Incredible Places to Stay in Northern Ireland

Live out your regal fantasies at Helen's Tower, in Clandeboye Wood, County Down
Live out your regal fantasies at Helen's Tower, in Clandeboye Wood, County Down | © Martyn Boyd / Alamy Stock Photo

From ancient towers and off-grid bothies to historic townhouses and sprawling country estates – every night can be special in ‘Norn Iron’.

It would be a mistake to only see Northern Ireland, the holiday destination, as the home of Giant’s Causeway and Game of Thrones locations. Both are excellent reasons to visit, but there are also rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, rocky coves and dramatic mountains – as well as great food, bars, cafes and famous hospitality. Whether you hole up in Belfast for a week or spend your time on the road, you’ll find good people and good times. The only real question is where to stay? Here are a few ideas for those who like to lay their head somewhere a little different.

The Harrison Chambers of Distinction, for a boutique retreat in Belfast

Boutique Hotel
Map View
The Harrison Chambers of Distinction
Courtesy of The Harrison Chambers of Distinction / Booking.com
No trip to Northern Ireland would be complete without a night or two in the capital. For a funky boutique hotel in a great spot, head to this townhouse turned hotel in which each unique room pays homage to the great and the good of the country. The four-storey building is full of eclectic furniture, artwork and spectacular bits of salvaged railings and floors, with 13 rooms named after local personalities such as Van Morrison and CS Lewis. The hotel sits in the heart of south Belfast with the Lyric Theatre, No Alibis bookshop, Botanic Gardens and Ulster Museum on the doorstep.

Bullitt Hotel

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Bullitt Hotel
Courtesy of Bullitt Hotel / Expedia
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Now from $107 per night
Fans of the actor Steve McQueen – and a great deal – should head to this aptly named hotel that is as effortlessly cool as the man himself. The location can’t be beaten, sitting two minutes from the Cathedral Quarter where pubs offering live music abound. The city centre is just five minutes on foot and the Titanic Quarter is close by, too. The hotel promises “No swan towels and no trouser presses” as part of its no-nonsense offering. This comes across in the clearly titled room types that could also be the names of the eighth, ninth and tenth dwarfs: dinky, comfy and roomy. Make sure you eat at Taylor & Clay, where the best local meat, seafood and vegetables are cooked over roaring flames, before heading to Babel Rooftop Bar – the hotel’s cherry on top – for classic cocktails and great city views.
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Finn Lough Bubble Domes, for an embraced-by-nature break in Lough Erne

Resort, Hotel
Map View
CopyofBubblewithstars(1)
© Sarah Fyffe
If you’re a curtains-closed, tiny-windows kind of a person, look away now. You’re going to hate this. Try, if you can, to imagine sleeping in a bubble. Surrounded by beautiful forest. On a stunning peninsula. Next to a pristine lake. Quiet calm is the aim here – for you and for the environment – so the “elegant simplicity of nature” is the star. Except at night, when the star is the actual stars, as you lay on ridiculously comfy beds staring up through the transparent roof at the heavens. Two hours from Belfast on the Donegal/Fermanagh border on the shores of Lough Erne, this is the place to come if you want to switch off entirely for a day or two.

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  • Tepee Valley, for a dream-come-true stay in County Armagh

    Glamping, Camping
    Map View

    If you like sleeping in a bubble you might be the kind of person who’d also enjoy kipping in a tipi. With traditional Native American design, this soaring 18ft (5.5m) glamping experience offers the chance to live out one of your childhood fantasies. Sleep on cosy sheepskins, roast marshmallows on the firepit and wake up surrounded by glorious green. It’s not all low-octane fun though, with the chance to go riding, cycling, go-karting, abseiling or mountain biking on the doorstep. Nearby you’ve also got Markethill, with independent shops and eateries galore, and Gosford Forest Park, a favourite with walkers and mountain bikers. If the tipi life doesn’t do it for you, fear not, the site also offers a shepherd’s hut, Gypsy caravan or log cabin.

    Helen’s Tower, for a regal retreat in Bangor

    Hotel
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    The Ulster Tower commemorating the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division from Northern Ireland that fought and died during WW1 in Thiepval, France
    © DE ROCKER / Alamy Stock Photo
    No trip to Northern Ireland is complete without staying in a tower. And Helen’s, which feels like the place where “I’m the king of the castle” may first have been shouted, is about as terrific as towers get. On a clear day, you can see the shores of Scotland, the mountains of Wales and the Isle of Man simply by turning your head a little as you stand on the roof terrace. Inside, you’ll find a narrow stone staircase, a beautiful reading room, a charming double bedroom and an open fire in the sitting room. Plus a microwave, hair dryer and iron… classic tower stuff. There’s no wifi, but Clandeboye Estate, upon which the tower sits, does offer the chance to use diggers, try blind driving or go on 4×4 adventures around the 2,000-acre (800ha) estate. So, swings and roundabouts.

    Port Moon Bothy, for a wild experience on the Causeway Coast

    Camping
    Map View

    A few caveats to mention before you book this one. You can’t reach it by land, so you have to be an experienced canoeist (or have an expert guide with you) to get here, as the closest access point is on the North Coast Sea Kayak Trail at Dunseverick Harbour. There’s no mains water or electricity, although there’s a stream that flows through the site – but don’t drink out of that because sheep drink from it – so water is very limited. You should bring your own cooking equipment, firewood, loo roll and pretty much everything else you might want or need. Oh and there’s no bedlinen or mattresses. However. Eight people can stay here, on the breathtaking Causeway Coast, and if you do pluck up the courage (and pack wisely), it’ll be the undoubted highlight of your trip. Terrifying and alluring at the same time.

    Roe Park Resort, for a decadent holiday in Limavady

    Luxury
    Map View
    Roe Park Resort
    Courtesy of Roe Park Resort / Expedia

    After a night or two off-grid with your canoe you’ll be on the lookout for some serious luxury. Roe Park Resort, which sits on 155 acres (63ha) of scenic parkland, is the country-house estate for you. Head straight to the Elemis spa, where you’ll find a pool, spa bath and sauna, plus a delightful menu of treatments. There’s a terrific golf course, great restaurants and, if you’re part of a larger group, there’s the option of staying in one of the traditional country house lodges. For a decadent denouement, it doesn’t get better than this.

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