For people who lament that they weren’t born into Downton Abbey–style gentility, Ballyfin, which opened in 2010 after nearly a decade-long restoration, is a fast track to 1820s-era refinement from the moment guests pull up to the front drive. A team of butlers and maids line up on the stone estate’s front steps to unload bags and whisk visitors into the lobby, and from there the Ballyfin experience is a dreamy blur: drinking tea out of antique china while wrapped in an Irish-wool blanket by the fire; being lulled to sleep during a massage in the basement spa; soaking in a clawfoot tub and surveying the meticulously sourced antiques in one of 15 rooms.
Guests are basically lords or ladies for a night or two at this neoclassical home an hour west of Dublin in the county of Laois (pronounced “Leash”). For those who bore of pure leisure, there’s a stone tower to climb, horses to ride, 600 acres to explore, and a lake to walk laps around or row through. The pricey room rates can (almost) be rationalized by the inclusive evening champagne receptions, fancy three-course dinners, snacks, picnic lunches, and Irish breakfasts.
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Ballyfin’s location is honestly a bit random. An hour west of Dublin, the area is best known for its jail—but it’s also home to lovely homes once owned by English gentry (Emo Court is another worth visiting). Along with the Rock of Dunamase, tour the Irish National Stud to see how prized Irish racehorses are reared.
Need to Know
Rooms: 15 rooms. From $600. Check-in: 4 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The dining room—lit by chandeliers and hung with Edwardian portraits—serves multi-course, semi-pretentious menus that pair Irish fish and game with gelées and deconstructed everything. Breakfast is simpler and wholly satisfying: a full Irish comes with black pudding and soda bread, and eggs and hollandaise sit atop Irish smoked salmon. Guests can have sandwiches for lunch in the glass orangery or ask for a picnic to be set up anywhere on the grounds. Spa and gym details: A small gym and pool are open whenever guests want to use them. The spa’s two Restoration Hardware–style treatment rooms use Pevonia and Irish-seaweed-derived Voya products.
Who’s it for: Deep-pocketed architecture, history, or antique buffs—or anyone looking for a taste of the life of leisure of yore. Our favorite rooms: Given the unique design and layout of each guestroom, it’s hard to choose a favorite. But with its blue walls and ivory canopy bed, the Lady Caroline Coote room is particularly lovely: it was the lady of the manor’s boudoir. Don't forget: Make sure to share an accurate arrival time with the staff in order to be greeted with ceremony. On the drive back to Dublin, visit the Rock of Dunamase, a 150-foot limestone outcrop that’s home to the ruins of a medieval castle with spectacular views.