Five Irish manor houses for a staycation in another era

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Five Irish Manor Houses For A Staycation In Another Era
If you’re a fan of Jane Austen or Downtown Abbey, here are five homes with ballrooms, secret gardens and library doors that could be yours for a night or two.
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Sarah Mooney

With travel off the island looking increasingly unlikely this summer, a trip to a past era seems all the more enticing.

Whether you’re a fan of Jane Austen, Downtown Abbey or simply have an obsession with country estates after watching Netflix's The Haunting of Bly Manor, Ireland has no shortage of stately old homes.

If you have a couple of thousand euros to spare — or a large group of vaccinated friends willing to split the cost — here are five homes with ballrooms, secret gardens and library doors that could be yours for a night or two.

Fortwilliam House, Co Waterford

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Fortwilliam is an historic country house nestled on a stretch of the Blackwater river, upstream from Lismore Castle.

The manor house is set on an estate of 400 acres with century-old trees, four kilometres of walks and walled gardens.

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Suggested activities include canoeing down the river Blackwater, salmon fishing, hot air ballooning over Lismore Castle, or simply relaxing in one of the house’s multiple reception rooms.

Prices depend on the number of guests — visit AirBnB or its website.

Inch House, Co Tipperary

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Inch House is a Georgian country mansion dating from 1720 that was run as a guest house and award-winning restaurant for 25 years, until it was recently transformed back into a stately home.

Built by landed Catholic family the Ryans, the house remained in the family until 1985 when it was sold to the present owners, John and Nora Egan.

Mr Egan, a farmer, and Mrs Egan, a nurse, undertook a major restoration project along with their eight children to return the house to its former glory.

Guests can now have free run of the house’s six en-suite bedrooms, great dining room, library-bar, William Morris-style drawing room, country kitchen, double oak staircase lit by stained-glass windows, private chapel and acres of gardens and woodland.

Exclusive house hire rates in the high season from May to September are €2,400 for two nights and €5,500 for a weekly stay — visit AirBnB or its website.

Ballintubbert House, Co Laois

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Hidden in a valley an hour’s drive from Dublin, Ballintubbert House is all about the gardens.

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The Georgian manor is surrounded by 14 acres of secret gardens with over 40 garden “rooms”, wild flower meadows and woodlands.

The manor house was built in 1725 and was home to internationally-renowned English actor John Hurt in the 1990s and actor Sebastian Shaw — who famously starred as Anakin Skywalker’s second-self Darth Vader in Star Wars Return of the Jedi — in the 1940s and 1950s.

Poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis — the father of actor Daniel Day–Lewis — was also born in the house in 1904 and returned in the 1960s, with it inspiring his poem The House Where I Was Born.

The manor house and its garden wing, able to accommodate up to 20 guests across 10 bedrooms, can be rented for a minimum two-night stay from €750 to €3,000 depending on the date — visit AirBnB or its website.

Lisnavagh House, Co Carlow

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Lisnavagh House has been in the same family, the McClintock Bunburys, for over eleven generations, and you can live alongside them during your stay on the 600-acre estate of woods, farmland and gardens.

The Bunburys descend from Baron de St Pierre, a Norman knight who served with William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings in 1066.

The latest in the line of the ancestral family, William and Emily McClintock Bunbury, run the Tudor Revival country house dating from 1847 as a family home and live in one of its wings.

Guests will be treated to a full Irish breakfast each morning before enjoying an open log fire in their choice of the library, dining room or schoolroom. The house also boasts a wine licence and a fully-stocked honesty bar.

Visit AirBnB or its website for rates.

Hilton Park, Co Monaghan

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This stately home burned down in 1803 — with the glow of the fire said to be seen as far away as the town of Clones.

However, the house was rebuilt and remains in the same family ten generations on from when its land was purchased by philanthropist and writer Samuel Madden in 1734. The Madden family has now been hosting guests at Hilton Park for over thirty years.

The stately home is set on 400 acres of heritage woodland, a working sheep farm, gardens and lakes.

One of only four accredited wildlife estates in Ireland, Hilton Park is home to a range of endangered wildlife, including red squirrels, kingfishers, woodpeckers and native dark honeybees.

The summer rate for the house is €2,800/per night — visit AirBnB or its website.

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