Slieve Donard and The Rabbit hotels claim top honours in Times and Sunday Times' Best Places to Stay list

The Times and Sunday Times have awarded a popular Northern Ireland hotel the prestigious title of 'Beach Hotel of the Year' in the UK for 2024.
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The publications’ just announced annual Best Places to Stay list features the top 100 hotels in every corner of the UK for anyone planning a getaway.

This year, the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle has beaten all other destinations to be crowned the UK's top beach hotel this year.

The popular Co Down retreat also features in the top 15 places to stay for 2024.

The Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle. Picture: GoogleThe Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle. Picture: Google
The Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle. Picture: Google

According to the Times and Sunday Times guide, the Slieve Donard clinched the top spot after undergoing a major refurbishment and its luxury spa and glamorous restaurant.

"A few years ago the draw to Slieve Donard was its backdrop — the gloomy splendour of the Irish Sea and the snow-dusted Mourne Mountains that inspired CS Lewis’s Narnia.

"Now, after a full-scale refurb, it is also about what’s been happening inside as all of the 180 rooms have been transformed into sultry sage-green hideaways.

"The show-stealer? It’s a toss-up between JJ Farrall’s, the swanky, chandelier-lit restaurant that transports you from Newcastle to 1920s New York, or the two-storey spa’s sea-facing pool where you can watch the waves curl and crash as you soak,” the guide states.

The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat in Templepatrick has been named as The Best Place to Stay in Northern Ireland.The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat in Templepatrick has been named as The Best Place to Stay in Northern Ireland.
The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat in Templepatrick has been named as The Best Place to Stay in Northern Ireland.

There was good news too in the guide for The Rabbit Hotel and Retreat in Templepatrick, Co Antrim which has been named the best place to stay in Northern Ireland.

The guide compliments the hotel for its decor and atmosphere.

“Nothing says good times more than a disco ball — especially if it’s giant and swinging above a heated Roman bath like the one at the Rabbit,” it states.

"Fun is what this 33-room boutique hotel does best. Its spa has been designed to surprise, with a heated pebble ‘beach’ and tiki bar where the vibe is more rum spritz than green smoothie. Retreat later to rooms that are magnets for millennial couples: neon signs, Dyson hairdryers, Instagrammable William Morris wallpapers. A gold star comes for convenience, too.”

Claire Irvin, Head of Travel of The Times and Sunday Times, said: “The rigorous judging process for this year's Best Places To Stay awards has taken place against the backdrop of a difficult period for our readers and the hoteliers who clamour to welcome them.

"Away breaks have almost never been more coveted, with annual leave, time out with friends and family and the cost of living all at a premium; at a time when the hotel industry is facing ever increasing running costs and a recruitment crisis.

"Therefore UK hotels have an even more challenging task than ever before – offering a unique and memorable experience whilst representing relative value for money. The price points of each hotel chosen may differ but they all share the same commitment to consistency and excellence our readers – and their hard earned cash – deserve.”

Susan d’Arcy, Hotel Expert at The Times and Sunday, added: "I've been pleased to see more places taking a 360 approach to the hotel experience this year, letting their teams have more personality, being more inventive about activities, more adventurous about dining and showcasing local talent. It's definitely more fun for guests.”

The guide is split into nine regions: London, Southeast, Southwest, Central, East, North, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. With writers from The Sunday Times travelling from the Scottish Highlands to the coasts of Cornwall, and bustling boroughs to coaching inns hidden away in the deep countryside, there’s something for every taste, budget and location.

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There are also winners in 10 different categories; Beach, Boutique, Cheap and Chic, City, Countryside, Foodie, Hotels for Kids, London, Pubs with Rooms, and Romance. The guide focuses on the things that really matter; hotels with the essentials of comfort, great service and value, as well as personality and warmth.

Check out the full Times and Sunday Times’ Best Places to Stay list here.