The key to the success of Ballyfin Demesne, the Irish five-star hotel currently ranked number one in the world by Condé Nast Traveller readers, lies in the name. This painstakingly restored Regency mansion in idyllic surroundings – nestled beneath the Slieve Bloom Mountains, within 600 acres of lush parkland that include its own private lake – still feels like an 1820s country estate, from the elegant grounds to the beautifully appointed bedrooms to the artwork adorning the walls. Ballyfin offers something more than just opulence. A night spent here can seem to transport guests to a different time, far away from the trials of modern life – and that’s a luxury worth the price.
Ballyfin Demesne, Cappanrush, Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland, +353 57 875 5866
Ashford is no stranger to awards either. The Lodge at Ashford Castle came in at number nine in the same poll of the world’s best hotels that Ballyfin topped, while Ashford Castle itself was recently voted the number one resort and inn in Ireland and Britain for 2016 by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine. Probably most famous for featuring in the Oscar-winning film The Quiet Man – and housing its cast during filming – Ashford Castle can boast 82 bedrooms, Ireland’s best hotel spa according to the 2016 World Spa Awards, and a 350-acre estate.
Ashford Castle, Leaf Island, Cong, County Mayo, Ireland, +353 94 954 6003
Rivalling Ballyfin in the picturesque stakes, the location of Powerscourt Hotel – across a valley from the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain – is tough to beat. A Palladian, 194-room hotel on the secluded grounds of a historic country estate dating back to the 13th century, this peaceful hotel in the Wicklow countryside offers a spectacular signature restaurant, two championship golf courses and close proximity to Ireland’s highest waterfall. With bedroom options that range from a classic deluxe up to the Presidential Suite, a room that opens onto the balcony terrace is worth the splurge for their incredible vistas.
Powerscourt Hotel, Tinnehinch, Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland, +353 1 274 8888
Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites
If your idea of luxury is more modern and stripped back than any of the above options, then the innovative Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites may be more your speed. This private retreat on Inis Meáin – the remote ‘middle island’ of the three Aran Islands – states its central aim as being to facilitate exploration of the natural surroundings. The interiors are incredibly inviting all the same, with stylish minimal furnishings, super-kingsize beds, and wetrooms with Swadling power showers. Some people go just for the restaurant, where veteran Irish chef Darina Allen has said she tasted the best meal she has ever had (a feast of fresh sea urchins).
Monart Destination Spa
A beautiful Georgian house outside Enniscorthy, Monart Destination Spa is an adults-only, 68-bedroom hotel with views of County Wexford‘s Vinegar Hill. This spa hotel provides an immersive experience, prioritising detoxifying treatments and rejuvenating rest. They take relaxation seriously here, so much so that there is a no wifi policy in the bedrooms, and guests are invited to enjoy the meals at their highly recommended, healthful restaurant while still wearing their downy bathrobes. A choice of rooms with lake or woodlands views are available, and those taking longer stays are encouraged to take up the option of booking a suite, complete with antique four poster beds.