The Harrison is a converted Victorian mansion, self-styled as ‘Chambers of Distinction’. It opened its doors in January 2020 and then had to promptly close due to Covid.
Now fully open, each of the 16 rooms has been individually designed by the creative Irish owner, Melanie Harrison, who as well as being a convivial host, has a great eye for design. And each room has been named after someone who has played an important part in Northern Irish history.
The in-joke is that to really enjoy The Harrison, you have to keep coming back to stay in a different room each time. The Irish theme runs through the hotel, with everything sourced as locally as possible.
Original floorboards from a historic Belfast hospital make up the bedroom floors, and the thick wool carpets in the common areas are a Victorian copy made by the company that supplied carpets for the Titanic. The chunky solid grey industrial metal Arroll radiators are an Edwardian replica from an old school. Believing the hotel to be a place for rest and relaxation, there are no televisions or radios. Instead, Melanie has tucked playing cards in the drawers and placed board games in the writing desks.
The staff are friendly and biddable with nothing being too much trouble. Although it’s quiet, it is a city hotel and there will be a little traffic noise.
The Harrison aims to attract visitors to Belfast who want comfortable luxury and would enjoy a little Irish history in their room. There is plenty to do in the city and the hotel has produced a handy guide, from guided walking tours to where to eat and drink. Stage actors performing locally, visiting academics and parents of university students also stay, and it’s already had a few famous guests, but Melanie treats everyone the same. Although children are not discouraged, the hotel best suits singles and adult couples who appreciate some time for relaxation and peace.
Of the 16 rooms, six are Aristocrat suites. These are very large rooms overlooking the lime trees at the front. There is a vestibule creating a passageway for each of these guest rooms. Not only does this cut down potential noise from the corridor, but it also affords a degree of privacy. My room – the Hans Sloane suite – had an antique wardrobe in the vestibule and here on a separate vintage corner cupboard lived my vintage-style kettle with china cups and saucers and tea and coffee.
In my room itself was an oversized king size bed fitted with top quality cotton sheets, both supplied and laundered by a local family firm. Carefully chosen eco-friendly toiletries are by County Down-based Field Day. The star of the show is the roll-top bath beneath a copy of the C16th painting ‘Happy Union’ by Paolo Veronese. Next to the bath is a velvet fireside chair and next to that is a stylish bureau with a reading lamp and ample wall sockets for charging devices. In the window is an antique table with four matching chairs. This is where I enjoyed my breakfast.
The bathroom had a heated towel rail, rainfall shower and a hairdryer is supplied.
There are smaller double rooms to the rear, a twin room and one with two bedrooms – a double and a single. It’s best to look at them one by one to decide which is best for you: Trollope, Van Morrison, Swift, Beckett, Heaney, Lavery, Percy French – all are very different and have a tale to tell.
Food and Drink
The room rate includes a Continental breakfast tray delivered at a time to suit. I had tea with two fresh croissants, jam, orange juice and a luxury yoghurt. Right next door to the Harrison is Blank, which serves very good, cooked breakfasts until late morning and then turns into a restaurant with a five-course tasting dinner for a reasonable price with optional wine flights.
There is a small bar and lounge area downstairs, where local artists sometimes display their work. Very close by is the Barking Dog with superb food and well-kept Guinness and many more from which to choose within a short walking distance. There is free Wi-Fi for all guests.
The Aristocrat suites start from £175 per night for two including breakfast. Bohemian rooms from £99 per night, single with breakfast or can take two people if you don’t mind a squeeze.
Sited on Malone Road in the University district, a short walk from town and near the Botanical Gardens and the Lyric Theatre, students, academics, and creatives all rub shoulders together in this leafy suburb.
Taxis are cheap and plentiful (and you can order one in the hotel lobby).
The Harrison is well placed for a city visit and is within walking distance of many attractions. If you want a bit of personality in your choice of hotel room, along with friendly staff, this small, individual establishment will make an excellent choice.