The Top 10 Resort Hotels in the U.K. and Ireland
For a country so small it can be navigated from coast to coast by car in several hours, Ireland does itself proud, with its resorts landing six of the top 10 spots here, including No. 1. That will come as little surprise to visitors who have enjoyed the country’s winning hospitality, whether in its pubs or grand hotels — and of course, its breathtaking scenery.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
Castle hotels are a big draw in Ireland, especially those that retain their centuries-old charm while integrating flawless renovations. Ashford Castle dates back to the 13th century, but a recent $75 million overhaul to this lakeside property brought the public spaces and 83 rooms squarely into the 21st. Guests can take advantage of the 26,000 acres of forest and pasture that make up the castle grounds with hikes, golf, horseback rides, and even falconry. They can also appreciate a piece of cinematic history, visiting nearby locations where John Ford filmed 1952’s The Quiet Man, starring Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne. “Outstanding in every respect,” wrote one guest.
For the same type of royal treatment in Scotland, readers voted for Inverlochy Castle Hotel, a manicured 19th-century property overlooking Loch Na Marag, while golfers swing toward St. Andrews’ Old Course Hotel, Golf & Spa. “Beautiful sunset views from the castle terrace,” said one Inverlochy fan, while an Old Course loyalist wrote, “Rooms, service, views of the ocean…all spectacular.”
England is represented with Cliveden House, built in 1666 by the Duke of Buckingham as a gift to his mistress. Only 20 minutes from Heathrow, it is now a gift to the guests who stay in its three-bedroom cottage or in one of the 47 antique-filled rooms, some of which have fireplaces; each is named after a famed visitor to the house (Henry James has a suite in his honor). There’s no need to leave the 376-acre property, which comprises woodlands and formal gardens, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, and a kids’ club. Wrote one visitor, “Very elegant without feeling stuffy or overdone.” Added another, “The most incredible experience in the U.K.” Read on for the full list of outstanding resort hotels.
10. Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa, County Kerry, Ireland
9. Dromoland Castle, County Clare, Ireland
8. Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway, Ireland
7. Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, Hampshire, England
6. Cliveden House, Berkshire, England
5. Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland
4. Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, St. Andrews, Scotland
3. Sheen Falls Lodge, County Kerry, Ireland
2. Inverlochy Castle Hotel, Torlundy, Scotland
1. Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland
Built in the 1820s and located about an hour outside Dublin, Ballyfin earns the top spot here for the second year in a row, as well as No. 2 in the world. Its 20 spacious rooms are elegantly outfitted with crystal chandeliers, canopied beds, Georgian-era portraits, and marble fireplaces — all befitting the hotel’s former life as a grand country estate owned by a series of wealthy families. In the entrance hall, you’ll see the original mosaic floor, imported from Italy; the Gold Drawing Room has an immaculate stucco ceiling. Within the walled grounds, which span 614 acres, guests can participate in fishing the stocked lake, horseback riding, archery, falconry, and skeet shooting. Wrote one reader, “Hands down the most spectacular hotel I’ve ever stayed in.”
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.