Our return to Ireland was long anticipated. Our family had never traveled to the countryside. We rented a car and headed south by way of Cork to Killarney. We stayed in a fabulous pub and spent several days exploring the charming town and surrounding area including the gorgeous seaside Ring of Kerry drive to Dingle and beyond. We listened to live Irish music every night (oh how great it is to see live music again), drank $4.00 beers and even saw a 4th of July parade.
My husband and son got incredibly lucky and scored tickets to Skellig Michael which my husband describes as the “craggiest and most inhospitable knife’s edge of an island” that was inhabited by monks for 600 years. Eight miles offshore, this island is most famous to many for the final scene in Star Wars: Force Awakens, where Ray climbs to the top of the 600 stairs and meets Luke Skywalker. Make reservations in advance, you’ll need to set aside a full day.
We ventured on to Rosscommon/Knockvicar area of Northwest Ireland. Everyone that we told we were going to Roscommon repeatedly asked, “why?” Most of the Irish residents we met had never been there. Our purpose was very specific - to visit the fabulous Ùna Burke who lives and works in this area. In addition to our time with their family, we were stunned by the beauty of the quaint countryside - the stacked rock walls, the green pastures, the amazing Castle Island. I have to say that this area is exactly what I pictured when I thought about the Irish countryside. The description of “it is so green it hurts your eyes” is absolutely true.
We spent a day with Ùna and her husband Emmett and their little boy, Leo, at their Georgian home in the countryside known as Riversdale House. Ùna’s studio is in the house with huge windows that let in spectacular natural light. She and I sorted through leathers, matched grommets (which she applies by hand) and discussed styles and finishes for bags and belts she is creating for Lesetta for AW ’22. Her second child is due in September, so we needed to finalize my order for her to make before she welcomes her little girl. We sorted though the racks of the pieces she had created in the past including fierce harnesses that have been worn by Rihanna and Lady Gaga, leather bustiers and collars that have been worn in films such as Star Trek and Hunger Games. She even let my daughter try on the leather arm brace that Jennifer Lawrence actually wore as Katniss. We chatted about how she was discovered by famous music artists and movie stars from around the world, and her inspiration behind certain pieces. She knew that she wanted to offer her powerful, yet feminine creations to real women to wear in their normal lives. Out of this desire, the gorgeous handbags, belts and cuffs were born and her collections have been best-sellers at Lesetta for years.
Back in Dublin I met up with the stylish Jo Lyons who has her finger on the pulse of all things Irish design. I met Jo in 2019 on my first visit to Dublin. During that time she introduced me to Ùna’s work, Mona Swims kaftans and sarongs, FAO Millinery’s fabulous headwear, and many more. We continued our quest for works that would be a fit for the Lesetta clientele by visiting old friends and some new ones. This Spring I will offer Carla Johnson’s fabulous resort wear again with her new Mona Swims collection. This Fall Freya Otway’s millinery will be back on the site with her bestselling Fedora, this time in a rich emerald green, and we are also adding her luxurious wool and cashmere beanies handmade in Scotland.
After many a great meal, meeting more fabulous designers, and enjoying all Dublin has to offer, it was time to head home. Inspired by the beauty of each place we visited and the talent and creativity of the new makers I met, I came back renewed and ready to curate a great collection from this adventure that will be offered in the months to come. Stay tuned…
Trinity College - One of the oldest universities in Europe, it is well worth a tour.
Book of Kells/Old Trinity Library - at Trinity College, you need to buy a ticket for each. The library is closing in 2023 for a few years for restoration.
National Gallery of Ireland - It's free and has a great collection. The Caravaggio alone is worth a visit, but when we visited we saw a fascinating exhibit of drawings and etchings depicting the characters and scenes of Joyce's Ulysses.
Grafton Street - Shopping, buskers, lots of tourists, but great energy.
The Guinness Storehouse - honestly, we did not make it there, but have been told it is fabulous. Pro Tip - when you claim your pint that is included with the tour, go to the downstairs bar to get it and then return to the top to drink it while enjoying a view of the city. According to Ùna’s husband, Emmett, a native Dubliner, Guinness does not travel “up” well.
We loved the freedom of renting a car. If you are brave enough to rent a car, you will be greatly rewarded. It is difficult to see many of the following sites without one, although for some of the more traveled tourist attractions you can probably find a transportation or tourism company to take you.
The Ring of Kerry/Dingle drive - part of the Wild Atlantic Way. Dramatic sites and great stops along the way.
Cliffs of Moher
Killarney - great town with wonderful Irish music at every pub. There is a nice food scene as well.
Blarney Castle - near Cork, this is one of the most well preserved castles we've ever visited and definitely worth a stop. Yes, you can kiss the Blarney Stone again. Many believe that, if you kiss it, it gives you the Gift of the Gab. Our family believes more strongly in the "gift" of Covid, so we chose to pass on the kissing.
Skellig Michael - If you can get lucky enough to score tickets, and even then, if the conditions allow. The short puffin season is in July as well. There are thousands that come to roost there.
Northwestern Ireland - Knockvicar/Rosscomon area - We loved the charming drives on country roads, the Gunpowder Gin distillery, Castle Island. There is also zip-lining, hiking and kayaking in Lough Key Forest Park.