Without exaggeration, Ballymaloe House just has to be the most perfect country house hotel in the world. It has a long history of excellence from the time Myrtle Allen, the matriarch of a large extended family, started serving food there decades ago, and the excellence continues to this day, still looked after by Myrtle, who still lives in the house.
The house itself, a gorgeous stone Georgian building, sits in the middle of a working farm...they raise their own pigs and chickens, and have an extensive kitchen garden which supplies all the vegetables and herbs for the restaurant. The immediate grounds are beautiful, but beyond those are some trails where one can take a walk for an hour or so, through woods or meadows with sheep grazing. The rooms are elegantly comfortable, in a luxurious but understated way. Most look out over the gardens surrounding the house.
Aside from the house itself, the staff is what really makes Ballymaloe a special place. From the genuinely friendly young women at reception, who will do absolutely anything to make your stay what you want it to be, to the barman Thomas, to Anne the breakfast waitress who has worked there for 42 years (!), and to Myrtle who is often present to greet you and have a chat, they all make you feel like a valued guest....and they are not just pretending to be gracious and welcoming, they really are that way. I can't say enough superlatives!
And the restaurant!! One of the best ever, and I have dined in a lot of great places. Five courses...appetizer (soup or other), 2nd course, main course, followed by the cheese cart (with 5 or so selections), then by the dessert cart (also 5 or so selections). It sounds like a lot, but the dining proceeds slowly and at the end you are satisfied but not "too-full." The menu changes every night and is of the highest quality...not crazy modern dishes so much in vogue lately, but traditional dishes which have stood the test of time. And the breakfast is of the same exceptional quality..."first course" of porridge, baked goods, fruits, muesli, etc...then the "full Irish of eggs, sausage, bacon, black and white puddings, tomato, mushrooms, and (if you want it) kippers or baked cod. You will not need to eat lunch!
I probably sound like someone who works for a pr firm and is writing up a rave review of Ballymaloe House, but I'm not...just an older American guy who spent a memorable week there, and want everyone to know what a truly great place it is. I hope you can experience it some time!
I stayed in the lovely "White Room" but my guess is that every room is just as nice.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.