Pebble pods and bubble domes: six amazing places to wake up in Northern Ireland
Pebble Pods, Strangford, County Down
A relatively new entry to the Northern Ireland glamping scene, but one of the most remarkable, this private location on the shores of Strangford Lough takes pod camping to a new level – and with only three two-person pods, you’ll never find it overcrowded.
The glass-and-timber Pebble Pods resemble Hobbit holes, and have a host of amenities, but let’s focus on the most important: a private hot tub, thermal sauna, firepit and barbecue area, providing for year-round luxuriating by the cool waters of one of NI’s most gorgeous loughs.
If you’re an active person, there are free bikes and even kayaks to help you explore the area. If you’re feeling more laid back, you can just hit the tub and let the world scurry on by.
Lough Erne Resort, County Fermanagh
If you’re after absolute luxury, why not go the whole hog? The sprawling, castellated Lough Erne Resort, housed on its own 243-hectare (600-acre) peninsula between the reedy shores of Lower Lough Erne and Castle Hume Lough, just outside Enniskillen, really is the last word in refinement.
Starting your day with a choice between the resort’s two world-class golf courses sounds like our kind of dilemma: the Faldo course has been represented globally by local son Rory McIlroy, who holds the course record.
For those who don’t have the golf bug, take heart: with an incredible Thai spa, world-class restaurants and access to the 40-mile-long splendour of Lough Erne, you’ll be fine.
If it’s good enough to host the not-unpicky G8 summit (as it did in 2013), Lough Erne Resort is sure to satisfy your own exacting standards …
And those who are after quality local food won’t need to look further than the resort’s Catalina restaurant, where guests can dine in luxury after a long day of exploring.
Larchfield Estate, Lisburn, County Antrim
It’s fair to say Myrtle has been around for a while, seen a few tight squeezes, and is always ready with a warm welcome for her guests. Don’t worry, she’s not an over-friendly local – Myrtle is a lovingly-restored 1952 Saurer Swiss Army truck that now serves as one of Northern Ireland’s most inspiring glamping options at the gorgeous Larchfield Estate.
The accommodation is suitably cosy and stylish, equipped with a log-burning stove, sun deck and a sauna housed in its own wooden pod with bucolic views of the surrounding greenery. Rise and shine after a night with Myrtle and set off to explore the 243-hectare (600-acre) estate. Mission accomplished.
Killeavy Castle Estate, County Armagh
A gothic flight of fantasy built in 1836, Killeavy Castle is both grand and cosy: it features imposing medieval-style doors and turrets, yet the restored pile makes room for just four luxurious bedrooms within its castellated walls. Wake to the view from any of its 52 windows and you’ll feel like landed gentry.
Elsewhere on the estate, the original mill, gatehouse and coach house have all been converted into stylish accommodation. There’s also a high-end spa, all on 142 hectares (350 acres) in the shadow of Slieve Gullion, the tallest mountain in County Armagh.
Famed for its locally sourced food, Killeavy Castle Estate provides everything from sublime seven-course tasting menus to a famously good fry-up for breakfast.
That’s your morning plans sorted.
Palace Street Apartments, Derry-Londonderry
Pass through the famed city walls at the ornate Bishop’s Gate, then hang a sneaky left, and you’ll find yourself in a barely car-width street lined on one side by the kind of Victorian red brick you’d expect to see in an adaptation of Dickens.
It’s also the very fitting home of the Palace Street Apartments, a lovingly restored, three-unit, self-catering gem. Step outside in the morning and you’ll find all of Derry-Londonderry at your feet. Within the confines of the old walled city, you’re only a stroll away from the historic Guildhall (as well-known for its political history as for its appearance in Derry Girls), St Columba’s Cathedral, where the original keys of the city are held, and the Diamond war memorial.
That said, dark wood, oiled leather, antique furniture and deep beds come as standard in each apartment, making going outside an optional extra.
Finn Lough, County Fermanagh
A lot has been written about the bubble domes at the eco-conscious Finn Lough resort in Fermanagh, but nothing can prepare you for the experience of waking snug and cosy in a luxury bed, and opening your eyes to see the dawn sky straight above you.
These transparent domes offer uninterrupted views of the surrounding nature alongside high-end creature comforts: four-poster beds, ensuite bathrooms, and coffee machines to ease you into the morning the right way.
Once you’ve recovered from the majesty of the morning there are woodland trails to explore, on foot or cycle, and a lake to linger by. There’s also a top-tier spa for those who aim simply to “sleep well, be pampered” – and who can blame them, when your bed is this spectacular?