Is Ballyfin Demesne really the world’s best hotel?

We checked into the Irish hotel to help answer that question. Also, below is a hotlist of the other stately lodgings around the world that have been restored to their regal splendour.

Ballyfin, Ireland

Ballyfin Demesne, Ireland

Ballyfin Demesne, Ireland

Secluded Elegance with a soft upper lip

Situated on 600 acres of unspoiled green land, Ballyfin is a secluded 15-room country retreat on a vast Georgian estate just an hour and a half away from Dublin. Complete with helipad and look-out tower, the 18th century stately home celebrates its Irish culture and heritage with a series of oil paintings of former lord and lady inhabitants. Elegant chandeliers hang from the elaborate motif ceilings and the grandeur of the public sitting rooms are defined by mahogany furniture, parquet floors and ornate fabrics, as well as a 5,000-volume library which chronicles the house’s compelling history. Carrying on the traditions of its founding era, each guest is welcomed by a crew of immaculate butlers— lining the manor steps— before being whisked straight to one of the period style rooms. Celebrated Chef Fred Cordonnier devises a classic yet refined Irish menu, complimented by organic vegetables from the estate’s own garden. Afternoons in Ballyfin are made for walking, fishing, boating and cycling, or if its raining— as it often does in the Emerald Isle— golf bugging around the estate’s forest trail and lake. If the weather is not in your favour, the plush indoor swimming pool and spa are at hand and how could we forget afternoon tea!

(rates from AED 4,499 per night)

Samode Palace, India

Film reel vintage and palatial drama

This 300-year-old maharaja’s mansion near Jaipur, in the heart of Rajasthan, is cradled amongst the majestic Aravalli Mountains. The Samode Palace— now a grand boutique hotel— is a whimsical sanctum of marble swimming pools, mural-lined walls, mirrored halls, princely antique-filled suites and wise old trees chivalrously adorned with twinkling lanterns. With 43 rooms, including 23 suites— all with a private balcony or terrace— this walled arcadia is not without the modern comforts of a business centre, courtyard wifi, gym, day spa, children’s play area, DVD library and boutique. Guests can wander through the Sheesh Mahal— a breath-taking series of painstakingly detailed walls, domes and murals. Decorated with 16th-century hand-painted walls, opulent chandeliers and silver armchairs, it was once a royal reception space. The hotel’s bar boasts one of Jaipur’s finest cellars, filled to the brim with top-shelf wines, and dining consists of Rajasthani, European and Asian dishes. Whether you choose to feast in the lavish main dining room, or pretty green terrace courtyard with rustic wrought iron tables and twinkling candles, you remain enveloped in fairytale charm.

(Rates from AED 630 per night)

Il Borro, Italy

Fanciful novel of horseback gallops and Tuscan fruits

With its deep medieval roots and excellence in wine production, this vast estate owned by the Ferragamo family leaves you immersed in a novel— with Tuscany as the protagonist. Constructed in 1848 by Prince Hohenlohe, the Il Borro Villa has a long history with moments of splendour and ruin, mainly due to abandonment following the Second World War. As if with the wave of a wand, the sweeping and bountiful gardens awash with fruit trees and pungent herbs have been restored to their original beauty and the residences each with their own show of character. The medieval village, a warren of gothic nostalgia and quaint captivation teeters on a gallant hilltop accessed by an antediluvian pathway. The estate’s country farmhouses, villas and even the grand Villa Il Borro itself cater to every comfort flaunting resplendent décor and huge windows with shutters opening up to a lush surround of green expanse and the audacious medieval village. The wellness spa boasts a stunning infinity pool surrounded by a vast wilderness of rampant trees. Wine and olive oil tours as well as the two restaurants on the estate offer guests the opportunity to reap the fruits of the village. The estate gives visitors distinctly diverse experiences, but the main objective stays the same; guests remain embalmed in pure relaxation amidst an oasis of tranquility.

(Rates from AED 922)