The Culloden Estate was originally built in 1876 by Belfast stockbroker William Auchinleck Robinson JP. He built a beautiful stone villa on a grand wooded site at Craigavad, Cultra, which was designed in the Scottish Baronial style and named it after his wife, Elizabeth Jane Culloden. Much of the stone was brought from Scotland by boat, landed at Portaferry, and conveyed by horse and cart to the site. At the end of the 19th century, Culloden House became the official residence of the Lord Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore, and was known as The Bishop’s Palace. Four bishops lived here including Bishop Crozier who later became Archbishop of Armagh. Bishop Crozier was a close friend of the celebrated Irish songwriter and entertainer Percy French and godfather to his daughter. French, who wrote the famous song The Mountains of Mourne, was a frequent visitor.
William Auchinleck Robinson – Born in 1816 in Scotland and Died in 1898 in Ireland
Elizabeth Jane Culloden – Born in 1819 in Belfast, N. Ireland and Died in 1889
Now one of Northern Ireland’s most distinguished hotels, Culloden Estate – located in Cultra, County Down – is a majestic Gothic mansion built entirely from stone imported from Scotland by horse and cart in the 19th century. Built in the Scottish Baronial style by Young and Mackenzie, leading architects who were responsible for many of Belfast’s most prominent buildings, Culloden Estate took two and a half years to carefully construct. The mansion was finally completed in 1878 and was proudly named after its first owner’s wife, Elizabeth Jane Culloden.
Originally built for Mr William Auchinleck Robinson, a stockbroker and former Member of Parliament with significant commercial prowess, the location of Culloden Estate was more thought out than you might originally think. Located only six miles from the centre of Belfast, Robinson calculated that the Eastern side of the Belfast Lough had a certain, unique climatic advantage. Benefiting from the shelter of the Holywood Hills, this particular area of land is shielded from the full force of the North and North Easterly winds, meaning that the temperature surrounding Culloden Estate is a full three degrees higher than in Belfast!
Towards the close of the 19th century, Culloden Estate became the official residence of four bishops, including Bishop Crozier, who later became Archbishop of Armagh; as a result, the property became known as The Bishop’s Palace during this era. As Bishop Crozier was a close friend of celebrated Irish songwriter Percy French, the musician was a frequent visitor to Culloden Estate, although he was not the only musician to grace the house. More than a century later, Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody took up residency, reportedly playing an impromptu gig for the England football team – including David Beckham and Wayne Rooney – who took over Culloden Estate when they visited Belfast during the 2005 World Cup Qualifiers.
Throughout the 20th century, Culloden Estate changed hands several times, and was owned by well-known Belfast gynaecologist, Sir John Campbell, chairman of the Northern Ireland Ploughing Association, Thomas C Reid, and proprietor of White’s Home Bakery, Mr Rutledge White, who converted the majestic stone mansion into a boutique hotel. It was during this time – the early swinging sixties – that Culloden Estate became widely known for its ambience and elegant aesthetics. In 1967, it was purchased by Sir William Hastings and, ever since, it has blossomed into a hotel internationally renowned for its luxury. In recognition of such, Culloden Estate and Spa became the very first hotel in Northern Ireland to be granted five star-status in 1996, and it continues to thrive to this day.