Ballyfin is right in the heart of Ireland, in the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. It is quite remote and rural to allow for greater privacy and seclusion for guests at the house.
The grounds of the actual hotel are vast and filled with more than a few points of interest, including gardens, a lake, ancient woods.
History and romance
Sometimes in order to appreciate the full grandeur and beauty of an ancient building or location, it is important for the viewer to understand the history and background surrounding the structure of place. The Ballyfin property which was built in the 1820’s has a rich and interesting history surrounding the property. Many wonder how the name Ballyfin came to be and the story behind it is that it was derived from the name ‘AnBaileFionn’ which means ‘the fair place’ which is an apt description for the property.
The Ballyfin which is located in County Laois was once controlled by the O’Moore clan but they were driven out during the settlement period in the 16th century. Sir Piers Crosby took control of Ballyfin and went on to build a castle at the grounds.
Emily, the Countess of Kildare wrote to her husband in May 1759 describing her view of the Ballyfin. The Countess wrote ‘Yesterday I saw a most delightful place indeed, much beyond any place I have seen in Ireland – Ballyfin…There is a piece of water there very like what I fancy ours will be, only broader; fine plantations and the greatest variety of trees and flowers almost that I ever saw anywhere.’
The Crosby castle is reported to have been demolished during the 18th century by William Pole. The demesne and the gardens were held in great esteem by Pole who once wrote in his will that the person who enjoys the mansion house and demesne must employ a skilful gardener who would be responsible for caring and ensuring the gardens were kept in good condition at all times.
The estate once again changed ownership in 1813 when the Ballyfin was purchased by Sir Charles Henry Coote, the premier Baronet of Ireland. The Cootes kept the Ballyfin property in their possession for over a hundred years. The family built two houses called Rush Hall and Castle Cuffe which were not used in 1813 and the ruins of the two houses still exist. A brief history on Castle Cuffe can be found here.
During the 1820s, the Cootes decided to remodel and extend the Ballyfin property and hired an architect called Dominick Madden to oversee the project. Madden ran into a few problems with some of his other clients and as a result, the Cootes were forced to find a new designer. They decided to hire Richard Morrison and his son William Vitruvius Morrison who proposed a plan that was completely different from what Madden had earlier submitted. They wanted to demolish Madden’s library and vestibule which were only just completed and somehow succeeded in convincing Sir Charles Coote to give them the go ahead with their plans.
The Cootes decided to sell the property after keeping it in their possession for over a hundred years. There were a number of reasons that contributed to this decision. The Ballyfin was never really able to turn a profit, changing political conditions and the loss of the estate to the Land Commission contributed to the decision to sell. The Ballyfin and the demesne were purchased in 1928 for just £10,000 by the Patrician Brothers. This was just a fraction of the cost of what it took to build the Morrison designed property nearly a 100 years before.
The Patrician Brothers ran a boarding school on the property till they decided to sell the property in September 2011. These days the historic property is kept private and tourists are not allowed on the premises. There are special occasions on which the owners allow local school children to visit the property and experience the beauty and splendor of the Ballyfin. The kids are always captivated by the demesne and the whispering room which has fantastic acoustics. On rare occasions, the owners also allow architecture experts from around the world to visit the property.
County Laois, formerly known as Queen's County, in Ireland was named after the medieval kingdom of Loigis. The county's name was never formally changed from Queen's County though, so whenever land is sold here, the title deed still reflects the name Queen's County. It is known as the most landlocked county in Ireland because it doesn't border any counties that touch the coast.
The county's population has seen rapid growth due to its proximity to Kildare and Dublin, where most of the country's jobs can be found, while cheap housing with gorgeous surroundings can be found within the county. In fact it is the tenth largest county in Ireland in terms of its population.
Five 18-hole golf courses are spread across the county. Other places of interest are the Slieve Bloom Mountains, the Rock of Dunamase, the Emo Court, Castle Durrow, Heritage House in Abbeyleix, Timahoe Round Tower, Mountmellick Quaker Museum, and so on.
Getting around Kilkenny
Kilkenny is a city in south-east Ireland, based in County Kilkenny. It is a popular destination for tourists. Kilkenny is the anglicized translation of the Irish Cill Chainnigh, which means Church or Cell of Canice. In 2009, the city celebrated its 400th anniversary of having been granted the status of a city.
Areas of interest include Kilkenny Castle, Rothe House, Black Abbey, St. John's Priory, St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Canice's Cathedral, Watergate Theatre, and several public gardens as well as numerous museums. St. Mary's Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic bishop of Ossory, while the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cashel is located at St. Canice's Cathedral. A number of annual events are held in this city as well, owing to its popularity with tourists. For instance, the Cat Laughs comedy festival, Kilkenny Art Festival, Source concert, and Rhythm and Roots festival all take place here.