The Slieve Donard is set in a stunning location. It is a beautiful hotel, serves food that is a good cut above the average and has attentive, friendly staff. We stayed for a short break in a superior double room which was spacious with a top class bed and a view over the bay to die for. The beach is immediately outside the hotel and with the tide out, we went for a pleasant walk along an almost deserted shore. We could have walked for miles.
With these ingredients, this hotel should be competing to be among the best hotels in Ireland. But it isn't.
The hotel falls short of the mark in just a few areas, but they happen to be important ones. The first is easy to fix. When we arrived, reception was not busy and the staff were very efficient in getting us registered. In fact they were a little too efficient and omitted to give us any helpful information about the hotel or its facilities, including the need to reserve our package-included evening dinner. This resulted in a minor, but nevertheless slightly embarrassing ticking off when we duly turned up at the Oak restaurant later that night.
When we settled into our room, we tried out the spa area. This was a second area of disappointment. The staff were excellent, but the facilities themselves were a little limited and looked a bit tired despite the spectacular views from the sauna. The steam room in particular ... well it smelled, and not in a good way. No wafts of eucalyptus here, just the musty smell of what seemed to be a few days worth of sweat. So Slieve Donard, a little squirt of perfume would help.
The final area of disappointment is a little more difficult to put a finger on. The hotel lacks ambience. When I am staying away, there is nothing I like more than settling down to a coffee or a beer and switching off. Sadly, the bar area did switch us off. It felt clinical, too formal. We sat for a minute until a waiter arrived, made our excuses and opted for a walk into Newcastle town to a local cafe.
Make no mistake, this a high quality hotel. But it could be a lot better.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestling at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, the Slieve Donard stands in six acres of private grounds, and is one of Northern Ireland's most popular hotels. The luxurious ESPA Spa commands spectacular panoramic views of the County Down coastline and Mountains of Mourne and provides a perfect oasis of tranquility rivals any spa in Europe today. This superbly maintained Victorian hotel is equally suited to a short break, residential conference or grand event. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Slieve Donard Newcastle
- Donard Hotel Slieve
- Donard Hotel Newcastle Slieve
- Slieve Donard Hotel Newcastle
- Slieve Donard Resort And Spa Newcastle, Northern Ireland