Dublin is currently in the midst of a renaissance, as the Irish capital combines centuries of fabled history with a recent influx of tech companies and innovative startups that have opened in the city’s revitalized docklands, now dubbed “Silicon Docks.” The rest of Dublin is booming, as well, with a new Michelin-starred restaurant and the refurbished National Gallery topping the list of the latest attractions in Ireland.
But the capital isn’t the only place in Ireland grabbing attention: located in the bucolic countryside and a three-hour drive from Dublin is Ashford Castle, which recently unveiled a stunning renovation, cementing its status as one of the most unique and luxurious properties in Ireland, as well as the debut of the Belmond Grand Hibernian’s luxury train tour across the country. Here are the latest hot spots to visit on your next trip to the Emerald Isle.
The Dining Scene Has Garnered New Acclaim
Foodies are flocking to several much-lauded additions to Dublin’s culinary landscape. Advanced booking is essential to secure a coveted table at Heron & Grey, a tiny Blackrock restaurant that only seats about two dozen people per night. The restaurant’s five-course, seasonal tasting menu ushers guests through a three-and-a-half hour gastronomic experience, and earned restaurateurs Andrew Heron and Damien Grey a Michelin star less than 12 months after Heron & Grey opened.
The team behind the beloved Forest Avenue has opened an award-winning sister establishment on Leeson Street: the wine room and restaurant Forest & Marcy, which nabbed the Best Newcomer Award at a ceremony hosted by the Restaurant Association of Ireland this May. The small eatery features a rotating wine and food list, including a tasting menu and Chef Ciaran Sweeney’s signature fermented potato bread served with bacon and cabbage. And travelers with a sweet tooth should be sure to stop by The Dublin Cookie Company—which opened last year—for freshly baked treats and flavored milk.
Related: Top Tables Dublin
The Fashion and Cultural Offerings Are Flourishing
The Dublin fashion scene was recently set abuzz when hip Swedish brand & Other Stories opened its first store in Ireland in late 2016, offering a wide range of womenswear, shoes and accessories (26-27 Grafton Street). This summer, the Temple Bar Night Market returns along with the warm weather, running every Wednesday from May through September. Located in the rich cultural quarter of Temple Bar, the open-air market offers handmade crafts, including jewelry, clothing and homeware from both local and international artisans.
Summertime in Dublin also brings a host of outdoor cultural activities. The Dublin Horse Show gallops into town on August 9—featuring classic equestrian competitions and plenty of options to eat, drink and shop in between shows—followed by an eclectic array of live performances at the Dublin Fringe Festival in September.
This season is also the perfect time to visit the National Gallery of Ireland, which houses more than 11,000 works of European and Irish fine art. On June 15, 2017, the Historic Wings of the National Gallery reopened to the public after six years of multimillion-euro renovations.
Of course, most visits to Dublin include an obligatory pint at the Guinness Storehouse and a literary pub crawl through the former watering holes of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.
Related: 3 Days in Dublin
The Luxe Ashford Castle Is Better Than Ever
With its cool temperatures and verdant landscapes, the Irish countryside beckons in the summer. Located just three hours from Dublin, the nearly 800-year-old Ashford Castle is one of the most unique properties in Ireland, offering luxury accommodations, a comprehensive spa and an abundance of on-site activities. Plus, after two years of renovations, Ashford recently reopened and boasts a fresh aesthetic that makes it one of Ireland’s top hotels.
After exploring the city, retreat to this sprawling countryside estate for a plethora of active pastimes like tennis, golf, horseback riding, archery, shooting, fishing, zip lining and falconry taught at Ireland’s oldest Falconry School. The castle also offers a luxe spa, gym, cinema and several on-site dining options—including the Prince of Wales Bar and George V dining room—where guests can easily while away hours relaxing like a visiting duke or duchess.
Related: Spotlight: Ashford Castle
There Is A Chic New Way To Get Around
Travelers who want to see more of Ireland without renting a car can now explore the country in style on the Belmond Grand Hibernian Train, a luxe rail experience that debuted last year from the team behind the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Up to 40 guests can stay in private cabins designed with Dublin’s iconic Georgian architecture and savor views of Ireland’s lush landscapes rushing past their windows. All journeys depart from Dublin and range between two and six nights, so an elegant railroad jaunt can fit easily within any Ireland itinerary.