Tranarossan House Downings Donegal + Sir Edwin Lutyens

The New Ned

Is this Ireland’s greatest chalet bungalow? Who knew the legendary English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens rustled up a design for such an isolated site in Ireland? Certainly, the master’s New Delhi architecture is somewhat better known than his work in Dundooan Lower. Ned’s mother was Irish and he was rather well connected, allowing him to vamp up a country house here, revamp a castle there. His most famous project in Ireland is Dublin’s War Memorial Gardens.

In the 1890s the well heeled Honourable Robert and Mrs Phillimore of London blew £40 on a three hectare site near Downings. They commissioned Ned to design them a holiday home. Irish architect John O’Connell says, “Lutyens was very adept at immediately seeing potential on site. He would rarely deviate from his initial sketches.” After her husband died, Mrs P continued to use the house until 1936 when she handed it over to the An Óige Trust. Tranarossan House, rechristened Trá na Rossan, became the Trust’s most architecturally distinguished youth hostel.

A traveller recalls, “I remember staying at Tranarossan in the 1960s. We hitchhiked to The Atlantic Drive and then had to find our way to the hostel in the dark. We got there about midnight. It was full… there were bunkbeds in every room… but the managers let us sleep on the kitchen floor. It was run by an old couple. I remember thinking the building was quite new, that it was a purpose built hostel.”

Ned swung from Arts + Crafts in his heady youth to neoclassicism coming up to retirement. This building firmly belongs in the first camp. Two gable fronted blocks built of local rubble granite are joined by a single storey link. Each gable is distinctly treated. One is roughcast with sash windows; the other, tile hung with casement windows. This is the freest of free style Arts + Crafts. A deep wraparound verandah – now partially filled in on the entrance front – provides shelter in this exposed setting.

An extravagance of roof celebrates the chalet bungalow form. In place of the customary Gertrude Jekyll (rhymes with treacle) garden forever hand-in-glove with a Lutyens house are rocky outcrops and sandy dunes. Tranarossan House blends into the hillside, an organic recognition of place in shades of grey (there’s a good tradition of loving slate staying by the fireside). This is Ireland’s greatest chalet bungalow. The readership knew.

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Downings Donegal + Modernism

Above the Radar

Meekness and majesty, mistiness and mystery. Clinging onto the Atlantic coast, notwithstanding its tonal contextualism, this villa with the mildest of butterfly roofs, an angularity at odds with the contours of its setting, is a reminder that modernism once reached the furthest corners of the earth.

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Carrigart Hotel Donegal + Soufflé

Fair Dos | No Bother 

Carrigart Hotel Donegal © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The Carrigart Hotel was dead fancy! It really was The Place To Go To. They even served soufflé!”

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The Atlantic Drive Donegal + Downings

Existential and Pragmatic Reality

The Atlantic Drive Rosguill © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

So many peninsulae, so little time. Nowhere does the magnetic draw of Donegal pull more strongly than Downings and its radial route of suspense, The Atlantic Drive. Ethereal expanses of shining sand, at once quotidian and crystalline, measureless strands bordered by the foam lipped waves of a constantly shifting sea, dunes intermittently reflected in the pellucid waters, journeying mercies on borrowed time. Soon, the glooming will come, dimpsey hour. We were like those who dream.

The Atlantic Drive Downings © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Atlantic Drive Donegal © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Atlantic Drive Rosguill Peninsula © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Atlantic Drive County Donegal © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Daphne’s Restaurant South Kensington London + Bamford Haybarn

Some Like It Very Hot

Donne Place Daphne's Restaurant Draycott Avenue © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Macaronis and cheese anyone? That’ll be our movie. Moving on, we’ve got the hottest table in the coolest restaurant on the hottest day of the year. More Sahara than Siberia. Hot in the city. While “Daphne” is most recognisable as Tony Curtis’ alter ego in Some Like It Hot, “Daphne’s” is best known as Princess Diana’s fav Italian local. Founded in 1962, just when nearby King’s Road was gearing up the era, Daphne’s has since become a South Ken institution. It’s in cool company. Bamford Haybarn, a tremendous temple of sensational scent, is three doors down. Joseph and Chanel, shops not people, hang out in this Draycott Avenue hood. Under restaurateur Richard Caring’s watchful eye, it’s been given the full Martin Brudnizki treatment. An abundance of ogee arches prevails. Knowingly sophisticated, Daphne’s is neither the place to try out macaroni cheese nor entry level wine:

South Kensington Hotel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Daphne's Restaurant South Kensington © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Daphne's Restaurant Draycott Avenue © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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English Heritage Georgian Makeover + Kenwood House London

Big Wigs Going Viral

“Hello! I’m Fashion Historian Amber Butchart and welcome to Kenwood House which is cared for by English Heritage. We’re standing inside an incredible Georgian house in north London that was once home to William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, and his high society companions in the 18th century. Today we’re looking at the late 18th century and we’re going to show you how to recreate an authentic Georgian look inspired by one of the people whose portraits hang here at Kenwood. We’ll be exploring not only what the cosmetics can reveal about England during this period, but we’ll be investigating why bigger was better when it came to hairstyles of the Georgian aristocracy. Plus we’ve got an extra special treat for you. We’re going to be recreating two Georgian looks and talking about how women and men used makeup to make an impression on Georgian society.”

Cosmetics reached a zany zenith in the closing decades of the 18th century. Powdered wigs piled high with miniature ships celebrating naval victories, mouse fur eye brows, zinc and arsenic makeup: this is beauty to die for. Breeches and crinolines donned, the new Lord and Lady Mansfield are ready for a busy day’s strolling and lolling around while the cameras are rolling. So many cantilevered staircases and hard landings! Then it’s time for The Reveal in Kenwood’s Library, the room of a myriad mirrors. The cast and crew:

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Le Détroit Restaurant Calais + Serge Clabault

Crickets and Cockerels

The country lanes around Calais are lined with wild roses and poppies framing fields of barley and corn. This coastal restaurant in Hauts de France region though is named after the small town of Le Détroit in Normandy. The three gourmet graces of Calais are in one Corbu-on-Coast modernist block opposite the quay: La Sole Meunière | Le Channel | Le Détroit. Unsurprisingly, the focus is on seafood: “spécialités de poisons et crustacés”. Equally unsurprisingly, as the competition on either side is stiff, Monsieur Clabault’s food is top notch. On a hot summer’s afternoon, taking a Gallic break from Pimm’s and Proms, lunch is:

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Museé des Beaux-Arts + Conquête Urbaine Calais

Calaisfornia Dreaming

On a summer’s day. Liberal Christian philosopher Marilynne Robinson speaks: “What is the errand you came to flesh upon? It’s yours, not somebody else’s. Do you know what I mean? And it’s beautiful, and it has much potential as you give it attention and possibility. You are not in competition with anybody else. There’s nobody else who can be you. Your uniqueness is guaranteed so long as you respect it. My deepest feeling on this question is that if you find that something is so interesting to you that you put aside other things that are more practically important to pursue that interest, you’re doing the right thing.” Living art.

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Fréthun Town Hall Hauts de France + Mairie

Xanadu in the Boondocks

Frethun Hauts de France © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Town hall as château. The Hôtel de Ville of the Fréthunois and Fréthunoises is terribly smart. Under the direction of the recently appointed Mayor Guy Heddebaux, it’s become even smarter: “We’ve built a square in front of the Town Hall to make the heart of the village more pleasant, more attractive.” It’s the best landscaping scheme imaginable – grassy cobbled parking spaces and brassy trellis artwork.

Frethun School © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Frethun Mairie Landscaping © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Frethun Mairie Lodge © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Frethun Town Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Frethun Hotel de Ville Landscaping © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Frethun Hotel de Ville © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Hôtel Meurice Calais + Lavender’s Blue


From Paris to Berlin Calais, we’re always at home in Le Meurice. C’est bon. Cest très bon. Tout suite.

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