Doubles from €580 (around £517)

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Ballyfin – County Laois

One of Ireland’s most important neoclassical houses, Ballyfin stands in its own 614-acre demesne, including lake, Victorian fernery, Edwardian rockery and walled garden, not to mention the tower with panoramic views. A Downton-esque knot of staff awaits guests on the steps as they arrive, setting the tone for service that is old school yet warm and friendly. The reception rooms are filled with superb antiques and paintings and there’s the fabulous indoor pool, vitality pool, sauna and treatment rooms. The 20 bedrooms are all gorgeous, in classic Irish country house fashion. There is also a beautiful private Gardener’s Cottage available to rent. As for the food, with the highly regarded Sam Moody at the helm – he won a Michelin star for Bath Priory – it effortlessly lives up to the surroundings. Standards are sky high at Ballyfin, and it’s the sort of place where one jarring note would spoil the show. Happily, it never does: this is one of Europe’s great hotels.

Nota Bene

Richard E Grant said, ‘Ballyfin, it was like stepping back in time without the inconvenience of no electricity. The welcome, the setting, the food, I should be their PR Manager.’


The view from the 18th Century tower on the grounds of the property. It is claimed that on a clear day, one can see as many as 8 counties from the top of it.


At the hotel for an Irish feast. The new executive chef, Sam Moody (formerly of The Bath Priory) is livening up the menu after joining in October.


Yourself some time. Go for a walk and enjoy a slower pace of life at Ballyfin.

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