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Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland

For the uncompromising, there’s no other option, this close to Dublin!  If you’re used to fabulous service, exquisite surroundings and unparalleled attention to detail, then Ballyfin may create a new benchmark for luxury. If you’ve never been exposed to such splendors, then be prepared to be immersed in one of Ireland’s best hotel offerings. You’ll drive through the property’s impressive acreage to reach the main house. That alone is noteworthy, but as you’re greeted – in winter, as I was, with a warm towel to freshen up, you will be immediately enveloped by its austere warmth… two words that usually don’t go together.

Whether you are beneath a canopy in one of their luxurious suites, or choose a more modest – and I use that term very loosely – entry-level suites, you’ll find the amenities and decor surpass your expectations. Every penny of the recent $50 million restoration can be felt, seen, tasted and smelled… right down to the hand soap. After a soak in the tub and stroll to your sleeping area, the body melts into sumptuous bedding.

You’ll want to loll luxuriantly in your gorgeous room, but all the common areas – again, common is probably being misused here – beckon you to sit by the fire and sip champagne, surrounded either by secret passageways or books that date back to the home’s 19th century origins. We will leave the gardens, lake, cascading water feature and grotto to your imagination. Do ask to see the Turner conservatory, and know that the staff is always at the ready: The bartender won’t even leave until he hears your first snore… hopefully from your room. This is the 5-star luxury country home vacation splurge you must add to your list. www.Ballyfin.com




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