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#theretreatireland, day 3: russborough house, dublin and the marker hotel

Rossborough House

After packing up and enjoying the last thousand calorie buffet breakfast I was quickly getting used to at the Powerscourt Hotel on The Retreat Ireland, we headed off to Russborough House, a Palladian mansion rightly considered one of the most beautiful in the country.

The grounds of Russborough are so peaceful, filled with sheep and greenery and the studios of almost a dozen artisans.

Rossborough House sheep

So, our first stop before a guided tour of the house was the Forge, where husband and wife blacksmiths Michael Calnan and Gunvor Anhoj create gorgeous pieces of art.

The Forge

Gunvor demonstrated how she turns a piece of metal

Anhoj fire


into this lovely flower.

Anhoj leafHonestly, I watched her and still can’t tell you how she did it. I would love to take one of the classes the couple offers because their passion for their work is so infectious, and it was fascinating to listen to their stories.


Just look at some of the pieces they’ve created, many of which have won prestigious awards.

Calnan and Anhoj art

Michael and Gunvor generously gave us each a gift of an amazing-looking Celtic brooch that reminds me of The Hunger Games. I keep thinking, “May the odds be ever in your favor” although it really seems more appropriate to say “May the Forge be with you!”

Calnan and Anhoj brooch

Ha ha! I must be delirious from that third chocolate croissant I had for breakfast. Anyhow, we Forged on (okay, I will stop now) to Russborough House, where we were met by Joan, the most delightful guide I have ever had on any tour anywhere.

Rossborough House Joan

We all fell immediately in love with her and hung on her every word as she led us through stunning, history-filled rooms, regaling us with tales of the mistress and master of the house. I could just picture the Crawley girls having tea here

Rossborough House tea

and I envisioned this library in my own house.

Rossborough House library

I made up romantic stories about the women in these photos

Rossborough House photos

and pictured myself napping in this four poster bed.

Russborough House bedroom

According to Joan, Russborough has been robbed a number of times — including once in the middle of the day when the bad guys basically rode up to the house, grabbed valuable artwork and left. This was definitely a little disconcerting, and I’m going to have to read more about this.

We were so sad to leave Joan at the end of the whirlwind tour but lunch was calling and we certainly didn’t want to keep it waiting. We had a real ladies’ lunch

Russborough House lunch

and then went to visit some of the artists.

We started with Evelyn The Arty Weaver, who makes stunning women’s hats from handwoven Irish tweeds. If only I were a hat person! She’s doing some really cool things, and I can’t wait to talk to her again.

Evelyn the Weaver

Then we moved on to Eleanor Swan, where I went just a little crazy. I have a thing for mugs, as you might remember from my tea cupboard (!) cleaning a few months ago, so I, of course, had to have these.

Eleanor Swan mugs

And this adorable little tray with adorable little feet to put them on.

Eleanor Swan tray

And, um, this adorable little house to represent the cottage Michael and I will one day buy in Ireland 🙂

Eleanor Swan house

And if I could have, I would have also brought home Eleanor herself because she is so much fun, so talented and she has a great story of midlife invention which I will have to write about one day.

Eleanor Swan

Don’t you just want to be her friend?!

With packages in tow, we all got back on the shuttle and took off for our new home for the next three nights, The Marker.

Another five star luxury hotel, it’s quite a stark contrast to Powerscourt. Both are absolutely stunning in completely different ways. Whereas Powerscourt is rich in history and character, the Marker is sleek and modern — yet, thanks to its lovely employees, warm and welcoming.

I mean, look at this welcome:

Marker Hotel welcome

And this may be the closest I ever get to starring on TV:

The Marker Hotel TV

I was riveted by the view from my window

The Marker view

and the spacious and sophisticated bathroom in my room!

The Marker Hotel bathroom

After a nice hot shower, it was time for dinner in the hotel’s beautiful lobby restaurant. Let me just show you some of Chef Gareth Mullins’ incredible dishes. Warning: Do not view on an empty stomach.

The Marker Hotel crab with donut

In case you didn’t notice, that fresh crab is accompanied by — wait for it — A DONUT! How did Chef Gareth know about my obsession??!

And then came this:

Marker Hotel lobster

And this:

Marker Hotel dessert

I’m thinking I missed a picture of a course or two but I was so involved with that crab and donut that I lost all sense of time and space for a while.

After a multi-hour dinner, during which we laughed and chatted incessantly with some of the Marker’s fantastic executives, we staggered up to our rooms for a few hours of sleep.

Thankfully, this made it easy:

The Marker Hotel roomNote: STOP EVERYTHING! I just went to find a link to the Marker Hotel to share with you and discovered this! Chef Gareth, you make cronuts too???!! I have to come back!


  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    Ireland sounds like such a fun country to visit. I love all the culture over there.

  2. That Ireland hotel is so beautiful! The food looks fantastic and fresh, I’m sure you guys had lots of fun there 😀

  3. It’s only day 3 and you’ve done and seen sooooo much. In addition to your purchases, you came home with wonderful memories. I want to read more..

  4. What a another amazing adventure! I have always wanted to go to Ireland to see the beautiful castles myself. I have never heard of the Russbourough House before but it sounds amazing!

  5. Catherine S says:

    This looks like such an amazing trip. Ireland is at the top of my bucket list for vacation destinations.

  6. The bathroom looks amazing!
    And that four poster bed!
    I’ve never been to Ireland but it’s high on my list.

  7. What an incredible adventure watching such master crafts folk! Love their art and ability!

    Yes, I’d like to see that library in my house, too! Wow!

  8. Looks like an amazing trip. Those hats are so gorgeous, they make me wish I wore hats.

  9. How absolutely stunning, you’ve made me so jealous. Time to start packing my suitcase id say!

  10. What a fabulous trip! I love it all. I’m such an Anglophile, and a lover of all things British/Irish/Scottish/Welsh history.

  11. Wow that metal work is amazing, what a fantastic looking place to spend some time. x

  12. I’m truly enthralled with the metal work! It is completely infectious when someone who has a true love of something is sharing it! I would love to visit Ireland someday…and I’d love to have a tour of Russborough House, hopefully with Joan. 🙂

  13. Ireland looks like a wonderful place to visit!
    I would love to be in your shoes 🙂
    That poster bed looks TINY!!

  14. Wow the works of the blacksmiths are awesome. The Russborough House is really pretty and incredibly elegant.

  15. You get to visit some of the most amazing places .. a female blacksmith is pretty cool

  16. Lois, thank you for visiting me at my studio at Russborough…..I really enjoyed our ‘chat’ and I’m delighted you like the mugs.
    I just wanted to mention that Russborough has been used as a setting for many films and TV programmes, one that comes to mind is ‘Haywire’, a 2011, an action-thriller directed by Steven Soderberg. There were 2 other films made about the Dublin gangster called the ‘General’, these were called ‘Ordinary Decent Criminal’ with Kevin Spacey and ‘The General’ with Brendan Gleeson and John Voigt. Martin Cahill, (the General) was responsible for the Art robberies at Russborough House…..this is what Joan, the guide, was referring to on the house tour. All the paintings were eventually recovered (18 in total including a Vermeer and Goya) and are now in the ‘Alfred Beit Wing’ in the National Gallery in Dublin.
    History lesson over for today!
    Thank you again for your most enjoyable visit Lois

  17. Wow what a wonderful time you had. I am in awe of this place.

  18. There’s so much about this post to love, including the lunch and gosh, those hats. Love those hats.

  19. What an amazing trip. I’m so looking forward to taking a trip to Italy with my hubby and experiencing the culture and food abroad. This has inspired me to try to make it happen.

  20. Oh, these pics are so beautiful! I love Joan’s green dress too! I want to travel! I read last week that there is no better way to spend money than to see the world! Good for you! Enjoy it all!

  21. Oh my gosh..what a dream vacation! I love the pics. And that TV pic is hysterical. I would love to spend some time at this hotel. I know where to come back and check the name now if we ever decide to go. Love it!

  22. It looks like you had wonderful weather! The sky looks so clear and blue, not at all what I expect from Ireland.

  23. So many great memories. Love the sheep, hotel, food, tour guide, artists and day dreaming through this wonderful part of Ireland that you’re in. So wonderful!

  24. Looks like you had fun. Ireland looks beautiful.

  25. Ireland is one of my dream spots to visit. I need to get there one day. It looks like you had so much fun, and it looks like just a beautiful time.

  26. What a trip and what a country. Ireland is one place my husband and I are talking about visiting and we are thinking about going next year. Your post is telling me we made the right decision

  27. I so loved living vicariously through you on this adventure. I do believe I would like to visit there someday.

  28. This is SO cool. I have never heard of a lady blacksmith, but I am definitely intrigued by her work. Very neat!

  29. Ireland is such a wonderful country! The sights, the beautiful countryside, its history and culture are something we must all experience! The food looks so great! Glad you had a nice time and I do hope you get to purchase that dream cottage of yours.

  30. What a wonderful trip! Ireland has always been a country that is on my bucket list of travel! Your post makes me want to move Ireland up that list!

  31. Debbie Denny says:

    Beautiful sites and adventures. What an experience.

  32. Ireland is on the top of my travel bucket list. it is so beautiful there. I would love to take a class in metal work.

  33. This looks like a great place to stay. I have always wanted to go to Ireland. I love the decor of the hotel.

  34. Another amazing day of this retreat – I am definitely sold. I adore hand-forged jewelery and tools, and I NEEEED one of those beautiful hats!

  35. What a beautiful hotel! The food looks amazing and I’m sure they were delicious. I would love to visit Ireland someday.

  36. I love your photos Lois! So interesting that the crab came with a donut. I’m sure it tasted delish! It looks like an amazing trip.

  37. All the artisanal crafters that you got to visit are amazing! The chairs from your last post, that scarf too – and these hats – absolutely gorgeous. I now understand why you were over the luggage limit!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Ha! I somehow managed to get in right under the luggage limit! It was definitely iffy, though, and I would have started wearing layers of clothes if I needed to!

  38. Love your pictures and your journey! So jealous! I’ve never been to Ireland!

  39. apparently I am part Irish and someday I would love to visit Ireland. Looks like you had great time at the hotel.

  40. Your trip looks fantastic. My daughter went to Ireland and visited many of the same places. It’s like looking at her pictures again!

  41. i need to visit evelyn!! those hats are gorgeous! 🙂

  42. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I love every single thing you did. Nonstop fun, exquisite hotels, phenomenal food … what’s not to love?

  43. The Marker hotel looks a lot better than the one I stayed in! I chose this old mansion that was divided into 30 rooms – sounds cool but I was put in the “basement” rooms 😐
    Will look into the Marker for next time.

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