About Ballyfin Demesne
It’s fair to say that Ballyfin wedding venue holds a special place in my heart. In fact, I had the honour of planning my very first wedding here! It was a bit of a baptism of fire for everyone as the guest count was above capacity, so we created a tent for all the guests and it was quite spectacular. Since then, I’m always delighted when my clients choose Ballyfin Demesne for their destination weddings in Ireland, as it truly is a special place. Built-in 1820, the neo-classical Regency mansion (and later, boys’ school) underwent an extensive renovation in the early 2000s, finally reopening as a luxurious five-star country hotel in 2011. Since then, it has received multiple prestigious accolades, including being voted the best hotel in the world by Conde Nast Traveler and receiving the AA’s Hotel of the Year Award in 2018. If you want something very unique and private, then this is the place for you.
Inside, Ballyfin is lavish, with an extensive collection of art and antiques that includes French chandeliers, Chippendale mirrors, Irish mahogany, and a 2000-year-old Italian mosaic in the entrance hall. And the grounds and scenery are just as impressive! Ballyfin is located in the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Co. Laois on 600 acres of unspoilt parkland, forests, and gardens. It’s the perfect tranquil hideaway to take over for an exclusive wedding celebration, with a picturesque lake, fountains, and a church all on-site. Once you go in the gates of Ballyfin, you won’t want to leave!
Why I Love Planning Weddings at Ballyfin
What makes Ballyfin wedding venue so special is that visiting it is like walking back in time. Think of it as a Downton Abbey house party of your very own. On arrival, the staff line up to greet you, just as if you were the lords and ladies of the manor returning to your country pile. And that’s just the start of the old world charm and traditional Irish hospitality you can expect during your stay. The butlers all have a personal connection to the property, so they are part of the family there, and everyone has a story to tell.
Although Ballyfin is described as a country house venue, I think of it more as a little bit of paradise in the middle of Ireland. On a clear night, it’s easy to imagine what the world was like 200 years ago. With very little light pollution, the countryside is so still and serene that it feels like you’re the only people for miles around. And it’s so private that once you enter you really feel like you have arrived home. I’m delighted to have such a strong relationship with the wonderful team there, and to be able to recommend it to my clients knowing that they’ll love it as much as I do.
Ballyfin wedding venue is set in the heart of Ireland, County Laois. Despite being extremely private, Ballyfin is conveniently located, with Dublin airport approximately one hour’s drive away, making it ideal for an Irish destination wedding. For guests who are hiring a car, the route is very well signposted and easy to follow. Another option is Shannon Airport, which is approximately two hours away. Ballyfin is also well placed for outings to places like Kilkenny, Birr Castle, and Emo House, and is close to several top golf courses, ensuring that guests are able to make the most of their visit to Ireland.
Ballyfin Ceremony and Reception Spaces
One of the best things about Ballyfin is that it suits so many couples. This is partly because there are multiple choices of ceremony and event space, both inside the house and around the property. Options include a Ballroom, State Dining Room, Saloon and private bar, each impeccably renovated and sumptuously decorated with art and antiques. The gardens also have a wealth of places for ceremonies and photographs, including lawns, terraces, follies and grottoes, a picturesque lake, and a delightful Water Cascade.
In order to have your wedding at Ballyfin wedding venue, you will need to rent the entire property, but this is really what makes it so unique and gives it the feeling of a private house party. And, since you have the space to yourselves, the priority for me is on setting out the wedding design ahead of time and working within the restrictions for numbers.
I have planned ceremonies at so many places in Ballyfin, but one of my favourites is the 19th century glass conservatory, with its entrance hidden behind a bookcase in the library (how romantic!). A Turner design, now completely restored, it is an amazing ceremony location for a smaller group (up to 80 guests). It has both expansive views of the Water Cascade and Pleasure Grounds and protection from the elements, giving you the best of both worlds if you’re dreaming of a ceremony in nature.
However, the Conservatory isn’t just a wonderful space for a wedding ceremony. It also makes a fantastic location for a welcome or rehearsal dinner or for cocktail hour. It could even be used as an intimate reception venue. For one beautiful rehearsal dinner we planned in the Conservatory, the outside was lit with over a thousand candles – it was magical! It’s worth noting that it can get a bit chilly, so you do need to provide heating here.
State Rooms (Saloon and Library)
The main ground floor state rooms comprise the Saloon and Library, both magnificent rooms with interiors considered among the finest of the period in Ireland. The Saloon is placed at the heart of the house and has huge open fires for guests to gather around in winter, as well as a baby grand piano. The eighty-foot library occupies the entire south façade of Ballyfin wedding venue, with a fireplace at either end and over 5000 volumes. Both are perfection for cocktail hour or for a pre-wedding drinks reception – the kind of spaces just made for mingling. For sunny days, the library opens up onto the side lawn and has gorgeous views overlooking the fountain and lawns. The Library and Salon are linked by the magnificent Rotunda, with its Alhambra Palace-inspired inlaid floor. The Rotunda is also a favourite place to display a wedding cake.
The Ballroom is the largest indoor event space, accommodating up to 130 guests. It’s located in the newer wing but has all the grandeur of the main house, impressing with its ornate red wallpaper and gilded chandeliers. I’ve used the Ballroom as a ceremony space for larger groups, as well as for seated dinner receptions. (Setting up a marquee in the gardens is the alternative for guest counts beyond the Ballroom’s capacity.) And, of course, it’s the perfect place for dancing. So, for example, you could serve dinner in the Ballroom, then adjourn to the Saloon or Library for cake and champagne, before returning to the Ballroom to dance the night away.
The State Dining Room
If you’re planning a micro-wedding, the State Dining Room makes an impressive reception space for a smaller guest list (max 70 people). When Ballyfin wedding venue was a school, it was in this room that the Cistercian brothers used to hold their prayers, and it’s still heavenly today! Other options are to use the State Dining Room for a formal rehearsal dinner or as a wonderful alternative ceremony location.
The Van der Hagen Room
If a really intimate wedding with just 20 guests is more your style, then I would recommend the splendid Van der Hagen Room, which is decorated with a set of early-Georgian classical grisaille paintings by William Van Der Hagen. Like the State Dining Room, it has a peaceful view looking out on to the Water Cascade.
The Gold Drawing Room
Another space that makes a big impression is the stunningly beautiful Gold Drawing Room. The decoration here is French-inspired, with a vaulted ceiling and rich stucco work that has been meticulously restored. At its centre is a glittering chandelier, which came from the Paris town house of Queen Caroline of Naples. In times past, this is the room where guests would assemble before dinner. It still makes for a lovely cocktail hour option or a place for the wedding party to gather before the ceremony. (Note that no red wine is allowed here.) On rainy days, the Gold Drawing Room is also a great picture option.
The Ballyfin Bar
For a wedding after party, there’s no better place than the cellar bar, which opens on to its own terrace. It feels like your own private little pub, where guests can swap stories and enjoy themselves late into the night. A converted Servant’s Hall, the bar is home to Ballyfin’s collection of contemporary Irish art, giving it a more modern feel. The basement area is also where the swimming pool is located and it’s a great place for any type of entertainment. There’s also a piano here. The Ballyfin Bar is accessed by two different sets of stairs and also has an elevator and outside entrance.
Ballyfin Demesne has twenty rooms in total – a variety of suites, state rooms, and deluxe rooms. Each is completely unique and decorated in period style. For example, the Westmeath Room, which is dominated by a carved French bed complete with coronet. One sweet detail is that each room also has a framed drawing by the interior designers of how they imagined the room. While the décor is sumptuous, it also feels cosy and homely, and the antique-filled rooms also offer all the modern amenities you would expect from a first class hotel.
Ballyfin also has the cutest two-storey Gardener’s Cottage tucked away into the corner of the walled garden. Fully refurbished, it has a spacious bedroom, two bathrooms, a private patio, small kitchen, and lots of surprises inside. It also makes a lovely option if you wanted to stay on after the wedding for a romantic mini-moon.
For larger weddings, you’ll find additional accommodation options nearby. We planned a wedding at Ballyfin several years ago, where the couple had a small registry office ceremony and then invited 60 guests for a weekend wedding celebration in the countryside. Not all of the guests could stay at the venue, so we created care packages and delivered them to the property where they were staying. Each guest was given their own monogrammed bathrobe and slippers, an amenity basket for their bathroom (including scented candles and books), and a specially curated mini bar. Each bedroom also had a different floral display, designed with that guest in mind. Special touches that make everyone feel welcome and special!
I recommend either the Lady Caroline or the Christopher Coote Suite as bridal suites or getting ready locations on the morning of the wedding. But, in fact, all the bedrooms have great light and high ceilings – a photographer’s dream!
Additional Events and Activities
An Irish destination wedding is really an opportunity to share the magic of the country with those you love and make new memories together in the process. So it’s important to include a few activities and events in the lead-up to the big day, and also point guests to options they can explore on their own. This is another area where Ballyfin really shines. The property has so many amenities and activities to offer. There really is something for everyone!
For example, there’s boating or fishing at the lake, archery, clay pigeon shooting, and woodland walks. Bikes and golf carts are both available for guests to explore the property. You can even arrange a carriage ride! Those more interested in indoor pursuits will appreciate the guided history and art tours or the luxurious spa. There’s also an incredible china room in the basement, which houses an impressive privately-owned collection of Danica by Royal Copenhagen china.
Food is also a key part of the Ballyfin experience. Walk through the gardens and you’ll find beehives for honey and a walled garden that supplies the kitchen with fresh, seasonal produce. You can arrange to enjoy a picnic in the grotto, a barbecue in the courtyard, or a pre-wedding gathering in one of the event spaces. I love the wine cellar, which can be used for wine tastings and small intimate dinners. You really don’t ever need to leave the Ballyfin grounds but if you do, be sure to visit nearby Birr Castle.
Ballyfin Wedding Venue at a Glance
Address: Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland
Phone: +353 (0) 57 875 5866
Capacity: 130 guests
Hopefully, you enjoyed this complete guide to Ballyfin. If you are interested in my other property reviews check them out here:
Slán go Fóill,