The last part of 2014 and the first part of 2015 were filled with some pretty amazing hotel visits. Getting married and going on a honeymoon is a great excuse to treat yourselves to fancy hotel time. From the Merrion (our wedding venue) to Mount Juliet for a few days revival in Kilkenny, then onto Vanuatu’s Havanna Resort to finish our honeymoon, we were spoiled rotten. Staying at a Holiday Inn will never be satisfying again. We’ve ruined ourselves.
The most expensive hotel in Ireland is Ballyfin House in County Laoise. It had a taste of international fame last year when Kanye and Kim decided to take over the whole house for their honeymoon. Luckily, I think that the guests who would visit (and are able to afford) Ballyfin House don’t really have any idea who Kanye and Kim are.
My mother and I went down to Ballyfin for tea one day. One cannot simply drop in for tea at Ballyfin. You must be a guest or a friend of a guest. Happily for us, we had friends staying there on “business”, so were able to jump onto their coat tails and sail through the gorgeous house one afternoon.
The house was bought and restored by an American. Most people get nervous when they hear that an American is buying up famous old Irish houses and “doing them up”. Well, I must say that this American is a big fan of that American’s job. I don’t know much about restoring a Regency mansion, but what I do know is that Ballyfin is stunning. As much of the original details have been restored to their full grandeur as possible, and though the decore is lush, it is not gaudy.
I loved that the original floors, with their intricate geometric designs, were saved. The glass conservatory took my breath away, and the domed hall wouldn’t be out of place in any gallery or museum.
The public rooms are massive, the windows are 12-15 feet and there is a fire burning in all the grates. Somehow it is at once grand and cosy. We took tea in “The Gold Room”, under portraits of men in fabulous wigs. Guests are allowed (and encouraged) to make themselves at home; to use any of the public rooms available, and to ask for whatever their hearts desire. Our hearts desired some tea biscuits and some cucumber sandwiches and potato chips. I know, the potato chips were a curve ball, but the staff, without batting an eyelid promptly brought us a bowl of hand-cut waffle crisps. Those five-star ratings don’t come from nowhere.
After tea we got to take a tour of some of the bedrooms. Like the public rooms, the bedrooms are grand but not overwhelmingly so. They are comfortable. Cosy (not to overuse that word, but it is the truth). The bathrooms are fabulous. I am a firm believer that a bathroom in a hotel is just as important as a nice bedroom. Maybe more? A deep bath, a good shower, two sinks and a view. Each bathroom at Ballyfin has these elements.
I don’t know that I will ever be able to afford a night at Ballyfin House*, but even our few hours there were delightful. There is nothing like getting to step back in time and being allowed to enjoy being taken care of.
Even though I was thoroughly spoiled in my hotel visits over the past six months, I do hope that I will never lose appreciation for those types of establishments. It’s a treat to get to step into that world; if only just for tea.
*If anyone wants to pay me some money to do anything that would get me a night or two there, please email me.