​​This newly restored hotel is the smartest stay in Ireland right now

It’s not the first time a hotel with lofty aspirations has inhabited this former bishop’s home. In its previous incarnation, Diana Spencer, Elizabeth Taylor and Ronald Regan were among the punters sipping Guinness in the lively cellar bar (though perhaps not all at once), and in the 1980s the building housed a Michelin-starred restaurant. Now anointed The Bishop’s Buttery, the hotel’s latest fine-dining offering could well be chasing stars of both persuasions. In the subterranean space where a central fire worthy of mediaeval banquets crackles and hisses, delicately plated dishes of Shepherd’s Store-cheese agnolotti and whiskey baba with toasted barley ice cream champion Tipperary produce – abundant here in the heartland of the pasture-rich Golden Vale. More local ingredients are showcased at breakfast – the eggs, sausages, bacon, yogurt and jam all come from small businesses nearby. The hotel also plugs into the Tipperary Food Tours initiative, offering guests the chance to visit local cheese-makers, beekeepers and apple growers. There’s talk of running a Slow Food-inspired market on the palace grounds in the future.

Oil portraitKatie Quinn

But perhaps the biggest USP, for those keen to immerse themselves into this horse-mad part of the country, is the Racing Royalty package. On the day-long trip, the hotel’s equine concierge Julie McGrath gives you behind-the-scenes access to the Ballydoyle training grounds and the world-famous Coolmore Stud. Guests can see sinewy thoroughbreds on their morning gallops, followed by an afternoon getting within a mane’s stroke of some seriously prized stallions, perhaps St Mark’s Basilica – one of the world’s highest rated racehorses in 2021 – in his royal-blue-painted stable. After a spin around the paddocks of the 3,000-acre farm to spot nuzzling mares and foals, the tour ends at the legacy museum (not open to Joe Public), where you get to feel the weight of the solid-silver Arc de Triomphe trophy and stroke the well-worn leather saddle that accompanied legendary winner Nijinsky across the finishing line. Such access doesn’t come cheap, but for anyone with even a vague interest in this intriguing world, it’s a memorable experience. Horse riding – understandably on non-thoroughbreds – can be arranged at a nearby equestrian centre.

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