There's a dreamlike beauty to this chateau-like mansion set on the slopes of the Slieve Bloom Mountains—as you arrive, a dark tree-lined avenue suddenly opens up to reveal a dramatically gorgeous Palladian villa, and a flock of white geese, some ducks, and hens, as well as a Labrador called Rococo often form the welcoming party. Antique family portraits of the builders—the Sharps, a prominent Quaker family whose wealth derived from the mid-1600s woolen industry—adorn the walls of the curio-filled drawing room. The bedrooms in the main house are elegant and airy, or opt for cozier chambers in the adjacent 17th-century self-catering accommodations. Tiniest of all is the cottage, a stone charmer whose original tenants may have been Hansel and Gretel. Affable hosts Hannah and Paddy Flynn often share your table at dinner, and if Paddy's guitar is to hand, he'll entertain guests with blues or jazz numbers. Frank Kennan, Hannah's father, is known as the "woodman and the bookman." His thousand-volume library of the evolution of civilization can be perused in the Long Room, an outbuilding where concerts and plays are frequently held.
Mountrath, Co. Laois, Ireland