This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Christmas at Ballygally Castle Hotel
Along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route in my husband’s native Northern Ireland is Ballygally Castle. Ballygally Castle is an impressive 17th century castle. It offers turrets, hidden rooms, and a lovely courtyard. The castle is directly across from Ballygally Bay and the Irish Sea. The views are breathtaking. This 400 year old castle is now a 4 star hotel. My mother in law had the wonderful idea to get the entire family together to spend Christmas at Ballygally Castle Hotel. My husband was going home for Christmas.
Ballygally Castle offers 54 beautifully decorated rooms. It is part of The Hastings Hotel group. The hotel does a tasteful job of seamlessly blending the amenities guests want at a modern hotel with the character and charm they look for when choosing to stay at a historic castle. Some of the rooms offer beams original to the castle and others have views of the sea or mountains. The Antrim and Coastal Deluxe Rooms offer panoramic views. If it’s period charm you are looking for then look no further than The Garden Wing.
We stayed in a standard room that had a large window that overlooked both the sea and garden. The room was large with cozy decor of traditional plaid. Like many hotels in the UK the family room features two double beds and one twin which I am a huge fan of. The room had a large modern subway tile bathroom. It also had a TV with cable. Plenty of room for the next few days to spend Christmas. The hotel also provided a gift box upon check in as a thoughtful touch.
Game of Thrones Connection
I confess I am not a Game of Thrones follower. My husband, however, is and takes great pride in the fact that some of the filming for the iconic show is done in Northern Ireland. Some of the cast and crew stayed at Ballygally Castle.
There is a three day Game of Thrones itinerary takes you along the Antrim Causeway Coast to see first hand where famous scenes from the show were filmed. If you make one of the stops Ballygally Castle you will find one of the ten famous Game of Thrones Doors. The doors are made from two trees that fell when the show was filming at the famous Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland. The show had them hand carved into 10 intricate and beautiful doors depicting scenes from Season 6 and they are placed at significant locations throughout Northern Ireland.
Ballygally Castle also offers a Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea. The menu offers dishes inspired by the show. Some would have been eaten during the GOT time period and others are based on characters such as the Jon Snow Cakes. There are touches of Game of Thrones throughout the hotel so it’s a fun immersive experience for any fan. There is also a supposedly haunted room at the top of one of the towers. It is reached by one of the narrowest staircases I’ve ever climbed. We did not encounter the friendly Lady Isabella but the room was quite cold.
I admit it did feel a little strange not being in our own home for Christmas. However, we had already done Christmas from Santa a little early at home before we left for Northern Ireland. I didn’t want the kids to have to wait until we got home or worry Santa would forget. We told them Santa made a special delivery for them because he knew they would be in Ireland visiting their grandparents.
We still wanted them to have a little magic on the actual Christmas morning though so we brought their stockings and a few small gifts that would fit in our suitcase. It was different not being at home for Christmas but I wouldn’t have traded Christmas at Ballygally Castle with our family for anything. Staying at a castle is a magical experience anyway but it is made even more so when it’s decorated in lights and it’s holiday finery.
Christmas Day Grand Buffet Lunch
Another benefit of Christmas at Ballygally Castle was that I did not have to cook our Christmas meal. Truth be told even though I’m a pretty competent cook there is no way I could have competed with the gorgeous Christmas Day Grand Lunch Buffet.
The Christmas day lunch is held in the hotel’s beautiful spacious ballroom. Elegant white table clothes, soft white Christmas lights, and a lovely tree set a festive mood.
As a mom I appreciated that though the setting is elegant and there is plenty of champagne for toasting, the Christmas lunch at Ballygally is unmistakably family friendly. They were able to accommodate our large party of Ian’s parents, our family, and Ian’s brother and sister and their families.
The kids also loved the Santa ice sculpture. We had fun telling the kids to behave at lunch because Santa was watching them. The Christmas train going around the soup and salad table was another kid friendly touch. My kids developed a sudden interest in soups and salads. Haha!
The buffet offered something for everyone in our large party even the vegetarians. Along with soups and salads, the five course buffet featured ham, turkey, and a traditional UK carvery with Yorkshire pudding. We also filled our plates with stuffing, roasted potatoes, and vegetables. More desserts than I could count lined the tables. We sampled Christmas puddings, cakes, trifles, cookies and more.
A Visit From Santa…or Is It Father Christmas?
The Christmas lunch at Ballygally Castle concluded with a visit from Santa or Father Christmas as my husband still calls him sometimes. Santa made his way to each table and had a gift of a traditional UK selection box for each of the children.
Santa was also roaming around the hotel for photos with the kids after lunch and I snapped the one below with Caitlin. It will forever remain one of my favorite photos of her. She wore her American Girl Christmas dress that matched her Bitty Baby’s. Despite the fact a fever and a cold were setting in she looked like a storybook cherub.
It is important to note that after the Christmas buffet the hotel restaurants are closed so that employees can spend some time with their own families on Christmas. The hotel does put out some light nibbles so it might be a good idea to have snacks and drinks in your room if anyone gets hungry.
A Magical Christmas at Ballygally Castle
There’s no place home for the holidays. However, I don’t know if we’ve had one as magical as Christmas at Ballygally. It had been five years since the entire family had crossed oceans to be together for Christmas. We had never all been together for Christmas in Ireland. Three generations of family together laughing and reminiscing about old memories as we made new ones. As we all get older we realize just how precious that time is. Christmas at Ballygally was a wonderful option for the holiday in a fairytale setting. The hotel cooked a beautiful meal. We worried about nothing and simply enjoyed being together. That’s one of the best things about Christmas, isn’t it?
You might also like: