The countryside of county Laois is certainly not as well-trodden as much of the island of Ireland in terms of tourism. Nevertheless, deep within the county’s lush verdant countryside sits Ballyfin Demesne – a magnificent regency mansion surrounded by acres of gardens, tended estate and woodlands.
A stay at Ballyfin is nothing short of complete surrender to luxury. Magnificent four-poster beds adorn sumptuous suites overlooking glorious gardens, dinner is eaten by candlelight and horse-drawn carriages stand by to conduct guests around the estate.
Ballyfin Demesne is a true old-world luxury combined with friendly, courteous hospitality that is formal without a trace of stuffiness. The house, while ornate and opulent, will still feel like home during your stay. The team in on hand to tend to your every comfort and wish. To allow you to make your stay all the more memorable, they have also put together an impressive array of activities with everything from boating to whiskey tasting.
1. Cocktail Hour
Drinks before dinner will surely set the tone for a lavish dining experience at Ballyfin. Sip champagne while the piano music plays gently in the background and feel as though you have slipped back in time to a more glamorous era.
Love and passion go into every dish at Ballyfin, and this is evident in everything from the stunning flavours to the immaculate presentation of each dish. The team at Ballyfin pride themselves on crafting their menu around fresh, seasonal and local produce with much of the fresh ingredients being grown on the grounds of the property itself. Their 8-course tasting menu is a true celebration of local Irish fare.
2. Dress up for Drama
Live out your own period-drama inspired fantasy with Ballyfin’s period costume experience. This is the perfect group activity, where both ladies and gents can borrow specially designed period costumes and enjoy a wonderfully theatrical banqueting experience with the lavish interiors of Ballyfin serving as the perfect backdrop. You can also organise for a photographer to capture every moment.
3. Explore the Estate
Another way to explore the best of what Ballyfin has to offer is on foot. Take in the beautiful walled gardens, rose garden, the fernery and the restored Edwardian rock garden.
Explore further, into the ancient woodlands of the Demesne, passing the winter waterfall, visiting the old ruined gate lodge, church and graveyard, all the while keeping an eye out for wildlife such as red squirrels, foxes and pine marten – Irelands rarest native mammal species.
Take a bicycle or even a golf cart and see even more of the estate. There are 614 acres to explore, with hidden treasures around every corner – including the old ice house, Lady Coote’s Aviary, the Tower and more.
4. Plan the Perfect Picnic
In the summer months, there could be no more romantic setting for a picnic than the stunning grounds of Ballyfin. Order your gourmet picnic in advance and choose from an array of beautiful locations around the estate. You are spoilt for choice with gorgeous locations such as the grotto, the temple, the top of the tower or on the banks of the lake.
Groups can also reserve the picnic house and arrive to see their picnic lunch set up for them, in comfortable seclusion and with stunning views of the surrounding estate.
5. Sip tea in the Gold Drawing Room
A favourite of so many visitors to Ballyfin is the magnificent Gold Drawing Room. With stunning vaulted ceilings and a huge glittering chandelier, which casts a twinkling light around the vast space.
Take in the room’s incomparable opulence as you sip your tea from delicate china, feasting on scones with jam and clotted cream, dainty finger sandwiches and delicious pastries.
If you fancy a change of scenery another day, you can also take your tea in the dining room, the library or out in the conservatory is the weather is fine.
6. Ride around the estate in a Horse and Carriage
Combine a romantic excursion and a historical your into one with a horse-drawn carriage ride around the estate. Your carriage will pick you up from the steps of the main house and take you around the pathways of the demesne as you learn about the rich history of the house and grounds. For those who would prefer to explore on horseback, guided treks and lessons can be arranged.
7. A Spell of Serenity in the Spa
The spa at Ballyfin is a wonderfully peaceful space designed to relax and reinvigorate the mind, body and spirit. Linger in the indoor heated pool, overlooking the courtyard and garden, or perhaps indulge in a treatment with one of Ballyfin’s expert spa therapists. Your spa therapist will come to your room to escort you down to the spa. After your treatment you lie back in the relaxation are, take a dip in the pool or detoxify in the sauna. Ballyfin offers invigorating facials, soothing massages and luxurious bath rituals. Treatments are available for him, her or for both of you!
8. Boating on the Lake
The lake at Ballyfin glitters like a midnight blue jewel in the middle of the estate. You can take one of the small boats out on the lake and live out a romantic scene like something straight out a classic film. For the perfect relaxing experience, you can even ask the Butler at Ballyfin to take you out, so that you can sit back and walk the world glide by as you are gently rowed along.
You can also arrange a picnic to be brought to you to be enjoyed right beside the lake. The perfect end to a relaxed afternoon in good weather.
9. Whiskey Tasting
Connoisseurs of fine whiskey won’t want to miss out on the Whiskey Tasting Experiences offered at Ballyfin. Providing an insight into the world of whiskey making, there are several options for different experiences. You can learn exclusively about the history and making of Irish Whiskey or you can opt for a world view of whiskey which will include a comparison of different whiskeys from across the world, including Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, American bourbon and Japanese single malt.
10: Take a House Tour
You might be exhausted after your busy itinerary at Ballyfin, but make sure to squeeze in the house tour before you leave. Ballyfin Demesne is rich in history, built originally by Irish architects Sir Richard and Sir William Morrison, for Sir Charles Coote, who lived there with his family for 100 years. before selling the house to the Patrician brothers. It was then set it up as a boarding school and remained as such until as recently as 2002 when it was purchased by Fred and Kay Krehbiel. The Krehbiels partnered with Jim Reynolds to restore the demesne to its former opulent glory, reopening as a luxury hotel in 2011.
The halls are bedecked with original portraits of former owners, including the Duke of Wellington, and your expert guide will take you through the history of the building and grounds and how it came to be the lavish hotel is it today.