The English poet laureate John Betjeman once wrote that Ireland has houses so large that not even the Commissioners in Lunacy would take them on as asylums. The 18th century was a golden age for architecture in Ireland and there are still several hundred country houses, many still owned by descendants of the original builders, that will delight the visitor. In the Georgian period there were architects from all over Europe practicing in Ireland – Wyatt, Gandon, Cooley, Chambers and Nash from England, Adam from Scotland, Cassels from Germany, Galilei & Ducart from Italy, as well as home grown Irish architects like Vanbrugh’s cousin Edward Lovett Pearce, and Thomas de Burgh.
Originally on our Country House Tours we actually arranged for you to stay in these wonderful historic homes. However we soon learnt that only the hardiest lovers of country life truly appreciated the faded grandeur that one finds in some of the most beautiful houses. So now your tour visits them during the day, but at night you’ll sleep in more luxuriously comfortable accommodation.
The lover of elegant architecture and beautiful historic buildings can explore more than splendid country houses and stately homes. From prehistoric temples, such as Newgrange and Lough Crew, that are 5,000 years old, one can survey the finest medieval engineering, turreted castles and great abbeys with soaring lancet windows.
Sadly our most original architect, Eileen Gray who inspired Le Corbusier, built nothing here and in the 20th century Ireland’s reinforced steel, concrete and glass temples of commerce (or of God) are mostly rather derivative, but the 19th century commercial buildings and gothic revival statements of success are equal to any in Europe.
And everywhere there are delightful gate lodges, cottages inspired by Palladio, and follies galore. You will step into another age as you tour the uncrowded countryside. No standing in line, no jostling for a view, no selfie sticks. Wander through buildings that are not frozen in a moment of time, but are organic and ever changing, with the layers of generations of contrasting tastes .
No two architecture tours are the same – they are tailored to your interests. Guided by an architectural historian, you will have privileged access to private houses that are inaccessible to other tourists. But wherever you tour in Ireland you’ll experience the combination of new and ancient, provincial and contemporary, common and unique – all set in majestic landscapes.