By Peter Terzian
July 08, 2020
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Courtesy of Ashford Castle

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Visitors head to the great castle hotels of Ireland and Great Britain looking to unwind in the quiet of pastoral surroundings. But these sprawling properties, many of which are former private residences, offer something more than the opportunity to decompress. The U.K. and Ireland’s grand manor houses deliver a chance to escape into the past, to immerse oneself in the fine craftsmanship and well-honed design of earlier centuries, and to come face-to-face with history.

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.

These hotels distinguish themselves for their long-standing connection to the land on which they were built. Take the example of Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, a pastoral charmer deep in the Connemara region of Ireland, that ranked at No. 7. “The grounds of the hotel are spectacular,” wrote one reader, “set in a native oak wood. (Not a lot of these left in Ireland or the world.) The menu features foraged food items, and the local meat and fish complement everything.” Meanwhile Dromoland Castle, at No. 8, sits on land in County Clare that has been cultivated as far back as the 16th century. “They’ve done an amazing job on maintaining the authenticity of the historic castle and blending all the modern-day conveniences,” one voter said. “It oozes charm, class, and heritage and is full of beautiful Irish people delivering awesome service.”

This year’s top accolade goes to Ashford Castle, a historic hotel on the Emerald Isle that ticks all the boxes travelers look for in the best hotels in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

1. Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Score: 94.52

More information: ashfordcastle.com

Located near Ireland’s spectacular western coast, this property has been gradually rising to the top of T+L’s World’s Best Awards over the past few years. Readers swoon about this 13th-century retreat, once the property of the storied Guinness family. “Simply a magical experience for my wife and I,” wrote one voter. “The guests are treated like royalty. The property is beautiful and the food — including the tea service — is superb.” Another commended the careful attention given to younger guests: “My kids still talk about this being their favorite experience in Ireland. They loved getting notes, hidden in a nook under the stairs, from ‘the leprechauns.’”

2. Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland

Courtesy of Ballyfin

Score: 94.48

More information: ballyfin.com

3. The Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland

Courtesy of Gleneagles

Score: 93.14

More information: gleneagles.com

4. Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa, County Wicklow, Ireland

Courtesy of Powerscourt Hotel, Autograph Collection

Score: 92.53

More information: powerscourthotel.com

5. Sheen Falls Lodge, County Kerry, Ireland

Courtesy of Sheen Falls Lodge

Score: 91.20

More information: sheenfallslodge.ie

6. The K Club, County Kildare, Ireland

Courtesy of The K Club

Score: 91.20

More information: kclub.ie

7. Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, County Galway, Ireland

Courtesy of Ballynahinch Castle

Score: 90.95

More information: ballynahinch-castle.com

8. Dromoland Castle, County Clare, Ireland

Courtesy of Dromoland Castle

Score: 90.79

More information: dromoland.ie

9. Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland

Courtesy of Adare Manor

Score: 90.78

More information: adaremanor.com

10. Inverlochy Castle Hotel, Fort William, Highlands, Scotland

Courtesy of Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Score: 90.53

More information: inverlochycastlehotel.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.