With last week’s big-screen release—and box office-topping success—of the Downton Abbey film, fans once again had the chance to step into the world of the Crowley family, with its elegant spaces, sumptuous meals, classic country house activities, and attentive service from a dedicated staff. If those also sound like the hallmarks of a luxury hotel, they are—particularly at these ten spots, each of which used to be a grand private home. From a Neo-Gothic castle in Ireland to an elegant mansion in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, these 10 hotels will make you feel to the manor born.
Adare Manor, Ireland
In the 1830’s, the 2nd Earl of Dunraven began a renovation project aimed to transform his ancestral Georgian manor into something modeled after the grand homes and cathedrals of Europe. Nearly three decades of craftsman-led work later, his vision was brought to life in the Neo-Gothic castle-style main house, with its four towers, 52 ornate chimneys, 365 leaded windows, and 132-foot-long gallery lined with 17th-century Flemish choir stalls—the latter now home to one of the country’s most spectacular afternoon tea services. More recently, Adare Manor (which has been operating as a five-star hotel since the 1980’s) underwent another massive renovation, reopening in 2017 with 104 gorgeous rooms (many of them in the original main house), a La Mer Spa, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course and multiple gourmet dining options, as well as a top-shelf whiskey bar. The 840 lush acres on the banks of the River Maigue provide lots of room for activities like falconry, fishing, carriage rides, clay pigeon shooting, woodland walks, cycling and up-close experience with trained gundogs. For another unforgettable experience, the hotel can arrange (upon special request) for a traditional horse-and-hound welcome to your country retreat.
Carberry Tower Mansion House and Estate, Scotland
Set on 35 acres just outside of Edinburgh, at the end of a tree-lined driveway, this castle-slash-mansion’s roots go back to the 15th century. Over the years, while it was a private home, Carberry Tower hosted all manner of royalty—including Queen Elizabeth II, who visited the property often as a child on family vacations. Today, guests are made to feel at home in 30 well-appointed rooms, many with original fireplaces or four-poster beds; the Turret Suite has a winding staircase leading to a spacious bathroom with freestanding tub. Spend idle days strolling the gardens, trying archery or falconry, or visiting Edinburgh and the sites of the region, then cozy up back at the estate over the decadent afternoon tea, or over bubbles on the Champagne Terrace—a gift from the late Queen Mother when her sister used to live in the manor.
The Langley, A Luxury Collection Hotel, England
Once the hunting retreat of the third Duke of Marlborough, The Langley opened as a 41-room hotel in summer 2019, following six years of renovations and artisan-led restoration. Check in to a room in the main Palladian-style manor, many of which overlook the gardens planed by noted 18th-century landscape designer “Capability” Brown, or one in the heritage-listed Brew House; all marry modern conveniences with plenty of original architectural details. The 150-acre estate is surrounded by more parkland, so there are lots of hiking and walking trails to explore; the hotel stocks Aigle Wellington boots in all sizes for guests to use, so there’s no worry about getting muddy. Horseback riding, clay pigeon shooting and falconry can be arranged, as can trips to nearby Windsor Castle or Pinewood Studios. Inventive cuisine, a clubby cocktail bar, indoor and outdoor pools and a gorgeous, state-of-the-art spa round out the experience.
Hotel Chateau, France
An hour’s train ride from Paris, plus a 30-minute drive from Le Mans, brings you to the tiny village of Le Grand-Lucé, home to one of France’s newest—and most stunning—chateau hotels. Built in 1764 for Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay, the neoclassical-style estate that once hosted names like Voltaire and Mozart now sits on 80 rolling acres, complete with a pool, culinary and manicured gardens and hidden-away sculptures. Following extensive renovations, Hotel Chateau opened in summer 2019 as a 17-room hotel that operates more like a private home—so there’s no reception desk, meals can be served wherever you like, and afternoon snacks and drinks pop up daily in the central lounge. Rooms are beautifully appointed with period-appropriate furnishings and eye-catching design details; the Baron’s suite—the former bedroom of the nobleman himself—comes with its own office, private entrance and an ornate living room with the original painted wallpaper by French Rococo-era artist Jean-Baptiste Pillement. Explore nearby wineries, enjoy rides on horseback or e-bikes or take off in a hot air balloon right from the gardens—then return to the property to soak up more of the regal vibe.
Glenmere Mansion, New York
Set on a hilltop about 50 miles north of New York City, on 150 acres surrounded by views of the Catskill Mountains and Glenmere Lake, Glenmere Mansion was built as a Gilded Age retreat for the prominent Goelet family, who used it host artists, aristocracy and even royalty of the day. Revel in some of that Old World, Tuscan-inspired glamour today in the 18-room, adults-only Relais & Chateaux hotel, which still features touches like a grand marble staircase, elegant terraces and formal gardens—along with more modern additions like a spa with bathhouse and hammam. Check in to one of the top rooms like the Duchess Suite (once the private apartments of Mr. Goelet’s sister, the Duchess of Roxburghe) or the Glenmere Penthouse—both with multiple bedrooms, balconies, and working gas fireplaces—then head out to enjoy apple picking, vineyard visits, and helicopter of the Hudson Valley. Dining options at the hotel include The Supper Room, where elegant meals and world-class wines are served in a room lined with painted panels of the Tuscan countryside.
Carton House, Ireland
Soak up the charm of this 1,100-acre estate—once the ancestral seat of the Earls of Kildare and the Dukes of Leinster—with a stay in Carton House’s original Manor House, whose illustrious past guests have included Queen Victoria. (In honor of her visit, the then-owners created the special Chinese Boudoir bedroom on the first floor, which was lined with hand-painted Chinese rice paper, as well as a Boat House so the Queen could go rowing on the lake.) Today, the former apartments of the Duke and Lady of Carton House are now of series of Presidential Suites (with names like The Lady Emily and the Lord Edward), each with extra-high ceilings, four-poster beds, fireplaces, sitting rooms, freestanding tubs and sweeping views of the grounds. Spend days fishing, cycling, playing golf, archery and tennis and enjoying spa treatments—all of which can be done on the estate—and evenings enjoying meals in the fine dining Linden Tree (set in a glass-enclosed room under the namesake trees) and the cozy Carriage House. Lunch in The Kitchen Bar—located in what was the manor house’s original kitchens, complete with historic stove—and the Afternoon Tea, full with housemade baked goods, are other can’t-miss experiences.
The Vanderbilt, Auberge Resorts Collection, Rhode Island
Set just steps from the Newport waterfront, this charming hotel is located in what was once the private home of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a scion of the wealthy Vanderbilt family. The 1909-built mansion has been completely restored and is now one of the few former homes of that gilded era to operate as a hotel—in this case, one with 33 rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and two restaurants, plus a rooftop deck where you can take in the water views. Activities like the mixology classes, classic car rides and catch-and-cook sailings (during which you’ll get to catch your own squid or lobster and learn how to use it in a delicious seafood dinner) evoke the glamour of days gone by; other memorable activities like wine tastings, culinary walking tours and visits to other historic Gilded Age mansions can also be arranged.
You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time (albeit with all the modern conveniences) at this 614-acre estate set at the foothills of the Slieve Bloom mountains. At Ballyfin’s core is an elegant Regency-era mansion that, following nearly eight years of restoration, now houses a large collection of Irish art and antiques, an 80-foot-long library (perfect for wine and whiskey tastings around the fire) and 21 individually-designed guest rooms with touches like marble mantelpieces, private balconies or four-poster beds; many have been named for former residents of the estate, such as the Duke of Wellington and Lady Caroline Coote. Channel those noble names during one a special costume dinner (bookable upon requests), during which guests can dress up in period costumes sourced from Chicago’s Lyric Opera for a banquet dinner with live music. The estate also features indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, a 28-acre lake, historic gardens and plenty of trails for exploring the ancient woods and hidden grottoes; horseback riding, falconry, fishing, history tours and other activities can also be arranged.
Four Seasons Hampshire, England
An hour from London, 35-minutes from Heathrow airport and not far from attractions like Windsor Castle and the Jane Austen House Museum sits 500 acres of rolling Hampshire meadows capped by a lovely Georgian manor house—the bucolic setting for the Four Seasons Hampshire. A stay here is like something out of an Austen novel itself, with days spent strolling through blooming English gardens, shooting clay pigeons, enjoying horseback rides along the hills, or donning Wellingtons for walks through the parkland, in between traditional afternoon tea service in the Library and farm-fresh meals in the Wild Carrot restaurant. (There’s also a spa for more modern-style relaxation.) The 133-room hotel takes the “Downton Abbey” theme to heart by offering an exclusive after-hours visit to Highclere Castle, the main filming location for the series. The outing (which should be booked at least three months in advance) includes transport to the castle in a Rolls-Royce and a guided tour of the home and gardens.
The Ivy, Maryland
Long before becoming a Relais & Chateaux-member hotel, this 19th-century mansion in the historic Mt. Vernon neighborhood was a private home owned by prosperous Baltimoreans like banker John Gilman and inventor William Painter. During those years, many a glamorous event was held at the place—including a few attended by socialite Wallis Simpson, whose relationship with Britain’s Edward VIII caused him to abdicate the throne. Transformed into a hotel in 2015, The Ivy now welcomes guests to 18 uniquely designed rooms, each with gas fireplace, heated limestone bathroom floors and plush bedding; some feature touches like balconies, freestanding tubs or a turret living room. The homey atmosphere lends itself well to activities like playing a game of billiards in the conservatory or a tune on the piano, enjoying coffee in the gardens or curling up with a drink and book in the library—or having a midnight snack brought to your room. There’s also a jewel-box spa offering massages and facials, and the Magdalena restaurant, considered one of the best in town—particularly for its rotating Sunday Supper menu that draws from Chef Mark Levy’s British roots.