Introduction to Ireland’s history
Medieval & Georgian Dublin explored
Wonderful Georgian houses to include Russborough & Castletown
Remarkable levels of private access
Landscapes & gardens including Jimi Blake’s Hunting Brook & Helen Dillon’s new garden
Gentle pace with time to explore
Visit based at historic Barberstown Castle
Ireland has a wealth of great houses and public buildings of international stature, many of which have remained largely unknown to all but the specialist historian and enthusiast. These date from the Medieval to the Victorian period. Undoubtedly, many of the finest are of the Georgian era, when Ireland enjoyed a period of unprecedented, though temporary, peace and prosperity.
Our visit will introduce you to these buildings, their architects and owners, their outstanding collections of pictures, furniture and decorative arts and their surrounding landscapes and gardens. This will be done through a series of visits in and around Dublin, one of the great European cities of the eighteenth century. You will be taken on several gently paced walks around the city, together with time spent in the picturesque Irish countryside when we visit two of Ireland’s greatest country houses, Castletown House and the magical Russborough, which we shall see under special ‘connoisseur’ viewing conditions.
We stay at Barberstown Castle, a very good four-star country house hotel. The original castle, a defensive tower, was extended several times to create the elegant house of today. It is set amidst quiet countryside, a short drive from Dublin. There will be a free evening on the fourth evening, and a bus transfer into and out from Dublin will be included as part of the visit. This will allow members of the group to attend the theatre or to eat in one of Dublin’s many fine restaurants.
Day by day
- Day 1: Sunday 27 September
- We fly from Heathrow to Dublin and travel by coach directly into the city centre where there will be time for a snack lunch, not included. We continue south of the city to the leafy suburb of Monkstown to visit privately Helen Dillon’s Garden. Having moved four years ago from her renowned garden in Ranelagh, Helen has created a new oasis of horticultural excellence, round which she will guide us. We continue to Barberstown Castle, where we stay for five nights. We have our first dinner in the hotel - wine, water and coffee are included with all group lunches and dinners.
- Day 2: Monday 28 September
- We drive into Dublin and an Introductory Coach Tour will reveal the historic evolution of the city. Beginning with its Viking and Medieval origins, we visit the medieval St Patrick’s Cathedral, in a sense the ‘Westminster Abbey’ of Ireland, with a fine array of tombs and monuments. Of course, the Cathedral is also connected with Jonathan Swift, its Dean for many years. We then explore Dublin’s great period of architectural splendour during the Georgian era as we chart the construction of fine public buildings such as the Parliament House and the Customs House. After a pause for lunch, not included, we spend the afternoon at Trinity College, founded by Elizabeth I in 1592. It has a wonderful array of buildings and we shall visit the Long Library in order to see the famous Book of Kells, now the centrepiece of an exhibition devoted to the introduction of Christianity to Ireland. We return to Barberstown and dinner will be in the hotel.
- Day 3: Tuesday 29 September
- Mount Usher in Co Wicklow is one of the great gardens of Ireland - laid out along the valley of the River Vartry, it is a lovely example of a true “Robinsonian” style garden with over five thousand species of plants, many of them rare and exotic, painting a kaleidoscope of colour throughout the seasons – the acers should look particularly good. Powerscourt hardly needs introduction with its stunning position and formal terraces – it will provide us with an excellent place for a snack lunch, not included, before a guided tour of the gardens led by a member of the Slazenger family, who own the estate. We return to Barberstown and dinner will be in the hotel
- Day 4: Wednesday 30 September
- This morning we return to Dublin to continue our exploration of the city’s Georgian heritage when we visit a pair of historic interiors which chart the development of Georgian architecture in the city. Some of these feature remarkable figurative stucco plasterwork, introduced by a family of three Swiss-Italians, the Lafranchini brothers, further developed by local craftsmen. We continue to The National Museum of Ireland which has an unrivalled collection of material related to the early history of Ireland: magnificent metalwork from the Bronze, Iron and Early Christian periods, including such pieces as the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Broach. Lunch is not included today. We return to Co. Kildare to visit Ireland’s most important Palladian mansion, Castletown House. Built in the early Georgian period for ‘Speaker’ William Conolly, it was completed internally by his great-nephew, Tom and his English wife, Lady Louisa, daughter of the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Richmond. It contains a spectacular series of staterooms displaying most of the major styles of the eighteenth century. We return to the hotel and there is no group dinner this evening. There will be a transfer into and back from Dublin tonight for those who would like to ‘dine out’ or meet up with local friends.
- Day 5: Thursday 1 October
- This morning we visit glorious Russborough, where we shall have a ‘connoisseur’s’ private tour of the house. Russborough contains the finest art collection in Ireland, bringing together many of the original ‘Grand Tour’ treasures purchased by the 1st and 2nd Earls of Milltown and the renowned Beit collection which is particularly rich in Old Master paintings of the Dutch, French and English schools. It also has a superlative decorative arts collection and if that were not enough, the house sits in a landscape which Claude might have designed – heaven on earth. We lunch at Russborough after which we drive a few miles to visit Hunting Brook, the deservedly famous garden created in recent years by Jimi Blake. It is an extraordinarily rich and multi-layered experience with swashbuckling cultivars and zingy colours in informal beds creating great richness of form and texture. In contrast, the nearby woodland glade is an oasis of meditative calm. After tea we continue down the hill to Tinode, to visit June Blake, Jimi’s equally talented sister, where her garden is set out amidst winding bark paths with stands of mature beech trees all about. June grows and trials perennials, shade loving plants and ornamental grasses with incredible flair. We return to the hotel and our final group dinner.
- Day 6: Friday 2 October
- Our last morning will be spent at the National Gallery of Ireland. Here is a collection that truly ‘punches above its weight’ – all the major European schools are well represented and there are masterpieces by Caravaggio, Vermeer, the Dutch landscape school, Velazquez, and a magnificent selection of British and Irish pictures from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After some free time for a final lunch, not included, we drive out to visit the most unusual building we shall see, The Casino at Marino. This is not a gambling den but a witty piece of architectural trompe l’oeil, designed by Sir William Chambers for his great Irish patron, James Caulfield, the first Earl of Charlemont, in the new Neo-classical style then sweeping Europe. We continue to nearby Dublin Airport for our early evening return flight to Heathrow.
- Price: £1,975 per person
- Price without flights: £1,825
- Deposit: £300
- Single Supplement: £195 (Double Room for Sole Use)
5 nights with breakfast at 4* Barberstown Castle
Outward: EI157 Departs London Heathrow 1050 (Terminal 2) arrive Dublin 1220
Return: EI178 Departs Dublin 1800 arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 2) 1925
4 dinners & 1 lunch with water, wine & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, the services of Tom Duncan
Travel to/from Heathrow, 1 dinner & 4 lunches
Weather Conditions for Dublin in September are:
Average Temperature between: 9oC - 17oC / 48oF - 62oF
Rainfall: 60mm / 2.3inches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.