I owe my last name, which means “little church” in Gaelic, to my husband, Liam, whom I fell for soon after he arrived in Chicago in 1989. Since then, we’ve traveled to Ireland almost every year to visit his family in Cork, which is Ireland’s second-largest city and a relaxed, authentic place to experience the best of this beautiful country.
County Cork is sprinkled with historic manors that are now luxe guesthouses and hotels. In the heart of Cork City, the five-star Hayfield Manor (suites $1,000-$1,750 per night) is a family-run boutique hotel next to the vibrant University College Cork and a short walk from downtown. The hotel offers luxurious guest rooms and expansive suites, perfect for families or groups. Surrounded by private gardens and boasting a gourmet restaurant and full-service spa, Hayfield Manor is an oasis of luxury in the heart of the city.
Twenty minutes outside of Cork City is the Castlemartyr Resort (junior suites from $285 per night) centered around the ruins of the town’s namesake castle, built in the early 1200s. The expansive property includes a luxury hotel with a full spa and an 18-hole golf course, horseback riding, carriage rides, fishing and archery.
Heading west to Skibbereen is the magical Liss Ard Estate (suites from $235 per night). The gracious Georgian-style country house is surrounded by 163 acres of spectacular gardens, forests, walking trails and a 50-acre lake. Don’t miss “Sky Garden,” an immense earth sculpture designed by artist James Turrell. Enter the crater through a tunnel and lie down on a rock slab for an otherworldly view of the sky.
If you’d rather have a manor all to yourself, the gracious Farran House ($3,800 to $5,400 per week) is just 15 minutes outside of Cork City. The 200-year-old residence has grand proportions, but its rural setting makes it feel private and relaxed. With four spacious suites, a huge kitchen and elegant living spaces, it’s perfect for group gatherings. Take advantage of owners Patricia and John’s offer to provide one of their Irish-stew dinners. Their specialty is lamb, raised on the premises.