No photograph could prepare me for the my first glimpse of Temple House, a Georgian mansion set on a private estate of 1,000 acres a few miles south of Sligo, in western Ireland. After I drove past the gates and through the green pastures filled with sheep, the sight of the stately home took my breath away. It’s huge and imposing—like something out of a wonderful costume-drama film.
Despite the grandeur—and everything from Temple House’s exterior to its antique-furnished rooms is grand—it’s an unpretentious place run by the Perceval family. (Generations of Percevals have resided there since 1665.) Today the luxurious country house is managed and graciously hosted by Roderick and Helena Perceval.
In My Lady’s Chamber
I stayed in the smallest room: the pink room, which is anything but small. I slept cozily in a half-canopied bed and tucked my luggage into a huge wardrobe.. I had a small writing desk, and I absolutely adored throwing open my ceiling-high shuttered windows each morning to behold the soft, green fields dotted with sheep. (The only thing not historic—and happily so—is the bathrooms. They’re modern.)
Although the mansion has 100 rooms, just 10 of them are restored for guests. Imagine trying to heat a 100-room mansion redesigned/rebuilt in 1864!
In addition to getting single B&B rooms, you can rent the entire house for a wedding, birthday party, family reunion, or group retreat. (The house accommodates 14 to 20 guests at one time.) There is also a private cottage that sleeps eight people for a small gathering.
I especially loved the elegant dining room, the site of fabulous breakfasts and dinners. The innkeepers emphasize local foods, some from their own organic garden. Fresh-cooked breakfasts there are hearty to keep you fueled for a day of exploring the estate or other pastimes in County Sligo.
A four-course dinner at Temple House is not to be missed. The menu often features lamb from the farm and the catch-of-the-day from the nearby Atlantic coast. Vegetarians and people with dietary restrictions are well cared for too.
Guests gather at the immense, lavishly set mahogany table while a crackling fire warms the room and paintings of the Perceval ancestors peer down from the walls. Roderick regaled us with colorful tales of his family through the centuries. I’d look from his face to his forebears—and noticed the same features: a similar nose, the shape of the eyes, the chin!
I can’t imagine growing up amidst so much history and finery, but then I remember that it takes lots of hard work to maintain the estate—as I’m sure centuries of Irish laborers can attest. The present-day Percevals stay busy preparing meals, cleaning bathrooms, changing linens, and entertaining guests, so it’s a modest living—just in a grand setting.
Go Exploring or Simply Relax
It was quite rainy during my visit to western Ireland when I visited, so I didn’t get outside as much as I would have liked. There are lots of outdoor activities on the Temple House estate, including kayaking, SUP, and canoeing on the lake and up the river. You can also try your hand at archery, fishing, and croquet on the lawn. In addition, there are miles of meandering footpaths on the property.
Indoor pastimes include yoga, poker, backgammon, gin rummy, and table tennis (ping-pong). There’s even a cookery demonstration, which involves sipping wine while watching dinner being prepared.
Within a short drive you can go sea fishing, surfing, hill climbing, ziplining, or golfing. The folks at Temple House can also direct you to a local pub to hear traditional Irish music. You can also visit Voya Spa for a seaweed baths or treatment . (Read my review about having a seaweed bath.) Just a five-minute drive away from Temple House is Eagle’s Flying, Ireland’s largest sanctuary for raptors and owls, where you can see these magnificent birds flying twice a day.
I arrived at Temple House in late afternoon on a blustery day, so after I changed out of my soggy clothes, I went down to the cheery Morning Room where tea is served daily. I settled onto a comfy sofa and propped my feet on a hassock. Minutes later, a pot of hot tea and some sweet and savory goodies arrived. It was the perfect way to release the stress of driving on the left side of the road.
There are countless delights at Temple House: It’s quite comfortable, it’s so welcoming, and the fellow travelers I met were excellent company at meals. Also, the ruins of a 13th-century Knights Templar Castle creates a deep sense of history—and also gives the Temple House estate its name.
So I’d have to say that what I loved most was feeling like I had stepped back into history. (If you really like old stuff, and want to travel back to pre-history, make a day trip to the nearby ancient Carrowmore Megalithic complex.) Even if there were nothing else in the vicinity to do, I can think of no more charming place to relax, read a book, eat fabulous food, and dream of eras past than at Temple House.
—Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor
Originally published: November 2009
Updated: March 2021
Read more about my travels in Ireland:
- An Irish Dolmen and a Magical Dog
- Full Circle: Standing Stones & Driving in Ireland
- Take a Celtic Seaweed Bath
- On Downings Beach
- Legendary Green Spa in Ireland
- Jedi Knights Arrive in Ireland
- A Visit to Mythic Ireland
- My Hunt for Irish Sheela-Na-Gigs
- Archways into the Irish Past (about sheela-na-gigs)
P.S. For more tips on places to visit in Ireland, visit Discover Ireland.