Located 60 miles southwest of Dublin, Ballyfin is perhaps the greatest Regency house in all of Ireland. In the front hall, we found an antique mosaic brought from Italy during the building’s construction in 1822. This served as prelude to the magnificent public rooms. The parquet floors are among the finest we have ever seen, while sumptuous fabrics and rugs are complemented by mahogany furniture, mirrors by Thomas Chippendale and a collection of Irish art from the 18th century to the present.
This grandeur exists today thanks to the dedication of American businessman Fred Krehbiel and his Irish wife, Kay, who purchased Ballyfin in 2002 and restored the house over a period of nine years. Today, the 15 guest rooms reflect their passion for detail. The walls of our bedroom were hung with 17th-century Flemish tapestries, yet despite the opulence, we felt cloistered in a cozy private world.
We soon fell into the seductive rhythm of country house life: large breakfasts over which we lingered with The Irish Times, followed by walks on the 614-acre property. Under the direction of Fred Cordonnier, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe, including Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, Ballyfin’s kitchen turns out reliably exceptional cuisine.
One evening over pre-dinner drinks, a gentleman from Dublin marveled at the resurrection of Ballyfin: “It is truly a great gift to the nation that the Krehbiels have given us.” And a considerable gift to American travelers, as well.
Deluxe Room, $1,225; State Room, $1,445; Suite, $1,760. Ballyfin, County Laois. Tel. (353) 5787-55866.