Ballyfin is beautiful, breathtaking and in an unrivaled category of it’s own! Pulling into the gates of this walled 614-acre jewel in the center of Ireland, you truly feel like you have stepped back in time and place and entered the most elegant estate in a Jane Austen novel or the most decadent Downton Abbey. When you do arrive at the Main House, gloriously perched above a picturesque lake, after winding 3 kilometers past hay bales, rich green fields, woods and the property’s historic church, members of the loveliest staff await you with warm hand towels and continue to treat you like the Landlord’s most esteemed guests of honor for the duration of your stay.
Every second at Ballyfin is precious and to be treasured. The majestic grounds are both invigorating and tranquil radiating golden light off the lake, trees, and grass. There are countless points of interest to explore outdoors including the walled gardens, the fernery, an Edwardian rock garden, the grotto, the lake, the rose garden, the ice house, and the Medieval-styled tower where you can see much of Ireland on a clear day. Bikes, golf carts, row boats are all available and if you want a little more activity, there is tennis, archery, shooting, and falconry. The interiors are equally magnificent from intricate inlaid floors of oak, sandalwood, rosewood, and mahogany, to gilded mirrors and chandeliers, no detail has been overlooked or expense spared. Originally built in 1820 by two of Ireland’s greatest architects, Sir William and Richard Morrison, this Regency styled country mansion celebrates a rich history. With the dawning of Irish Independence the Anglo-Irish Cootes family sold the property to the Patrician Brothers who ran Ballyfin as a school for the next 80 years. After a meticulous nine-year renovation, Ballyfin reopened it’s doors in May 2011 as the finest 15-room luxury experience imaginable.
Balance is the name of the game at Ballyfin and physically everything is in perfect symmetry. The drawing room, for example, has a “decorative” door to balance the real oak and mahogany door, and the 80 foot library has matching fire places. Most importantly, what Ballyfin does best is harmonize lavish grandeur with quiet intimacy. Formality with ease and comfort. The property is for residents only and you truly appreciate the privacy when reading in the drawing room, exploring the gardens or running around the lake. You feel like a select guest of this opulent estate that it is almost all yours to enjoy.
Many members of the staff attended Ballyfin when it was the school and take genuine pride in ensuring that you have the most incredible experience by politely making sure that your every need is met without ever hovering. The evening ritual would begin with a glass of champagne that Dad and I chose to enjoy both nights in the gold drawing room. Our beloved head waiter, Richard, would come in and take our order and then escort us into the intimate, yet adorned, fire-lit dining room, with views of the lit up cascade fountain. Chef Ryan Murphy’s culinary creations were both delicious and visually beautiful. Highlights included tomato tartar with edible flowers, lobster with peas, homemade egg pasta and lobster bisque, and the most amazing pear souffle I have ever had. Dinner is a bountiful and decadent experience and almost all of the ingredients come from the grounds you have walked that day. We saw the chef, cutting herbs and gathering vegetables in the garden. You even have the option of selecting your own eggs from the hen house for breakfast. Whatever is not available on the property is sourced locally and everything is out of this world!
Ballyfin is a magical retreat – unabashed luxury tempered with effortless coziness. It was nearly impossible to leave and I can’t wait to return. It sets the bar high and I can honestly say it is the most special hotel I have visited.