‘Coûte que coûte’ goes the punning family motto of Sir Charles Coote, for whom the opulent Ballyfin estate was conceived in the early 19th century. ‘No matter the cost’ is how this loosely translates, proving as apt an adage in the 21st century as it was then. Many millions of euros may have been lavished on this stately pile in County Laois, both in its original construction and, more recently, its painstaking restoration. For the architectural historian, the house is a head turner – the culmination of Regency craftsmanship brought together in lusciously modelled plasterwork, scagliola in varying colours, stained glass and staggeringly intricate parquetry. For the sybarite, the house is a place of comfort and grandeur, not least in the Gold Drawing Room where walls are hung with lustrous silk and vast windows frame views of the 28-acre lake. Bedrooms are also decorated with rich fabrics and wallpaper, fine antiques, fresh flowers from the garden, art and books – a fabulous amalgamation of Anglo-Irish panache. New this year is Ballyfin’s 21st room and first standalone property: the tiny Gardener’s Cottage overlooking, to the rear, the walled gardens, which supply Ballyfin’s kitchen with organic fruit and vegetables. The grounds are made for strolling in the complimentary wellies, with grottoes and rockeries, a folly and a fernery, a rose garden and an aviary. There is no finer Irish-country house experience. By Pamela Goodman
This is an old-money place with intensely private guest cottages and suites, roaring fires and gardens bursting with head-sized hydrangeas. A living, breathing slice of Californian folklore, the 500-acre ranch has remained seemingly unchanged since Vivien Leigh married Laurence Olivier outside the hacienda in 1940, or when John and Jackie Kennedy checked in during their honeymoon 13 years later. But if the hotel's green-striped awnings, thick Oriental rugs and chintzy furnishings recall the 1950s, its heritage is actually far older. Originally a cattle ranch in the 19th century, then a citrus farm, San Ysidro has long welcomed guests (the ranch's appeal to celebrities was given a boost in 1935 when it was bought by suave English film star Ronald Colman and businessman Alvin Weingand). In the farm's former packing house is the Stonehouse restaurant, where skilfully cooked, old-school comfort food (steak Diane, baked Alaska) is served beneath a high, wooden-beamed ceiling or under twinkly lights on the terrace. There are 14 acres of wildly fragrant gardens filled with lavender bushes, lily ponds and eucalyptus trees, and 17 miles of wooded hiking trails to explore. Bikes are provided for rides to the beach. Later, you'll sleep soundly, surrounded by silence, in the protective embrace of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
At this hotel on the pandanus-lined beachfront of Cabarita, the signature cocktail made with local Ink Gin changes from deep blue into shades of dusty pink. It completes the photographic panorama of navy and white sun beds, oversized sun hats and bronzed pool boys. It’s here, in this lazy coastal pocket halfway between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay, that the linen-clad set come to kick back on long, hot summer days. Among the 21 rooms by Brisbane designer Anna Spiro, no two are the same. Each is a revision in Sixties eclecticism, with brass fixtures, antique memorabilia and dark wood furniture whimsically combined with a Mediterranean sensibility of patterned floor tiles, starched linens and wall panelling. Bathers migrate from the pool to dinner at Paper Daisy, the hotel’s restaurant helmed by Noma alumnus Ben Devlin, to try flavours of the surrounding landscape. For breakfast there are kefir pancakes with macadamia cream, passionfruit and berries, and lunches of prawn sandwiches with iceberg lettuce and avocado. A Moroccan-accented day spa with a domed hammam-style steam room was added in 2017. But it is perhaps general manager Mauro De Riso, with his charming sense of Italian hospitality, that stands out as the greatest investment made by owners Elisha and Siobhan Bickle. This boutique seaside bolthole etches a new, more sophisticated vision of the Australian lifestyle of surf, sun and sand on to the scene. By John Hannan
There are other cities that possess a comparable crackle and fizz, a similar quotient of what Martin Amis once referred to as ‘italics in the air’. New York, naturally. Tokyo. London on a good night. Sydney. São Paulo. But nowhere else on earth does confusion, complication and contrariness quite like Shanghai. Here is a place that is neither completely Chinese nor wholly Western; where foreign-ness has been courted, embraced, shunned and then courted and embraced again; where unobstructed expansion and unpredictable change are the only constants. These qualities are quite thrillingly visible to the naked eye. The best vantage point from which to take them in is this hotel, at the northernmost end of the Bund, directly across the Huangpu River from the dense forest of skyscrapers that has lately popped up in Pudong. Any room in particular? No – practically all have excellent views. Otherwise Sir Elly’s rooftop terrace bar is perfect, especially in the evening. With its understated opulence – muted silks and vivid Art Deco flourishes – the hotel mirrors the hybrid aesthetic of the city itself, cosmopolitan, polyglot, at once nostalgic and contemporary. Shanghai may not have looked so good or felt so energised since its first period of explosive growth in the 1920s. And nowhere else allows you to savour its beauties and ironies in such fine style as the Pen. It embodies much of what made this beguiling, elusive, maddening city great – and still does. By Steve King
The Beverly Hills Hotel is iconic to La-La Land lore, made famous by The Eagles tune "Hotel California." But the Pink Palace has racked up quite a few fabled stories: Katharine Hepburn is said to have jumped into the pool fully clothed, and Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed six honeymoons here. Today, this Dorchester Collection hotel continues to cater to discerning travelers with stylish guest rooms (equipped with marble bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, high-speed internet access and gourmet minibars), business amenities and a supreme Sunset Boulevard location. Travelers say the customer service is just as legendary as the hotel itself, praising the hotel staff for its attentiveness. And the on-site Polo Lounge is not only known for its celeb-spotting – it's known for serving up a mean breakfast as well.
**Le Club AccorHotels members who register and book the Fairmont Savers offer by February 28, 2019, and stay between January 1 and March 31, 2019, will receive triple the Rewards points for their stay. Guests must register before making their reservation to be eligible to receive the discount. Offer only applicable in Canada, USA, Mexico and Panama. For more details click here.
This was always destined to be the Ferrari of farm holidays, coming as it does from Soho House, which specialises in hotels top-loaded with glamorous naughtiness. Even so founder Nick Jones must be surprised at how enthusiastically his tribe has taken to tractor life. In December 2018, it adds 40 Piglets, dinky billets shaped like pig arcs, and 10 proper rooms built into the walled kitchen garden, to the original 40 clapperboard cabins, set along a river engineered to sashay through the place like a supermodel. The Waltons meets Will.i.am moodboard certainly inspires guests to feel as carefree as Huckleberry Finn: rough-wood finishes, homespun fabrics, woodburners and (this is Soho House after all) bath tubs on the balcony, with modesty curtains. This farmyard has fire pits and fancy sofas, the Main Barn is cavernous, with vast steel-framed windows, a statement bar, low-slung Chesterfields and an atmosphere other hoteliers wish they could bottle. There’s a 25-metre beauty of an infinity pool cantilevered over a lake, fabulous Japanese cooking at Pen Yen as well as Soho House’s winning comfort food, and the chance to witness grown-ups giggling like kids as they wobble about on Foffa bikes, the preferred mode of transport. Of course, it’s all about the little touches: the barman in the roaming milk float who fixes doorstep G&Ts; the vase of wildflowers from the room carefully stowed in the boot of your car with your cases as a goodbye keepsake. A game-changing, ground-shaking hotel that’s now become rooted in the British countryside. By Susan d'Arcy
The people of Quebec City are hardy and quite used to the harsh weather that is typical in the long winter months. Rather than mope and complain they tend to turn lemons into lemonade, or rather snow and ice into sculptures and other works of art. The city holds a winter carnival every year, officially known as Le Carnaval de Quebéc. Despite the brisk temperatures that are experienced at this time, this carnival is as popular among travellers as events held in the summer months. In fact it is the largest carnival of its kind in the world, with more than one million people drawn to view the ice sculptures, take part in winter sports and attend parades and masquerade balls. Bonhomme, a stylised giant snowman, is the delightful official mascot. Those looking for a unique and beautiful place to stay in the deep winter months should head a few miles to the north of the city where the Hôtel de Glace, North America’s only ice hotel, is open from January to March each year. The spectacular suites are carved out of the ice by artists and have to be seen to be believed.
This legendary hotel on Manhattan's Upper East Side has a highly developed sense of noblesse oblige. The Carlyle opened inauspiciously in 1930, the year after the Wall Street Crash, and its lobby retains the original black-and-white tiled floor designed by Dorothy Draper. The lift operator knows each guest's name and room number, handy should you return late and a little squiffy. And each room has a proper key: no troublesome cards or spooky 'iris recognition' here. The bedrooms themselves are generously sized - at least for New York - while the tower suites are positively vast and very beautiful, with pale beechwood parquet floors, Chinese cabinets, onyx lamps and silk-cushioned fauteuils, as well as heart-stopping views of Central Park. Refreshment is never far away: tea is served in the Ottoman-styled Gallery, cocktails in the Bemelmans Bar (the bar of the Upper East Side) and lunch or dinner in the Carlyle Restaurant, which is decorous without being sedate. And music is inherent at the Carlyle, whose first tenant was composer Richard Rodgers. In its public rooms and suites there are 14 baby grand pianos, and Woody Allen still plays jazz clarinet every Monday night, six months of the year, at the ground-floor Café Carlyle. But in the end, the Carlyle's brilliance lies in its understatement. The fire instructions say, 'Remain relaxed'. Here, at what is still New York's grandest hotel, it's hard to do anything else.
Situated on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Hideaway at Royalton Punta Cana offers elegant, adults only getaways along stunning golden-sandy shores. During your stay, savour gourmet cuisines, artfully-prepared cocktails and stunning oceanviews while doing as much or as little as you’d wish. Delight in thrilling water sports or escape to the spa offering pampering treatments for a small fee. Afterwards, luxuriate on a comfortable beach lounger or delight in afternoon hors d’oeuvres served poolside with fresh towels and wait service. When it comes time to grab a bite to eat, choose from a variety of dining options including Dorado, Hideaway’s main restaurant serving à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of the most notable features of this boutique-style resort are the lavish accommodations, with preferential suites featuring Royalton premium DreamBeds™ with high thread count sheets. Guests can also upgrade to Diamond Club to enjoy added amenities such as butler service, a selection of in-suite liquors, upgraded room service and exclusive reservations at the resort’s esteemed à la carte restaurants.
Survey voters clearly don’t want to have to take a shuttle to the slopes. This 100-room hotel made the top 20 for location, since it’s just a few steps from Vail’s Gondola One. While the lobby has classic-ski-lodge stone and timber, rooms lean toward the contemporary, rather than the log-cabin vibe, with polished wood headboards and reserved earth tones. The après-ski scene is similarly elegant, with the signature scotch collection at Frost, the hotel bar. For another kind of après-ski, readers loved the hotel’s spa, which utilizes the Vail Valley’s indigenous pine, flowers, and herbs. They may have also felt relaxed by the prices. Despite its high-end setting, the Sebastian was the top U.S. ski resort in the survey’s value category.
There’s a lot happening at the Raffles Jakarta—but it’s still a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle of this busy capital city. Sitting in Jakarta’s Golden Triangle, a monument- and memorial-laden area in the southern edge of the city center, the hotel hugs the upscale Lotte Shopping Avenue and the Ciputra Artpreneur Center, an art gallery and theater complex. Let the bellman in the spiffy getup take your bags and usher you in to the marbled lobby, which also pulls double-duty as an art gallery: Works by Hendra Gunawan, an Indonesian artist, line the walls with bursts of color in an otherwise glossy, cream-colored space. Other standouts include the Writers Bar—a spinoff of the hotel’s famous Singapore outpost—which celebrates Jakarta’s art, literature, and history, and the guest rooms' floor-to-ceiling windows.
Dating back to 1745, this cream-and-pink former aristocratic palace is set on 18 acres of landscaped gardens—so, despite its location in the heart of Jaipur, the hotel itself is a sanctuary of sorts. Highlighting Rajasthani decor and miniature paintings, rooms are comfortable (many overlooking the gardens); though, because it's staggered over many levels, guests should be mindful of the stairs they'll likely need to climb and descend. Load up on Indian food at Cinnamon, where diners are treated to a nightly show with local dancers. If you’re not wowed by the Taj Jai Mahal Palace’s commitment to turning this hotel into a living museum, then check your pulse. What you make of it is up to you—whether it’s your launching point for exploring the city, only coming back after a long day on your feet, or if you prefer to spend an afternoon by the pool, followed by a run along the on-property jogging track.
The Norman Foster-designed hotel on Sentosa Island is partly housed in colonial buildings, and the standing lamps, rugs, and 20th-century-style travel trunks in the lobby project old-world charm. Capella shows off a different side to Singapore—a beachy escape from the hustle and bustle of the business district and the shopping strips. It's one of the most expensive hotels here, but a little tranquility can be priceless.
Today the guns are silent, but the walls remain and enclose a charming Old Town that makes Quebec City one of the most visited cities of its size in Canada. The architecture and atmosphere buzz with a romantic and historic feel, making visitors almost believe they have left North America. Opened in the late 19th century, the Chateau Frontenac was conceived as one of the original Canadian Pacific Railroad’s grand luxury hotels, constructed throughout the Canada. With its imposing design, substantial height and bulk and copper roofs it certainly is incredibly grand. Even those who are not staying at the hotel are advised to at least have a drink or two at the bar, so as to experience this Quebec City and Canadian icon. Art lovers should head for the Musée national des Beaux-arts du Québec. Situated in a striking modern building just a bit beyond the Old Town’s walls, it features the very best of contemporary and historical art from Quebec and temporary exhibitions of international works.
Twenty-six years on, Ellerman House is still everybody’s fantasy bolthole in Cape Town: minutes from the best beaches and the Table Mountain cableway, but close enough to the city and its dynamic food, art and design scene. Sandwiched between Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Edwardian mansion looks like a private residence from the road, one of many overlooking the sea in the wind-protected suburb of Bantry Bay. And that’s exactly what keeps guests coming back. The bar, restaurant and spa are exclusive to invited and resident guests, which means it’s very private and secure. Owner Paul Harris takes enormous pride in his country – his impressive collection of South African art spans original works from the turn of the last century to current contemporary art. An informal tour of the collection with one of the in-house art experts is a fascinating lesson in the country’s socio-political history. Then there are the 7,500 bottles of rare and vintage South African wines in the cellar and the indigenous plants sourced from Kirstenbosch (Cape Town’s answer to Kew) in the one-and-a-half acre terraced gardens. Besides the main house, there are two modern, minimalist private villas built into the granite mountainside, as well as a wine gallery and an excellent little spa. Checking into one of the individually decorated rooms in the house – many with local African design elements, some on the small size – feels both comfortable and comforting. As does the open-access kitchen. Walk right in, tell the chefs what you’re craving and it is whipped up in minutes. Better yet, take a snack back to your room. The post-sunset vista from the balcony has to be one of the best views of the Atlantic found anywhere on earth. By Jane Broughton
Rooms at the Mercer are bright, spacious, and impeccably laid out; some have even been built into an original Roman defense tower, translating to walls of gorgeous, centuries-old brickwork. The food here is equally superior, without being stuffy: you’ll find foie gras and caviar, yes, but also patatas bravas and beer. For the full five-star boutique experience, there’s no better bang for your buck in Barcelona.
Like other properties near Park City, Utah, Montage Deer Valley appeals to winter sports enthusiasts. All guests staying at the No. 1 Best Hotel in Park City will have access to ski concierge services and ski-in/ski-out access in addition to a bowling alley, an outdoor swimming pool and a 35,000-square-foot spa, among other year-round amenities. Travelers can also grab a bite to eat at one of five on-site restaurants before retiring to their spacious accommodations, which offer walk-in closets, private balconies or patios, fireplaces and marble bathrooms with deep-soaking tubs and heated floors. (Courtesy of Montage Deer Valley)
The Four Seasons Resort Maui is a tranquil retreat located on Wailea Beach. The No. 2 Best Hotel in Maui offers spacious rooms and suites appointed with lanais, access to three golf courses and many kid-friendly amenities, such as lawn games, arts and crafts and hula lessons. What's more, guests can enjoy the hotel's picturesque location, as they lounge on the beach or by one of the three pools, including an adults-only pool with underwater music and a swim-up bar. (Peter Vitale/Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea)
The chic accommodations at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto reflect the charm of its Yorkville backdrop. The property's rooms and suites – designed with elegant decor and modern amenities like an in-room iPad to access Four Seasons services and bathrooms equipped with deep soaking tubs and TVs – hold views of the downtown neighborhood's surrounding shops and cafes. Despite the abundance of nearby restaurants, guests suggest enjoying a meal on premises; both Café Boulud and d|bar lounge offer French-inspired menus from Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud. Serenity-seekers rave about the spacious, sleek setting in the spa, which comes outfitted with an indoor pool, a steam room, a salon and a long list of treatment options.