Irish bolthole Ballyfin combines relaxed luxury with unrivalled levels of grandeur. Words by Jonathan Whiley. 


Where is Maggie Smith when you need her?

Sipping champagne in the Gold Room of Ballyfin, the only piece missing is a dowager countess with a catty aside.

There is no getting away from the Downton Abbey parallels at this lavish Regency mansion in the heart of Ireland.

And, there's plenty to attract the modern day A-list.

Amal and George Clooney stayed at Easter. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian honeymooned here.

Richard E Grant has joked about “being the hotel’s PR manager”.

It oozes pomp and power. Some 250-year old elk antlers rest above nine-foot doors. They have been hewn from old Cuban mahogany.

An early 19th-century Italian marble mosaic paves the entrance hallway.

Original fireplaces roar into life as darkness descends.

The estate was once the ancestral home of the Wellesley-Poles, family of the Duke of Wellington.

Then the Coote family took up residence for a century.

In more recent years, the 600-acre grounds were home to a boarding school before a Chicago businessman bought the estate in 2002.

A nine-year restoration project was undertaken to restore it to its Regency heyday.

There are reminders of its storied past – the Cootes’ coat of arms still remains and family portraits pepper the grand staircase.

Private yet accessible, the house is a 90-minute drive from Dublin airport.

Sports include archery, falconry, tennis and clay-pigeon shooting.

Or try a silver service picnic or a horse-and-carriage tour of the Robin Hood-esque woodland.

Enjoy a light lunch in the breath taking orangery (disguised behind a bookcase in the library).

Take a swim in the heated pool (spa facilities also include treatment rooms), before assembling for an aperitif.

À la carte and tasting menu options offer exceptional seasonal and local fare with a point of difference.

Think local duck with rhubarb and Szechuan pepper or Kilkenny rose veal with hand-rolled gnocchi.

Seduction lies at every turn and most of all in the relaxed, charming service.

Staying here is like devouring a knickerbocker glory; serving up a sense of occasion, bygone extravaganza and bags of fun.


Rates start from around £508 per room per night.

Find more information about Ballyfin here.

For more hotel and travel reviews, see the Travel section of our website.

You may like to read about The Waterside Inn, Bray in French Fancy.

Or find out about 5-star Villa Marie in St Tropez Haven.

This article was first published in the Mayfair Times.