend your stay here luxuriating in the enormous spa – swimming laps in the pool or sweating yourself back to health in the steam room – there is much more to do on the grounds and beyond. Whether it’s hiking through Lough Navar forest or fishing from the shores, you can return after a big day for a creamy pint of Guinness at one of the hotel’s many bars.
Quite literally away from the rest of the world, Lusty Beg is on its own private island in the middle of Lough Erne. You can get here by ferry from the mainland, and you’ll soon feel civilisation slipping away. The resort comprises a series of log cabins dotted around the island, and it offers the perfect stay for adrenaline junkies, with activities available including clay-pigeon shooting, off-road driving and archery – to name a few.