Ever fancied yourself as a Lord or Lady of the manor? Europe has some astonishingly charismatic country houses where history seeps through every pore. These hotels have style, atmosphere and will give you a much-needed fill of that country idyll.
Ballymaloe House, East Cork, Ireland
Legendary Ballymalloe House is an ivy-covered country mansion that is loved worldwide for its food and renowned cookery school. Open since 1964 as a restaurant it is now a guesthouse, cultural centre and more. Located in beautiful East Cork, the hotel is still managed by the Allen family and uses the same garden-to-table philosophy it pioneered back in the 60s. Ballymalloe’s star is still shining brightly; it was the only hotel in Ireland to be listed in the World’s Top 100 hotels list of 2015. Rooms in the main house are elegant, some are spacious and airy and some are cosy and comfortable. A well-curated collection of Irish modern art climbs the historic walls and there are plenty of cultural events taking place; such as the forthcoming Cork French Film Festival, good living days and much more. There’s even a pop-up Pizzeria every Saturday, with lunchtime pizzas made in a wood-fired oven using ingredients collected from the farm.
Borgo Ramezzana, Piedmont, Italy
Nestled at the foot of the Monferrato hills, in picturesque Piedmont, the Borgo Ramezzana is the result of a long and precious restoration. A neo-Gothic mansion that is dominated by a precious crenellated tower decorated with embossed bricks, this is an utterly charming place to stay just an hours drive from Turin. Food for breakfast is reaped from the biological orchard and gardens. The interiors are all about vaulted ceilings, wooden beams, terracotta floors and fabulous fireplace. Rooms are elegant and all feature balconies with hill or pool views.
Château du Colombier, Brittany, France
With so many beautifully preserved Chateau dotted around France, you can be confident the French really know how to do good country living. The Chateau du Colombier just outside St Malo boasts a rose garden, a 6 acre park and is only a 5-minute drive from Brittany’s splendid beaches. Dating back to the 18th century, the hotel is a gastronomic delight too. Feast on lobster and other as-fresh-as-you-like seafood and afterwards take a relaxing massage; the simplest of pursuits to relax and recharge your batteries.
Fairyhill, Gower Peninsula, Wales
Fairyhill is as enchanting as it sounds. Set nearby some of the most spectacular scenery in the Gower Peninsula, it has an outstanding reputation built on excellence in hospitality, ambience and food. What can you expect? From the moment you step into the hotel, you will receive a warm Welsh welcome from Andrew Hetherington and Paul Davies. Rooms in the 18th century house have been remodelled for modern living and include plasma screens, Bose sound systems and beautiful design.
Outside there are acres (24 of them to be precise) of lawns, woodland and a lake to explore. You might not need to venture far either because the restaurant is one of Wales’s finest, serving interesting and intelligent dishes across their lunch and dinner menus. You might find wild local sea bass, white crab & basmati croquette and Thai scented nage or a slow-cooked shoulder of local lamb, orange, cracked pepper and blueberry jus.