Design Destinations: Ireland

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day – the day that everyone is a little Irish.  A day to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in some form since the 17th century, and it’s been celebrated in America since the late 18th century.  The festivities generally involve parades and festivals, traditional Irish music, the wearing of green attire, and the display of shamrocks. Drinking alcohol, especially Irish whiskey, beer, or cider, has also become an integral part of the celebrations.  While some people use St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to go out drinking, we’d rather use it as an excuse to check out some awesome Irish design. So let’s take a look at a few design destinations in Ireland.


Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny


Built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways, Kilkenny Castle was a symbol of Norman occupation and formed an important element of the defenses of the town with its four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade.  The castle and its property was transferred to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for £50 and are now managed by the Office of Public Works. It has become one of the most visited tourist sites in Ireland with ornamental gardens on the city side of the castle, and extensive land and gardens to the front. There’s even part of the National Art Gallery on display in the castle.  While visiting Kilkenny Castle you can also go across the street to check out the Kilkenny Design Craft Centre, which offers one of the largest selections of Irish handcrafted gifts.

Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

The pre-eminent Irish institution promoting the appreciation and understanding of world cultures, the Chester Beatty Library is a designated National Cultural Institution.  The library was established in 1968 the will of the late Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, a successful American mining engineer, collector and philanthropist. Originally housed on Shrewsbury Road, the library moved to its current location in Dublin Castle in 2000 to provide greater access to the collections.  The library has rich collections from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, making it a must for art and history lovers.


St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

For fans of Gothic architecture, a stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin should be on your itinerary.  Founded in 1191 it is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, as well as the tallest and largest church in the country.  The cathedral is the location for many public national ceremonies, including Ireland’s Remembrance Day ceremonies which are hosted by the Royal British Legion and attended by the President of Ireland every November.

Titanic Belfast, Belfast

The world’s largest Titanic visitor experience, Titanic Belfast allows visitors to explore the Titanic story in a fresh and insightful way.  Not just an attraction, it also stands as a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage. Titanic Belfast is located on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in the city’s Titanic Quarter where the RMS Titanic was built.  The building’s design is intended to reflect Belfast’s history of ship making and industrial legacy.  With its angular form the building recalls the shape of ships’ prows, with its main “prow” angled down the middle of the Titanic and Olympic slipways towards the River Lagan.  However some feel like it looks more like an iceberg, and locals have nicknamed it such.  The building stands 126 feet high, which is the same height as Titanic‘s hull.


National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin

Founded in 1795 by the Dublin Society, the National Botanic Gardens are today in State ownership through the Office of Public Works and hold 20,000 living plants and millions of dried plant specimens.  The original purpose of the gardens had been to advance knowledge of plants for agriculture, medicine and dyeing, and they still participate in national and international initiatives for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.  Besides all the beautiful plants, the 48 acre property also has several architecturally notable greenhouses. Fans of nature and architecture will both enjoy a visit to the gardens.

Whether you have Irish heritage, or just enjoy wearing green and having a good time on St. Patrick’s Day, a trip to Ireland is a treat for any design enthusiast.  From historic architecture to contemporary art and design there’s something for everyone. Of course all of this is on top of the beautiful scenery and rich culture (not to mention the accents!) you’ll get to experience if you visit Ireland.  Is it too late to get to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day?