Many of Ireland’s grand estates that take in paying guests are privately owned homes (only a few of which still belong to their original families), so don’t necessarily expect typical hotel amenities such as reception desks and room service. But the experience is well worth it.

Here’s our insider’s guide to getting the royal treatment on the Emerald Isle:

How to Book:

Most “Big Houses” are part of either the Hidden Ireland network or the Blue Book Association, which between them account for more than 60 historic castle and manor houses open to overnight stays.

Also browse The Good Hotel Guide, John and Sally McKenna’s 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland, and the Discover Ireland website. Book ahead; these houses have a limited number of rooms.

Dinner at the manor, which is sometimes a group affair, can also be reserved at booking. Some houses, particularly those with gardens, welcome day visits, whereas others offer guided tours of the house interior, generally by appointment only.

Best Time to Go:

May, June, and September are usually the sunniest, mildest months to visit Ireland. But always be prepared for rain.

Manor Manners:

Act as if you’re staying with friends of friends, and you’re most of the way there. You’re not expected to make your own bed, but bear in mind your host may be the one cleaning up when you’re out. If there’s a hired cleaner, you can leave a tip in the room.

Hair dryers and toiletries are usually provided, but you might want to bring your own just in case (or ask the proprietors to make sure).

In some houses, dogs are free to roam the lower floors. If you’re headed for a walk, consider offering to take the dog along as well.

What to Read:

The Big House has its own genre in the rich world of Irish literature.

The writing duo Somerville and Ross inject considerable humor into the Irish R.M. series, Elizabeth Bowen conveys poignant gravitas in The Last September, and Molly Keane produced dark comic gems such as Good Behaviour

Coffee-table tome The Irish Country House, by Desmond FitzGerald and James Peill, is lushly photographed by James Fennell.

Travel Trivia:

This piece appeared alongside the feature, “At Home In Ireland,” both which originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

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Comments

  1. Nic Hilditch
    March 21, 6:45 am

    Wow. I didn’t realise these amazing places were available to stay in. Visiting Ireland for the first time in May but I am afraid as backpacker it might still be a hostel for us! Great to know though for return visits!

    http://www.nichilditch-short.co.uk/

  2. Libbie
    North Carolina
    March 19, 8:11 am

    I’m a subscriber to your magazine. I really enjoyed the article in this month’s issue about these wonderful country houses. Although I feel I know Ireland well as a result of having spent months there, I learned new and valuable information from the article. The most important was the discovery that staying in these places isn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it would be. I’ll definitely visit one or more of these magnificent homes on my next trip to Ireland.