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Ballygally Castle

Ballygally Castle, Ballygally, Northern Ireland

Historic Hotel – typically up to £200 per room per night

Summary

Short description

An ancient castle with modern facilities, good food, friendly staff, open fires, sea views and a resident ghost, Ballygally Castle makes a cosy base for exploring the north coast

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About

Recommended for:
Food & wine | History & culture | Relaxation

An ancient castle with modern facilities, good food, friendly staff, open fires, sea views and a resident ghost, Ballygally Castle makes a cosy base for exploring the north coast.

Location

The hotel is 40 minutes from Belfast and close to the start of the glorious Antrim Coast Road, which leads to the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Bushmills, the world’s oldest distillery. It’s also a good base to explore Game of Thrones filming locations such as the Dark Hedges and Ballintoy Harbour, and seven miles away in Glenarm the beautiful castle gardens and the studio and shop of exquisite jewellery makers, Steensons.

The reception area is a nice mix of traditional and contemporary style, with dark slate floor, rugged stone or ivory walls, purple velour sofas and a supersize wood-burning stove. A spiral staircase leads you up the tower to the Ghost Room. After James Shaw built the castle in 1625, he was so enraged when his wife Isabella gave birth to a girl rather than a son and heir that he locked her in this room to starve to death. Distraught, she flung herself from the window to her death, and guests have reported seeing her ghost appear and disappear in their rooms, leaving a smell of musty vanilla.

Outside, a lovely walled garden leads down to a little river.

Accommodation

The carpeted corridors are mildly psychedelic, but the rooms are subtly elegant, with sage green and pale earthy tones, and deeply comfortable king-size beds with luxurious duvets and pillows. Bathrooms are equally tasteful in pigeon grey slate, with Espa toiletries, decent shelf space and the only downside slightly feeble shower pressure.

In the original tower, four quirky rooms come with slightly more historic character thanks to oak-beamed ceilings and sash windows.

Dining

The Garden Restaurant is a lofty space with light oak floor, ivory walls with old Northern Ireland tourism posters, oak-beamed ceiling and an open fire. Above my table, a stag’s head stuck out of the wall, looking sternly wistful. As you would. From the bistro-style menu, try the crispy shrimps, succulent lamb and walnut and pecan tart with yellow man ice cream (named after a local sweet which is half sugar, half concrete). Substantial portions mean that, unlike Isabella, you’re in no danger of starving to death.

The smallish but well chosen wine list has good tasting notes and a decent selection by the small or large glass, and there's a small ground floor bar with an open fire, soft sofas and a small section of beers.

Breakfast is a comprehensive hot and cold buffet of locally sourced ingredients, with that nice touch common to all Hastings hotels: Bushmills whiskey and cream to liven up your porridge. Just don’t drink the whole bottle.

Facilities

From 5-7pm, two courses and a glass of wine is £22, and for Game of Thrones fans, there’s afternoon tea of Winterfell Jaffas, Jon Snow cakes and Daenerys Tart-garyen.

Stay here on these holidays

Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

Highlights of Northern Ireland Road Trip

7-day tailor-made self-drive from £780 pp incl. flights

Driving the spectacular Causeway Coast, this super-scenic route takes in the natural wonders of the Giant's Causeway and Glens of Antrim between the historic delights of Belfast and Londonderry, staying in the likes of castles and country houses along the way.

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