In the past, we couldn’t wholeheartedly recommend the Slieve Donard hotel when playing Royal County Down on a Northern Ireland golf vacation. Despite being located next door to the famous golf course, the quality of the imposing, red sandstone Victorian inn had fluctuated over the years.
Thanks to the recent completion of an 18-month, £15 million refurbishing program, however, it seems like good things are, literally, back on track. Last summer, our Golf Odyssey operatives found that many of the 50 new rooms were spacious, well-appointed, and have stunning sea and/or mountain views. The public spaces, too, were opulent — crystal chandeliers, Oriental rugs and elegant architectural details — but with welcoming fireplaces.
Formerly unavailable to guests on a Northern Ireland golf vacation, the Slieve Donard also added a new spa designed by the renowned ESPA agency. In addition to a heated swimming pool, cutting-edge fitness equipment, and luxurious changing/relaxation area, the spa has 16 separate treatment rooms.
One thing that hasn’t changed, thankfully, is the quality of the hotel’s Oak Restaurant. While it isn’t the best cuisine we’ve ever had, the cooking is generally reliable and there is a limited, but workable, wine list. Two dishes were especially tasty on our last visit: the wild game terrine with ratatouille chutney (appetizer) and the baked pheasant fillets wrapped in bacon and served with a port and cranberry jus. Be advised: only a table d’hote dinner is served; there is no a la carte menu, but our three-course dinner, before wine, was just £29.50 ($59).
On the renovations, the hotel’s sales manager, said, “We can now confidently compete with the leading destinations around the world.” That may be stretching it a bit, but the Slieve Donard is now a contender for anyone looking for a great place to stay on a Northern Ireland golf vacation.
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