Ed Leahy checks out some of Ireland great country houses.
Some of Ireland’s most luxurious accommodation and finest foods are to be found throughout the many extravagant country houses on the island. Great food, spectacular settings, timeless charm, Irish country houses really make for an ideal break, so if you are planning a weekend or midweek escape in the New Year, here are some suggestions:
Dunbrody House Located on the dramatic Hook Peninsula on the south coast, Dunbrody House is a luxury small hotel operated by renowned chef Kevin Dundon and his wife Catherine. The beautiful Georgian building features the original 1830s’ Irish oak floors, pitched pine window shutters, high ceilings, twinkling chandeliers and crackling turf fires. The hotel’s 22 magnificent rooms include suites, deluxe, superior and standard rooms as well as a guest lodge. The dining experience is the hotel’s main attraction as celebrity chef Dundon runs the award-winning restaurant renowned for always featuring home and locally produced, seasonal ingredients. Cookery courses are available, while the on-site Dunbrody Spa is another great feature of the country house hotel and the location makes it ideal for anyone spending time in Ireland’s sunny southeast.
Cashel House Hotel Located in the heart of Connemara, Cashel House Hotel is a luxury four-star family run hotel overlooking Cashel Bay. The mid-19th century country house is set in 50 acres on the Connemara coast. With 17 guestrooms, including 13 suites, the hotel is a previous winner of Georgina Campbell’s ‘Hotel of the Year’ award and boasts an excellent restaurant, while afternoon tea and lunch at the hotel come highly recommended. The hotel’s sprawling grounds include award-winning gardens and woodland walks, and with the beauty of Connemara’s coast, beaches and spectacular scenery in the vicinity, a break at Cashel House will prove very memorable.
Ballymaloe House Renowned as one of the finest country houses in Ireland, Ballymaloe House dates back to the 15th century. The house is most commonly associated with the cooking of Darina Allen and Rachel Allen and its famous culinary school. A variety of accommodation options are available including a 15th century Norman tower, while the rooms combine modern comforts with timeless elegance. There are also a number of self-catering cottages situated in the farmyard. A wide range of activities are available at Ballymaloe House including a heated outdoor swimming pool, a tennis court, massage and beauty treatments and a five-hole golf course. Bicycles are available for guests, while walking tracks are also located in the vicinity of Ballymaloe.
Ballyfin Demense Ballyfin opened in May 2011 as a five-star country house hotel and is located in beautiful surrounding at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The site is steeped in history and was once the family home of the Duke of Wellington, while the magnificent house was built by renowned Irish architects Richard and William Morrison and dates back to the 1820s. The house has recently undergone a remarkable renovation, which took eight years to complete. With only fifteen guest rooms, a break at Ballyfin will certainly soothe the soul as you explore the 600-acre estate and the stunning reception rooms throughout. Food lovers will also be spoilt for choice as award-winning head chef Jean Michel meets with guests individually to discuss favourite foods so that Ballyfin can accommodate certain preferences.
Ardtara Once voted the ‘Most Romantic Hotel of the Year’, Ardtara is a 19th-century manor house set in eight acres of woodland in County Derry. The country house boasts nine individually styled guest rooms enjoying fine views of the extensive lawns and surrounding countryside. The restaurant is renowned throughout the region and has been recognised for its excellent menu offering a range of local and European dishes. Ardtara is ideally located close to the north coast of Ireland, where some world class tourist attractions are waiting to be explored, including the Giants’ Causeway, Royal Portrush golf links, the Glens of Antrim and Derry City.
Tankardstown Built amidst an 80-acre estate of courtyards, walled gardens, park and woodland, Tankardstown House is a beautifully restored 18th-century country manor house. Tankardstown houses six heritage bedrooms boasting wonderful views over the estate, which includes a lime tree avenue, a magnificent orangery and vast gardens. Further accommodation is available in the Courtyard’s 12 suites, while the Brabazon restaurant has established itself as one of the best in the area, offering a seasonal a la carte menu, using ingredients sourced locally and from the ever-evolving on-site walled organic garden. Located just outside the historic town of Slane in County Meath, Tankardstown is an ideal location to explore the many tourist attractions dotted throughout the Boyne Valley, including Newgrange and the Hill of Tara.
Newforge House Dating back to 1785, this Georgian country house was extensively renovated in 2005 and now boasts six individually designed bedrooms and stunning reception rooms. Many original features remain, combined with a contemporary touch, to make Newforge House the ideal option for a weekend of luxury. The quality dining options make up a large part of the Newforge experience with seasonal menus sourcing the best of local produce, while guests can dine by the open fire in winter months. Located close to Belfast and the shores of Lough Neagh, Newforge is the perfect base for anyone exploring the north of Ireland as golf, fishing, water and motor sports are all available, while the beautiful Lurgan Park is nearby.
Currarevagh House Set in 180 acres of private parkland and woodland overlooking the scenic Lough Corrib, Currarevagh House is a Victorian-style country house with twelve guestrooms. The bedrooms all enjoy great views over the lough, while the dining experience focuses on classically simple menus based on fresh, local produce. Afternoon tea can be enjoyed in the drawing room, while their renowned Edwardian-style breakfast includes locally produced sausages, pudding and bacon, honey roast ham, selection of cheeses and home-baked soda bread. The location on the banks of the Corrib makes it the perfect base for any holidays exploring the Aran Islands, The Burren and Connemara, while many walking routes and horseriding options are located locally. www.currarevagh.com