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Ireland’s colourful history has led to a rich tapestry of architectural styles, with Norman castles and neo-classical mansions sitting side by side with cosy farmhouses and contemporary wonders. All around the island, these interesting, charming accommodations are packed with character -- and characters! So in the spirit of turning your Ireland trip into a real journey, here are some of the most memorable places to stay along the way.

Cullintra House, Inistiogue, County Kilkenny
The Cullintra House, a cosy, 19th-century home in the Kilkenny heritage village of Inistiogue, offers a warm welcome – but you will soon discover you are not the house’s most important guest. Here cats are king, and the owner’s feline friends quite literally have the run of the place. You will find cat memorabilia galore and little furries in the bedrooms, in the dining room where guests eat communally and rambling the gorgeous grounds, like they – quite rightly – own the place.

Grouse Lodge, Roesmount, County Westmeath
Grouse Lodge, the rambling stone farmhouse and beautiful outbuildings that act as a residential recording studio for Irish and visiting bands, became Michael Jackson’s secret hideout for six weeks in 2006. REM, Shirley Bassey, Manic Street Preachers and Sinead O’Connor have all recorded in this reasonably-priced midlands village property, complete with an indoor heated pool, jacuzzi, nine double bedrooms and an on-site organic chef. Come for the rock ‘n’ roll stories, retold in the small hours at the on-site pub.

Number 25 Eustace Street, Dublin
You could easily pass Number 25 Eustace Street in Dublin’s cobbled Temple Bar area without realising the treasure that lies within. The 18th-century merchant’s house sleeps seven, was carefully restored using authentic materials and furnishings, and is available to rent on a nightly basis. Climb the creaky stairs to the drawing room where you can play the Bechstein boudoir piano, or lounge in the rolltop free-standing bath and imagine what life was like as a Georgian city slicker.

The Schoolhouse, Annaghmore, County Sligo
This atmospheric little schoolhouse, built in the 1860s on the wooded banks of the Owenmore river, now sleeps four but was once the schoolroom and two-bedroom house of the schoolmaster. It still has the original school fireplace, chalk boards and coat hooks, and legend has it that the last owner buried all of his money in a tin on the school grounds.

Number 31, Leeson Close, Dublin
Little has changed since the days when every visiting celebrity from Henry Kissinger to Ted Kennedy dropped in to Number 31’s sunken lounge for a martini. Iconic Irish architect Sam Stephenson’s 1960s home and party pad has kilim rugs, a big open fire, mirrored cocktail bar and floor-to-ceiling windows that look onto an inner Japanese garden, all evoking the heady decade that once made this discreet guesthouse a magnet for Dublin’s glitterati.

Gyreum, Castlebaldwin, County Sligo
If you want to reinvigorate your soul and get back to nature, it does not get much more earthy than a trip to Gyreum, a wind- and solar-powered eco retreat in a colossal yurt-like timber temple with a living wildflower roof, sunk into the hills of Sligo. Many come for its Pilgrim’s Progress six-county walking tour that culminates in a full moon-lit hot tub soak, but either way, it is an inspirational space to take part in a range of creative and eco-centred events. Built on a ley line, stay in one of Gyreum’s inner tents, break bread at the great communal table and absorb some of Mother Earth’s free energy.

Inisturkbeg, Clew Bay, County Mayo
If you cannot afford your own island, why not stay on someone else’s? Inisturkbeg is a luxury island retreat in the extraordinary setting of Clew Bay in County Mayo, overlooking the ancient Croagh Patrick mountain. Inisturkbeg offers five island “cottages”, with an infinity pool, gym and spa, access to a private chef and butler, and use of the retreat’s horses or catamaran for a scenic spin round the tiny ancient island.

© 2012 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Ireland’s unusual places to stay’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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