Ireland is famous for its B&Bs. The delicious home-cooked breakfasts, the unique attention of an Irish Mammy (not to mention the scones), and local hosts only dying to impart tips like the sandiest beach nearby or the best farmers market for picnic supplies.
But what if the B&B expanded to include a dinner party? A type of ‘Come Dine With Me’ with fellow visitors, making your stay B&B&D? You could spend the afternoon tramping forest paths or snuggled fireside with a novel, and come evening, a home-cooked feast shared with like-minded travellers awaits. Well, no more what ifs, because the people at Hidden Ireland are way ahead of you. They manage historic country houses that treat visitors as honored guests, offering an unforgettable stay among sublime architecture and a scrumptious meal among charming hosts.
They have 33 of these hidden gems dotting the island, so we’ve invited six of them to the table to see what’s on the menu.
Delphi Lodge, County Galway
Now, when we first set our eyes on Delphi Lodge in we couldn’t manage more than, ‘Look….house….pretty….so pretty’. Luckily for us the more articulate chaps at the Financial Times managed to sum it up when they described it as ‘an estate of fabulous beauty’. A playground to the privileged since 1830, the 1,000-acre estate is famed for its fly-fishing, shooting, great wine cellar and delicious dinners around one big table. It is now run by Peter and Jane Mantle, who took on the task of DIY TLC and refurbished the house in 1985 making it one of the most sumptuous homes on the island. Oh good, our words are coming back now.
Woodbrook House, County Wexford
Stairs can be such a chore can’t they? If they look like those in Woodbrook House however, we’d be up and down them like a yo-yo. Coincidentally, the house is set against the rather dramatic backdrop of the aptly named Blackstairs Mountains where owners Giles and Alexandra Fitzherbert can climb and say with complete confidence ‘Hey, we can see our house from here!’. The drama doesn’t end there, as the house makes the perfect accompaniment to the nearby Wexford Opera Festival in October, and each summer when an opera production takes place either in the garden or another country house in the neighbourhood. What a neighbourhood.
Tyrella House, County Down
Tyrella House in County Down boasts Ivy-clad walls, a Doric columned porchway, huge bay windows, a secluded private beach, and a home to the Corbett family for many years. We can’t help be a little jealous of owner David Corbett. If he’s not maintaining his vegetables in the garden or cooking up gastronomic glories in the kitchen, he’s galloping along miles of sandy beach or teaching polo in one of the fields. We’re guessing someone else does the dusting.
Roundwood House, County Laois
Let us set the scene if you will – the grand sitting room of Roundwood House , snow is pelting the window, your family are crowded around a contentious Monopoly board and a fire crackles behind you. Just as you’re about to pass Go and decide you’ve never felt more cozy in your life, your host Hannah Flynn beckons you into the dining room for a home cooked feast. As you retire to your bed later, you tarry a moment at the window and watch the stars illuminate the dusting of snow on the Slieve Bloom mountains. Even if you lost at Monopoly, that’s a really great evening.
The Manor, County Wicklow
The Manor House in is the type of sprawling country retreat you’d imagine great artists and writers would sojourn to, for a ramble around old paneled rooms while tapping a pen against their chin. A stroll in the blooming gardens would surely follow, before finding inspiration in the sun warming petal of a purple rhodendron bush. At that point host Margaret Cully would probably call them in for breakfast, and they’d have to put their steaming fresh, buttered scones ahead of penning their latest masterpiece. Sometimes, art can wait.
Drenagh, County Londonderry
In the year 1836 the McCausland Family built Drenagh House in County Down and luxury moved in, too. Drenagh is dripping in verdant bling and features the intriguingly-named Moon Garden as well as being dissected by the charmingly named Curly River. In true regency fashion the grounds even boast their own cricket pitch. And as the house sits on a thundering 1,000 acres of parkland, you don’t have to worry about hitting a six through the kitchen window. Hosts Sheelagh and Conolly McCauseland probably have no time for games, what with the 70 acres of gardens on the estate to be strolling through.