Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ireland: Ballyfin Demesne

Want to stay at Downton Abbey...?

County Laois, not perhaps Ireland’s most interesting County, is however home to one of Ireland’s finest - and most expensive - hotels. Home to the Coote family for just over a century, Ballyfin glittered, before being sold in the 1920s to the Patrician Brothers, a monastic order which ran a school in the neoclassical mansion. In 2002, Fred Krehbiel, a Chicago-based electronics magnate with an Irish wife, set about Ballyfin's meticulous restoration, completing it with ravishing, yet deeply comfortable interiors by Colin Orchard and the original Coote family portraits purchased directly from the descendants.

There is so much to feast your eyes on, from the fine collection of contemporary Irish art to the exquisite marquetry floor, superb stucco work, antique furniture, porcelain, paintings and chandeliers… but also deep sofas, crackling fires and views over the Pleasure Grounds, Cascade and lake that dazzles in the dappled light. The 15 bedrooms of this Relais & Châteaux jewel are both gracious and luxuriously equipped, the food is superb, and the staff is excellent.