5 Star luxury country house hotel in the heart of Ireland.

Set at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in the centre of Ireland, Ballyfin is a place of history and romance, of tranquility and great natural beauty.

The house has long been admired as the most lavish Regency mansion in Ireland, and after eight years of restoration, Ballyfin re-opened in May 2011 as a 5 star country house hotel  like no other. It offers the very best of Irish hospitality in the most beautiful surroundings imaginable.

With only twenty rooms for the 614 acre estate, this 5 star luxury hotel is the perfect place for a break from the stresses of the modern world and provides discretion and privacy like few other destinations. With just 20 bedrooms it is also the ideal place to take over for a very special celebration.

Ballyfin is shown slightly left of centre at the top of this sixteenth-century map. At this date it was a modest settlement in a forest.
Finalised design for Ballyfin by Richard Morrison
The Governesses and their young charges in a donkey and trap outside Ballyfin

History

Steeped in Irish history, the site of Ballyfin has been settled from ancient times and was ancestral home in succession to the O’Mores, the Crosbys, the Poles, the Wellesley-Poles – the family of the Duke of Wellington – and later the Cootes.

Steeped in Irish history, the site of Ballyfin has been settled from ancient times and was ancestral home in succession to the O’Mores, the Crosbys, the Poles, the Wellesley-Poles – the family of the Duke of Wellington – and later the Cootes.

The Coote family was descended from Sir Charles Coote, an Elizabethan adventurer who came to Ireland in 1601. The Coote coat-of-arms is prominently displayed above the entrance to Ballyfin.

The house itself was built in the 1820s for another Sir Charles Coote to designs by the great Irish architects Sir Richard and William Morrison. The Cootes enjoyed the house for exactly one hundred years employing a large team of servants to preserve the life of refined leisure that is documented in Edwardian photographs showing tea on the terrace or skating in the walled garden. As the political situation changed with the dawning of the Irish Independence, the Cootes sold the estate to the Patrician Brothers who, for much of the twentieth century, ran a much-loved school at Ballyfin. After many years of restoration Ballyfin reopened its doors in May 2011.

The Conservatory was a fragile cage in need of repair.
Each component of the Conservatory was removed off-site for specialist consolidation and repair

Having fallen into disrepair over the years, Ballyfin has been painstakingly restored over the course of the last decade.

The urgent need for repairs had become all too apparent when a large part of the ceiling in the Gold Drawing Room collapsed having been undermined by wet rot. Masonry was falling from the façade and the Conservatory, choked with overgrown vegetation, was in a dangerous state. The future of one of Ireland’s finest houses was perilously uncertain.

The restoration project has taken nine years – significantly longer than it took to build the house in the first place. Every single aspect of the house from the roof down required remedial attention. Skilled craftsmen worked on the elaborate inlaid floors, repaired the gilding and the stucco work or treated the stone work of the house which was disintegrating.

Restoration

After this emergency work, a process of redecoration could begin with carefully selected paint finishes, papers and textiles bringing the interiors back to life. The house has been furnished with a collection of Irish art and antiques from around the world, fine Irish mahogany, French chandeliers and mirrors by Thomas Chippendale. The result is spectacular, and today one of Ireland’s most endangered great houses has emerged ready for the current century, a place of grandeur, yet warmth, providing the kind of welcome envisaged when the house was first built.

Large areas of the cornice and frieze in the Gold Room were recast to produce invisible repairs

Gardens and Estate

The estate is fabled for its natural and man-made beauties and as the demense is open to residents only, Ballyfin offers a perfect opportunity for rest, tranquility and outdoor activities.

At Ballyfin, stone walls enclose 614 acres of parkland, a lake and ancient woods, delightful garden buildings, follies and grottoes. The landscape, laid out in the mid-eighteenth century, is among the finest examples in Ireland of the natural style of gardening inspired by ‘Capability’ Brown. There are many highlights that will keep garden lovers and outdoor enthusiasts exploring for days. These include the medieval-style tower, built as a folly in the 1860’s, the walled garden with its formal borders and kitchen gardens, the abundant wildlife to be seen on early morning walks and the restored Edwardian rock garden.

Art & Interiors

Ballyfin houses an outstanding collection of paintings which traces the development of Irish art from the mid-seventeenth century to today. Works by many of the leading figures of Irish Art, as well as paintings and drawings of Irish subject matter by continental and American artists provide for a fascinating exploration of Ireland’s art, history, topography and social life, reflecting both the splendour of the Great House and also the humble life of the cottage.

The family portraits showing generations of the Cootes were reinstalled, having left the house some ninety years ago and make for a sensational display on the grand staircase. The works on show in the State Rooms and bedrooms give an account of Irish painting focusing on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Downstairs meanwhile, the bar and treatment rooms are filled with more modern works ranging from twentieth-century Irish masters such as Mainie Jellett and Louis le Brocquy, to young artists at the beginning of their careers including Michael Canning and Blaise Drummond; throughout the house the creative spirit of Ireland is made dazzlingly evident.

John George Mulvany
Compared to artists of the eighteenth century, later Irish painters delighted in anecdotal detail. This is apparent in a delightful evocation of rural life in early nineteenth-century Ireland by JOHN GEORGE MULVANY (c. 1766-1838) who was one of the original members of the Royal Hibernian Academy. It shows assorted figures outside an inn, near Carlingford Lough. The inn sign shows a cat playing Irish pipes while in the distance can be seen the Mourne Mountains.
Bartholomew Colles Watkins
A more coldly empirical view of the Irish landscape is apparent in the work of BARTHOLOMEW COLLES WATKINS (1833-1891). Here he shows figures at work piling peat into stacks; the scene is set in the mountains of Connemara near Letterfrack. The subject matter and particularly the way in which the shapes of the peat stacks echo the mountains anticipate later Irish artists such as Paul Henry.
Thomas Roberts
Perhaps the greatest Irish landscape painter of the eighteenth century, THOMAS ROBERTS (1748-1777) was born in Waterford in 1748. Tragically he was to be dead a mere 28 years later. Having suffered from consumption for several years, he left Ireland for Portugal in the hope of recovering, but died in Lisbon in 1777. Roberts’s art combines careful observation with a delicate deftness of touch. His handling of light is particularly admired and his skill in this area may be attributable to the practice (unusual at the time) of painting out of doors. Only about sixty-five pictures by Roberts survive including this attractive example showing mares and a foal in a wooded landscape which is dated 1773.
William Ashford
Although born in Birmingham, WILLIAM ASHFORD spent his entire career in Ireland, having arrived in 1764 under the patronage of Ralph Ward, the head of the Ordnance Department. From 1767 Ashford showed at the Society of Artists in Dublin where his early exhibits consisted of flower pieces and still-lives; an attractive, if rather naïve, example in this genre, A Group of Flowers (1766), is in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. It was not until 1772 that he showed his first landscape, winning the second-placed premium from the Dublin Society (just behind Thomas Roberts). The following year he won the first prize.

Reception Rooms

Irish country houses were created as places for entertainment. The restoration has aimed at returning Ballyfin as closely as possible to how it functioned when it was built. Conceived on a generous scale for receiving guests, Ballyfin combines magnificence and intimacy in its State Rooms. The decoration of these interiors has long been acclaimed as among the finest of the Neoclassical and Empire periods in Ireland.

The Entrance Hall – welcomes you with a richly-patterned antique mosaic floor brought from Italy in 1822
The Saloon – a wonderful gathering place with a grand piano at the centre of the house
The Conservatory – hidden behind a bookcase in the Library is a mirrored doorway that opens into the balmy tropical conservatory
The Gold Drawing Room – the grandest and most elegant reception room with many details and decorations in the French

From the enormous Saloon at the heart of the house, to the eighty-foot Library which runs the length of its south façade, the State Rooms make for a glorious backdrop to a stay in the house. The Library is perfect for whiling away a few hours with plenty of quiet corners for conversation. Alternatively guests may enjoy the elegance of the Gold Drawing Room, with its French inspired decoration and beautiful ceiling of rich stucco work, the grandeur of the Saloon, or the informality of the sun-filled Conservatory, reached through a secret door hidden in a bookshelf of the Library.

At Ballyfin formality is blended with ease and enjoyment. Guests are invited to enjoy these splendid interiors, decorated with Irish art and antiques from around the world, in the same spirit of refined elegance as visitors to the house did in the 1820s when Ballyfin was built.

The Ballyfin Bar – downstairs in the former staff dining hall is decorated with a collection of contemporary Irish art.
The Dining Room – the state dining room is decorated with scagliola columns and overlooks the cascade and pleasure grounds
The Stair Hall – is brought into a room of its own with its cantilevered stair and hung with Coote family portraits
The Wine Cellar – wonderfully atmospheric with elaborate vaults, limestone columns and a series of distinctive arched storage bins

BALLYFIN DEMESNE

Ballyfin, County Laois, R32 PN34 Ireland

Tel: +353 (0)5787 55866
Fax: +353 (0)5787 55883
Email: info@ballyfin.com

Ballyfin: The House

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