Above: Ashford Castle from Above

Returning to Ireland has always been a joy, even if visits in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis tended to be rather sobering. The Great Recession hit Ireland with a wallop, leaving the once-vaunted Celtic Tiger economy defanged and declawed. But on our last trip, in 2013, I saw glimmers of light: the recent debut of exceptional new hotels such as Ballyfin in County Laois and the emergence of new restaurants capitalizing on the country’s exceptional meat, fish and produce. Now, at last, a significant recovery appears to be under way: Dublin is bustling just as before, and an extensive urban light-rail system is under construction; and Ashford Castle, long a favorite of Hideaway Report readers, has been given a makeover to the tune of $75 million.

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