This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
Check in to a resort property in England, Scotland, or Ireland, and you can expect more than crisp linens and waterfall showerheads. You’re likely there because you’re in search of the romance of history, and the properties that Travel + Leisure readers voted onto this year’s list of the best hotels in the United Kingdom and Ireland deliver that in spades.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
As always, all of the properties on this list have ties to history. Ireland’s Sheen Falls Lodge, which came in at No. 7, sits on land once seized by the notorious English general Oliver Cromwell and given to scientist William Petty as payment for his 1656 survey of the country. When Scotland‘s Gleneagles (No. 6) opened on Saturday 7th June 1924, the media hailed it as “the eighth wonder of the world. This year’s No. 4, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, a Belmond Hotel, occupies a 15th-century farmhouse once owned by Sir George Coppin, whose suburban London home eventually turned into Kensington Palace.
The romance of country-house living extends to the service, and the personal touches that make visitors plan their return. One repeat guest at Adare Manor recounted the staff’s thoughtfulness during one particular family vacation: “When my husband and I traveled there with our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons, Adare provided a most family-friendly vacation. Every member of the staff was attentive to the boys and treated them with respect and kindness, from the driver of the Range Rover Defender that picked up my older grandson’s catch and brought it to the kitchens to be prepared, to the knowledge and support that my younger grandson experienced when he tried falconry for the very first time.”
But it’s unlikely that you’ll come closer to inhabiting a Jane Austen novel than you will by staying at Ballyfin, which earned readers’ highest marks this year. Below, find out why — and see the nine other commendable properties that join it on this year’s list.
1. Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland
Situated in the foothills of the gorgeous Slieve Bloom Mountains, the Georgian manor dates back to the 1820s and, after a long history as a school, opened as a hotel in 2011. Throughout its evolution, it has maintained a deep sense of place and character. “Elegance and luxury with the feel of a country home,” described one voter. “Everything is perfect.” The manicured grounds and an art collection that ranges from the 17th century to the present add to the sumptuous experience, but the real proof of the pudding is in the top-notch service and sublime creature comforts. As one reader wrote, “The staff goes above and beyond to accommodate any special requests.”
More information: ballyfin.com
2. Chewton Glen, Hampshire, England
More information: chewtonglen.com
3. Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland
More information: adaremanor.com
4. Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, a Belmond Hotel, Oxfordshire, England
More information: belmond.com
5. Inverlochy Castle Hotel, Torlundy, Scotland
More information: inverlochycastlehotel.com
6. Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Scotland
More information: gleneagles.com
7. Sheen Falls Lodge, County Kerry, Ireland
More information: sheenfallslodge.ie
8. Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, St. Andrews, Scotland
More information: oldcoursehotel.co.uk
9. Cliveden House, Cliveden, England
More information: clivedenhouse.co.uk
10. Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland
More information: ashfordcastle.com
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.