The Top Resort Hotels in the U.K. and Ireland in 2017
Let’s be honest: when traveling to rural Ireland or the United Kingdom, most of us crave a country-estate experience along the lines of Downton Abbey, ideally featuring a redoubtable butler, hunting dogs, and perhaps a classic car or two.
That perhaps explains the popularity of your favorite resort hotel in the region: Ballyfin, a Regency mansion in the Slieve Bloom Mountains of Ireland. With just 20 rooms set on 614 acres, it seems the success of this Relais & Châteaux property lies in re-creating the experience of staying on a grand estate. As one respondent put it, “A dream hotel where you are transported to another time, one of gentility and refinement.”
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.
Ashford Castle, second on the list this year, left visitors with a similar sense of having stepped back in time. This spectacular 800-year-old castle in the verdant countryside of County Mayo, Ireland, is a longtime favorite with World’s Best respondents, who love its historic atmosphere as well as its “exquisite” room décor and “simply impeccable” service. Guests can wander the grounds, take an archery lesson, go horseback riding, or even try falconry. “We felt like royalty,” said one reader. “WOW! The hotel amenities are something to marvel. Breathe in a very rarefied experience — life is good!”
This was a particularly strong year for Ireland, which was home to four out of the top five resort hotels. And two on the list — Ashford Castle and Sheen Falls Lodge — recently had significant renovations, which speaks to our readers’ appreciation for something newly fashionable (albeit still old-world). Read on for the full list of properties.
5. Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, St. Andrews, Scotland
4. Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa, County Wicklow, Ireland
3. Sheen Falls Lodge, County Kerry, Ireland
2. Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland
1. Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland
Though just an hour or so outside Dublin, it seems a stay at Ballyfin represents not only a total escape from the city but also a break from modern life. This small, exclusive property offers guests a rare opportunity to experience a stay on a country estate that looks much as it did during its days as the home of a baronet. Each of the 20 rooms at the hotel, which underwent an nine-year renovation leading up to its opening in May 2011, is uniquely designed and painstakingly restored according to the original Regency design. Guests found the results transportive. As one said, “I have never in my life been surrounded by such beauty. The Manor House is mind-blowing.”