A modern makeover has thoughtfully blended the original stately Georgian elegance of Bellinter House hotel with modern luxuries, creating a beacon of high-style less than an hour’s drive from Dublin. No sleepy country estate, this is a contemporary marvel with playful-clever furnishings and 21st-century accoutrements. The restaurant’s seasonal and inventive menu is not your typical Irish country fare.
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A relaxing bath soak treatment with organic essential oils and aromatic bath salts
Double rooms from $92.12 (€83), excluding tax at 13.5 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
Designed by Richard Cassels, 18th-century architect of the Irish Parliament, Bellinter House is of significant historical interest.
At the hotel
Gardens, library, games room, spa, sauna, steam room, outdoor hot tub. In rooms: flatscreen TV and Rituals bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Main House rooms have high ceilings, huge bathrooms and cracking views; Main House 1 has a tub for two. For a peaceful, pampering-focused stay, rooms in the Ruin are tranquil, secluded and close to the spa; Ruin 3 has a copper bath, Ruin 4 a roll-top tub.
The Bathhouse Spa is in the Ruins. All treatments use organic, seaweed-based Voya products, but the signature seaweed baths are the house specialty. Guests can also choose from a range of classic massages, facials and seaweed body wraps. Indulge in a hydrating Cleopatra milk and honey bath, then decamp to the sauna, steam room or alfresco hot tub.
Swimwear for the outdoor hot tub, horse riding gear and boots made for walking.
The countryside here is rugged and gorgeous – explore on foot in a pair of Bellinter House’s loaner wellies, or on horseback from one of the five local equestrian centres.
Welcome, with advance notice. Cots and foldaway beds provided; babysitters can be arranged. The split-level duplex rooms in the Stable block are best for families.
On sunny days, set yourself up on the back terrace.
Tongue-in-cheek tweeds and cosy cashmere.
Eden, set in the bright, vaulted basement, is where the chefs conjure up Modern Irish bistro fare from fresh seasonal ingredients. The Drawing Room serves a casual menu, including the house speciality Eden Smokies – sandwiches of smoked haddock, cherry tomatoes, scallions, creme fraiche and melted cheddar cheese.
In the Bellinter Bar, pints are pulled perfectly and cocktails are cunningly crafted; oenophiles could spend a happy afternoon tasting their way around the impressively stocked cellar.
Breakfast is served in the Drawing Room, which is open until 9pm Sundays to Thursdays and 9.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Eden is open for dinner from 6pm Thursdays to Sundays; the last seating is at 8.30pm (9.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays).
Order tasty treats off the bar menu to your room from noon to 9pm.
Bellinter House can organise all manner of outdoor activities, from clay-pigeon shooting to horse riding and golf. The Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; drop in at the Brú na Bóinne visitors centre near the village of Donore for information about Newgrange and its tomb complex. There are several interesting historical sites along the Boyne Valley, including Mellifont Abbey, the Hill of Slane, the Hill of Tara and Trim Castle – the largest extant Norman castle in Europe.
Get a real taste for local fare at Zucchinis;everything, from theClonakilty black pudding salad to the honey-glazed pork belly and lemon tarte is made on site – no pre-prepared fare here – with Irish ingredients; the chefs are so proud of their locally-sourced food they list its origins down to a specific farm on the website. Informal Room 8 on Watergate Street is an elegant cafe serving a delicious selection of gourmet sandwiches, salads, desserts and daily specials; they also make the best Java Republic coffee and cup of tea in the area and are open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
In Navan, get a caffeine fix or wholesome lunch at Chekhov’s Coffee House on Trimgate Street – the home-made desserts are lovely (+353 (0)46 909 3734).
A mere moment from Bellinter, atop the historic Hill of Skryne, O’Connell’s (affectionately known to locals as Mrs O’s) is an authentic Irish country pub with buckets of charm (+353 (0)46 902 5122).
‘It’s a grand place you’re headed,’ says Danny Fitzpatrick in as fine an Oirish accent as can be heard. Danny, our driver from Dublin airport to Bellinter House, County Meath, hasn’t so much kissed the Blarney Stone as settled in for an all-night love-in, judging by the rich, anecdote-filled commentary he provides as the lush countryside rolls by. It has been a hard week. So, we can’t think of a better way to start the weekend than to sit back and let Danny’s lilting soundtrack waft over us, while we gaze out at the luminescent green fields, and the watery sun sets through the mist. I was too whacked even to ask the origins of an anomalous herd of buffalo.
As we swish up the long drive towards the Palladian splendour of our boutique stay, Bellinter House, the 18th-century mansion looms ahead, all twinkly and inviting. It feels as though we’re in a Jane Austen novel, arriving at a much-anticipated ball hosted by the local catch. All that’s missing is the horse-drawn carriage and an empire-line frock.
The period-drama spectacle continues inside – as finding our room involves an expedition up a cantilevered staircase and along an opulently plastered landing, beneath an elaborate, oval-domed ceiling that’s propped up by slightly bonkers Doric columns. Those Georgians certainly never stinted on their proportions. Our room has the requisite high ceilings, floor-length sash windows and impressively heavy shutters that come as standard issue in country piles. Apparently Bellinter takes its name from the Irish words Baile and Saoir, which means ‘home of the carpenter’ and, judging by the wood panelling that’s everywhere, the place has evidently kept many a craftsman busy over the years.
Despite the grand lines, there’s still something refreshingly up to date about Bellinter House. With modern art on the walls, contemporary furniture dotted about and some very non-18th-century fabrics fulfilling the soft-furnishing function, it’s more like hanging out in the country pad of a design-savvy, modern-day squire than being trapped in a stuffy museum. There’s even technology that’s so complicated I can’t manage to switch the lights on. Luckily, Mr Smith has more perseverance with that sort of thing and, before long, he’s cracked it – and is happily reassessing the mood and readjusting accordingly (on what seems like an hourly basis).
A quick glance at the clock stirs us into action and we rush down for a pre-dinner livener, keen not to miss last orders. I needn’t have bothered, as the barman tells me that they only really close when the last guest drifts off to bed. Now that’s my kind of watering hole.
Our table awaits and, after a quick aperitif, we head for Bellinter House's Eden Restaurant – which is the sister establishment to the award-winning Dublin eatery famous for its seasonal Irish menu. Danny had mentioned something about Smokies, which we notice on the starter menu. The smoked haddock, spring onion, crème fraîche and melted cheese combination makes me wish I’d paid more attention to his recommendations, because it’s absolutely delicious. As is the hearty beef and Guinness stew (when in Ireland and all that), which comes with earthy wild mushrooms and a creamy mash. We haul ourselves back upstairs and tumble onto a springy marshmallow cloud of goose down and crisp white bedlinen. And, with those sturdy shutters blocking out the big bad world, our sleep is long and tranquil.
The next morning, I pull back the shutters dramatically, inviting in the kind of rural Irish view that stars every colour under the sun (as long as it’s green). In the far distance, the river Boyne winds languidly through our framed picture, adding focus to the composition. Happily, Bellinter House is not the kind of hotel where the breakfast service is always ending just as you’re heading down for it. We’re able to indulge in a deliciously lazy full Irish breakfast in bed. It could be early afternoon for all we know. Not that anybody would care if it was.
With so much scenic action happening out the window, we’re drawn from our cocoon to go and explore. There’s a selection of wellies in all sizes, which is handy – who’d ever think to bring their own? We grab a pair each and meander through lush meadows along the banks of the Boyne, wading through long grass, over fields dotted with nonchalant cattle, before resting up by the river’s edge, allowing the countryside’s natural powers to work their restorative magic.
Funny how time flies when you’re busy not doing much at all. Not that there isn’t plenty to occupy restless spirits. For anyone who wants to curl up with a good book, the library’s packed: with everything from a Joan Collins biography to Irish artists from the 1600s. Then there’s a games room and fishing, golf, horse riding and clay-pigeon shooting for the energetic. But after our extensive walk, I’m more in the mood for a lie-down. And there are worse ways to fill a few hours than to visit the Bathhouse spa, where a seaweed bath and body wrap leaves my skin feeling velvety, dewy and soft – a description equally germane to the Meath landscape.
We retire to the forest-toned drawing room where, gazing at the pretty plasterwork, I’m reminded of an ornately frosted wedding cake. As if on cue, afternoon tea arrives and we hunker down on an elegant sofa. Other guests congregate and soon we’re chatting about life and love, and wondering why we don’t do this sort of thing more often. Maybe it’s the fine food and favourite tipples. Or the promise of a comfy bed and a sound sleep. Perhaps it’s the soothing emerald tones. Whatever. Danny Fitzpatrick was right: ‘It’s just grand.’
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Bellinter House’s Guestbook below.
Our room, the spa, the hotel bar and neighboring rooms to relax/eat/drink in. We also loved the surroundings, beautiful countryside so you can relax and also have a little adventure.
Stayed on 23 Mar 2018
The setting – surrounded by beautiful countryside and lots of local historical sites and sports on offer. Liked the shabby chic style of the hotel (for the most part). Food in the lounge was good. Room in the east/west pavilions was lovely (once we had some extra lights!)
Food/decor in the main restaurant was disappointing/dull. Some areas of the hotel are in need of a bit of TLC. Rooms are very dark. Upgraded to a Stable Room – which although large was bare and noisy so asked to be moved back to our original room.
Stayed on 11 Feb 2018
The rooms. the staff and the relaxing weekend. The milk and honey baths were very relaxing.
A decent breakfast! The breakfast was so disappointing – a buffet of tinned fruit, kelloggs cereals and a fry up that you would expect from a mid-range hotel. Really disappointing.