These can be among the most interesting and enjoyable places to stay in Ireland. Most are owner run, almost all are in interesting old buildings, sometimes of considerable historic interest.
Where good ones exist in an area they are often the very best places to stay – with interesting and friendly hosts who really do treat you as they would an invited rather than a paying guest.
What to Expect
Essentially these houses fall into three broad categories – though they are not listed in this manner in any booking engine.
1. Period Country House Hotels
Generally in buildings of considerable beauty and often with wonderful surroundings, these are better than most hotels, with interesting and very well appointed bedrooms and a high standard of service. Most have excellent restaurants which are destinations in themselve.
2. Large Houses, also family homes
These are old houses and while most are very well decorated and converted for paying guest, they may have old radiators can gurgle and grumble, some have a sort of ‘shabby gentility’ about them, with worn carpets, somewhat elderly furniture and lots of creaky floorboards. These are old family homes, that is their charm.
If this sort of thing bothers you, stay away. But they will be charming, friendly and very different from the run of the mill accommodation and are a great experience.
These can be wonderful places to stay – an oasis in a city, friendlier and more home-like than a hotel and with very good facilities and standards. Many are in buildings of considerable age and character.
However when you search for them the good will be mixed with the bad and you need to look carefully to choose a good one.
Accommodation & Facilities
Standards vary hugely – some are as good as an excellent hotel, others have quite poor facilities and decor. Check them out first and get recommendations.
They are often family homes and the owners set their own rules. Some may allow no children, not allow smoking in bedrooms, serve only/no vegetarian food, insist that you remove your shoes at the door, have no televisions in the house or whatever. That is their perogitive, obey the house rules.
Do not expect hotel style service – there may not be anyone to carry your bags, there will almost certainly be no elevator or room service, many are not licensed to sell alcohol (some have an honour bar).
Most will have rooms with private bathrooms, though your bathroom may be seperate from your bedroom. The bedrooms can vary a lot in size, from truly vast to quite small, and most houses will have a mix of sizes. No two bedrooms in these old houses are the same.
Some provide dinner as well as breakfast, often to a very high standard, but many provide no meals other than breakfast.
Meals are sometimes taken communally, that is all guests share a single large table. If dinner is served it may be at a specified time, with all guests eating together – this you will either love or hate.
A few specialise in activities such as fishing or horse-riding and primarily attract guests interested in these interests. Most will have little in the way of leisure activities, though they are often situated on farms or small country estates with woodlands, rivers or lakes available for guests to explore.
What You Will Pay
Because of the variation in standards, as well as location, prices vary a lot.
The best manor houses charge as much as a four star hotel, but provide a level of excellence in both accommodation and service that easily justifies this. Others are more mid-range, little more than an ordinary guesthouse and usually far more interesting.