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Looking for design inspiration? For me, one of the best ways to gather decorating or culinary inspiration is by travelling. Just walking the streets in a foreign country seems to awaken my inner design maven.
So it was perfect timing to arrive in Dublin, Ireland just when I needed inspiration for our own home.
During my journey from Dublin to Galway with Insight Vacations, I soaked up plenty of inspiration from the design, architecture and cuisine at its castle hotels, country homes and historic streets.
Here are a few of the design highlights you’ll experience when visiting Ireland.
Dreamy Doors in Dublin
The city of Dublin happens to be home to one of the world’s best-preserved stretches of Georgian architecture. Built during the 18th century during a period of prosperity, the Irish gentry built elegant Georgian terraces (in North America we call them townhouses) built around handsome squares and parks.
While a few of these stately Georgian buildings disappeared during the 1960s thanks to “modernization” efforts, enough of these beauties remain to create an inspiring stroll. Take a close look on your walk – Dublin doors feature bright spots of colour, beautiful fanlights and impressive door knockers.
Where is the best spot to see the best of Dublin’s doors? Begin your walk near Merrion Square, the gracious slice of greenery created by John Ensor in 1762.
Or, if you stay at The Dylan Hotel as I did when I arrived a night early, you’ll pass lovely Georgian streetscapes each time you walk into town. When it comes to strolling the streets and soaking up history, Ireland one of the best summer destinations to visit in Europe.
Pubs, Oysters and Boxty in Dublin
You could spend a lifetime exploring “the beauty of the Guinness” in Ireland but Dublin’s pubs also offer music, more drink and plenty of traditional cuisine such as carvery (huge tables laden with platters of carved ham, beef and lamb) and crispy battered fish and chips.
A top experience is the 2.5 hour Dublin Literary Pub Crawl that begins at The Duke and is an ale-fuelled and entertaining introduction to the city’s pub scene and literary heritage featuring readings of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce.
Along the route, be sure to sample a Smithwick’s, the number one Irish ale — it’s been brewed since 1710. Also be sure to stop by Gallagher’s Boxty House, in the heart of Temple Bar. Here, the traditional Irish potato pancake has been elevated to a high art and comes stuffed with a variety of tantalizing flavours.
The top dish is the Gaelic Boxty, a light pancake filled with tender beef medallions in a mushroom cream sauce delicately spiked with whiskey. This is also the spot to order a platter of Galway oysters (the largest and freshest oysters I’ve ever seen) and a shot of Redbreast whiskey. Any jet lag is guaranteed gone after an afternoon at Boxty.
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, it’s definitely worth checking out local practices and details about tipping and pub culture before you arrive. Tipping is generally lower in Ireland than in Canada or the United States.
Exploring Design Outside Dublin
Even more inspiration-worthy doors awaited outside Dublin. Our Insight Vacations escorted motor coach tour, which I’m convinced is the best way to experience Ireland’s countryside and its pubs without the worry of driving, took us in style from Dublin to Kilkenny to Killarney around the Dingle Peninsula to Limerick and Galway and back to Dublin.
Along the way, there was plenty of design and culinary inspiration. Their Irish Elegance itinerary offers a leisurely scenic drive, luxury Signature experiences and locally-inspired dining.
Check out this round-up of the best castle hotels in Ireland for more about ultra-romantic Ashford Castle, the pinnacle in dining and design. Who wouldn’t want a carved castle door or a humble cottage framed in Virginia Creeper?
Design Inspiration at Ashford Castle
During my road trip through Ireland, we began our days with huge Irish breakfasts (hey the air was chilly so we needed to fuel up). We also enjoyed special impromptu treats such as flapjacks — a fruit filled oat cake– on the Wild Atlantic Way as well as dining in local pubs and restaurants (prawns in Monk’s Pub was a highlight).
Ashford Castle in Ireland
Located in the village of Cong in County Mayo on the Mayo-
Since undergoing a massive refurbishment that involved the decor, artworks, landscaping and even its innards such as the electrical and plumbing systems, it reopened as a member of the luxurious Red Carnation Hotel Collection in early 2015 and has been earning accolades as Europe’s top hotel ever since.
Read about 23 fun things to do in Galway City if you’re interested in exploring more in this region of Ireland.
To plan a luxury escorted tour in Ireland, visit Insight Vacations. You’ll travel in comfort (in a modern limo-style coach decked out with WiFi, reclining seats and plenty of legroom), stay in inspiring hotels and dine in unique, specially-selected restaurants, pubs and eateries. You’ll also enjoy Signature Experiences you won’t be able to dream up on your own.
For more on Ireland, visit the official Tourism Ireland website.