Architecture in Ireland, A Guide for the Casual Traveler

Ancient and Modern Structures Throughout Ireland

Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in Limerick, Ireland
Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in Limerick, Ireland. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images Sport Collection/Getty Images

Ancient monoliths, medieval castles, arts & crafts design, and cast iron structures all find a home in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The island has a rich history of strife and stories, love and lore, golf and Guinness. Ireland is roughly the size of Indiana in the US, but with much to explore. Here are some suggestions:

Spotlight on Adare Manor:

Rising from emerald green fields in County Limerick, Ireland, the Adare Manor we see today is largely the 19th century revival designs of architect James Pain and  for the 2nd Earl of Dunraven. Today, Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort is a 5-star luxury destination sitting on 840 acres of parkland, including formal French gardens laid out by Philip Charles Hardwick in the 1850s. The grounds surrounding Adare Manor encompass cultivated gardens, mature trees, ancient ruins, and the meandering Maigue River.

The golf course—one of the top courses in Ireland—was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and opened in 1995. It was the site of the Irish Open in 2007 and 2008.

How Adare Manor Was Built:

Adare Manor was not always so imposing. In the 1720s the building was a refined Georgian house, without turrets and other elaborate details. However, Lady Caroline Wyndham wanted to give her gout-stricken husband, Lord Dunraven, something to do. And, what could be a better diversion than home renovation?

In addition to keeping Dunraven busy, the construction of Adare Manor greatly benefited the nearby village of Adare, since it provided work for hundreds of villagers during the Irish potato famine. Lady Caroline always insisted that her husband had designed the house, but the creative work was almost certainly done by local architect James Pain.

Re-built in the Gothic Revival style between 1832 to 1862, Adare Manor has towers, turrets, woodwork, stonework, 52 chimneys, and 365 leaded glass windows—making it what people call a Calendar House. At first glance, Adare Manor resembles a French chateau, but many of the details suggest famous Irish and English homes. The floor plan of the entire manor is on a grand scale. For example, the Minstrel's Gallery, inspired by Versailles Hall of Mirrors, is 132 feet long, 26½ feet high, and is lined with 17th-century choir stalls. To pay the bills, mansion castles like Adare have embraced the tourist trade.

Learn more from The Adare Manor Story (PDF) and be the first to book a stay in the newly refurbished resort.

More Castles and Grand Manors in Ireland:

Adare is not the only manor house in this county town of Ireland.

  • Dunguaire Castle in County Galway
  • Johnstown Castle in County Wexford
  • Tully Castle, a Northern Ireland plantation castle
  • Rock of Cashel, Carraig Phadraig in County Tipperary
  • Castle Birr in County Offaly
  • Downhill Estate in County Derry
  • Bunratty Castle, a Folk Park in County Clare
  • Dromoland Castle, another 5-star hotel

Visit the Churches and Cathedrals in Ireland:

More Great Structures in Ireland:

  • Leinster House, the Dublin parliament building that inspired White House architects
  • Stormont parliament building in Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Monument of Light, a symbol of 21st century Dublin
  • St. Stephen's Green, a Victorian landscape in the heart of Dublin
  • Saint Patrick's College in County Kildare
  • Mount Jerome Cemetery, a Victorian cemetery in the heart of Dublin
  • Dublin Castle, site of the original Dubh Linn
  • Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin;s most photographed cast iron walkway

Archaeological Sites in Ireland:

  • Brú na Boinne, the ancient central chamber of Newgrange in the Boyne Valley
  • Mount Sandel, the oldest identified archaeological site in Ireland
  • Navan Fort (Northern Ireland)
  • Waterford, settled by the Vikings in 853 AD

Irish Architecture on the Web:

Learn More About Irish Architecture:

  • Ancient Ireland: Life before the Celts by Laurence Flanagan (read a review)
  • Great Irish Houses and Castles by Jacqueline O'Brien and Desmond Guinness
  • The Irish Country House by Desmond FitzGerald (The Knight of Glin) and James Peill
  • Houses of Ireland: Domestic Architecture from the Medieval Castle to the Edwardian Villa by Brian De Breffny
  • In an Irish House by Sybil Connolly
  • Full Irish: New Architecture in Ireland by Sarah A. Lappin, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009

Sources: Adare Manor History, Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resor [accessed March 14, 2016]