Nestled at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains in County Laois is Ballyfin, one of the worlds's best country manor estate hotels. The restored neo-Georgian estate, voted best new resort in the world for 2012 by the Robb Report, is an hour from Dublin, and sits on 610 verdant acres with walled gardens, a large lake, grottoes and riding paths.
The house has been ranked as one of the finest homes in Ireland ever since it was first built, in 1823.
It served as the country home of the Coote family until 1923, when it was no longer comfortable to be an Anglo-Protestant in Ireland. The family sold the property to a Catholic Brotherhood who ran it as a school until they were no longer able to afford the upkeep. It sat in deteriorating condition until 2002 when American Fred Krehbiel and his wife, Kay, bought the property and began a decade-long renovation.
The result is a sumptuous 15-room hotel, with public rooms decorated with authentic period antiques, gilded ceilings, Chippendale mirrors, significant Irish art and restored parquetry floors.
The library, with a large fireplace at either end, is stocked with 18th-century books, as well as the day's Irish Times.
Each bedroom is different, with spacious bathrooms, modern amenities and king-sized four poster beds. The soaps are handmade (wild rose and sandalwood), and the in-room bar is stocked with elderberry water, organic juices and locally made treats. Stacks of art books sit on the side table.
This secluded estate is a place to step out of time for a while and experience country manor house life. For a few days, you can play at being Lord and Lady Ballyfin.
Peak room rates from $815 to $2,173; includes full board, all amenities of the estate, drinks, laundry, unpacking service and WiFi. Located in Ballyfin, County Laois; ballyfin.com.