Ever dreamed of being king or queen of a castle? Lord or lady of the manor? Well, you're not the only one -- and plenty of hotels around the world can make that dream come true. We scouted out nine luxury hotels that were formerly the elaborate private homes of blue bloods, aristocrats, and royals, from an Irish castle to a Gatsby-era Gold Coast mansion. Feelin' fancy? Then check these out.
This charming stone manor house dates to the 18th century and the 450-acre country estate embodies the sort of wild country beauty that Connemara is famous for. Past owners of the lands have included the O’Flaherty clan (the 16th century “Pirate Queen,” Grace O’Malley, married into the clan and was one of its more noteworthy members); Richard Martin (a member of Parliament nicknamed Humanity Dick for founding the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals); and the Indian Maharaja, Ranji, who bought the estate in 1922.
Oheka Castle is a one-of-a-kind hotel. It was built in the 1920’s as the second-largest private residence in the United States for financier Otto Kahn. Its grand ballrooms and meeting spaces have hosted lavish parties attended by heads of state and celebrities — including Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks — and some of the wealthiest families in the country have called its rooms home. Today, the Oheka Castle features 32 elegant rooms, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Housed in the former residences of the Bertolini princes, the Grand Hotel Baglioni lives up to the grand image painted by Florence’s past. The hotel is filled with heavy-handed regal touches and ornate decor from top to bottom. The 193 rooms are very spacious (not often the case in a historic building), and feel luxurious, decked out with classic Italian furnishings, large leaded windows, gorgeous dark wood.
The Milestone Hotel has a long and storied history, and previous structures on this site were inhabited by a cast of colorful characters, including a mistress of James II and a notorious financial swindler, “Baron” Albert Grant. The current structure is made up of two private homes dating to the 1880s, one of which was inhabited by Baron Redesdale. Today, it is perhaps the most famous boutique hotel in London.
Originally built in 1925 by William Vanderbilt II as a winter estate, today Fisher Island is a private island residential community with a small hotel. Peacocks freely roam the lush grounds, and the original Vanderbuilt Mansion is still intact. The island’s rich history coexists with tons of modern amenties: a top-notch tennis center, one of the best 9-hole golf courses in the country, two marinas, and a 22,000-square-foot spa.
This upscale boutique hotel, with just 12 rooms, is housed in a gorgeous century-old mansion that was formerly the home of an aristocratic family. Despite its small size, the hotel goes above and beyond with the amenities, offering a gym, spa, lovely outdoor garden, excellent free breakfast, and free Wi-Fi. The rooms blend elegant decor (antique furniture and artwork, patterned bedspreads, crown moldings) with modern technology (iPod docks, flat-screen TVs).
Vanderbilt Grace is a 100-year-old mansion built by the Vanderbilt family that has been converted into a modern, elegant hotel. It’s a luxury property, so accommodations here don’t come cheap, but the rooms are well-appointed, the dining is first-class, and the location is prime — close to Newport, but without the noise. A spa, a substantial fitness center, and two swimming pools round out the list of features.
This intimate, family-run boutique is ideal for those seeking an authentic stay in Florence within easy reach of tourist sights. Built centuries ago as the home of a Florentine merchant family, this property was inherited through marriage by the Niccolinis in 1891. They have kept its historic charm intact, having preserved the wood-beamed ceilings and frescoed walls. Each guest room has a unique layout, but all are furnished with antiques, flat-screen TVs, and stocked mini-fridges. Many have large windows that feature stunning views of the iconic Duomo cathedral across the street.
The 21-room GoldenEye is hands down Jamaica’s hippest and most luxurious resort. It’s also one of the island’s most historic, as the former home of Ian Fleming, and the hideaway at which the author scribed all 14 of his James Bond novels. Today, the property, which reopened in 2010 after an extensive $50 million renovation, includes stunning cottages and villas overlooking a private beach and lagoon, as well as two happening restaurants, two pools, a tree house spa, and an extensive roster of on-site activities.