Bellinter House, Ireland
Where is it? Dublin's hectic social centre lies 50km from this 1750 Palladian-style hotel, which sits on the lush green banks of the River Boyne in County Meath.
Its owners have resisted the temptation to go overboard on the historical theme and have created Ireland's first boutique country-house hotel. The house fits in gracefully with the abundant nature that surrounds it.
Luxurious or basic? A keynote is wood-panelled luxury that manages to throw in a good slug of Irish homeliness at the same time. The four large bedrooms that make up the main house each offer an arched-vault sanctuary (above right). Lacking in size but making up for it in comfort are the 16 rooms found in the east and west pavilions, some of which have baths. And all rooms have huge beds topped with fresh linen sheets and goose-feather pillows, plus cabinets stocked with organic seaweed products to try out under the power shower.
Who should visit? Anyone seeking a breath of fresh air away from Dublin's party-fuelled city centre, or who wants to live like a countryside lord or lady for a few days. Marble fireplaces and stained timber floorboards evoke the luxuries of yesteryear while installation art and contemporary lighting give this boutique hotel a shot of modernity that makes it sharp enough for business meetings.
What's on the menu? The vaulted cellar restaurant can seem a little gloomy but starters such as juicy wild mushrooms on toast drizzled with truffle oil, and mains such as rose-pink poached fillet of organic salmon with lobster butter brighten the weariest palates. If the weather is fine, breakfast and lunch may be served on the back lawn.
What else is there to do? Fill your glass with brandy and challenge friends to a game of billiards. Other on-site pursuits revolve around seaweed baths and an indoor infinity pool suitable for children. When the infamous Irish rain subsides, try your luck fishing for brown trout on the 5km stretch of river to which the hotel has exclusive access. About half an hour's drive away are the Neolithic tombs of Newgrange: older than the Pyramids and nowhere near as crowded.
What's the bottom line? Rates start at Euro280 (HK$2,960) a room a night.
Bellinter House is in Navan, County Meath, Ireland, tel: 353 46 903 0900; www.bellinterhouse.com.