Lonely Planet Writer

Bring home your very own tiny Irish village as a cute souvenir

Back in 2005, furniture maker and boat builder Anke Eckardt’s son was assembling a model railway set, and wanted to include their local village, Ballydehob in West Cork, Ireland, in the scene. A skilled craftswoman, Anke rose to the challenge, and created charming miniature likenesses of the buildings that they passed every day. Today, what started as a home craft project has evolved into a business, with Anke releasing TinyIreland, a series of miniature models featuring some of Ireland’s most beautiful and charming villages, towns and cities.

The Tiny Dingle model set from Tiny Ireland.
The Tiny Dingle model set from Tiny Ireland. Image by Tiny Ireland

Following that initial prototype, Anke created two more kits, for Schull and Skibbereen, which are also in Cork, with each A4 flat pack containing five models that could be cut out and assembled by hand. As the project expanded, scenes from places like Galway, Dublin, Limerick, Dingle, Cliften, and Bunratty were added, and Anke reached out to local shops in counties across Ireland who began to stock her kits. She also created kit cards, greetings cards which can be cut out and made into even smaller models, which proved to be incredibly popular.

A model kit of Tiny Galway.
A model kit of Tiny Galway. Image by TinyIreland

“The reaction to my idea has always been encouraging. My model kits are very popular with tourists, as it is an unusual souvenir, special to a particular place and very easy to send or pack. Locals love to send them abroad to friends and family, and I get requests from people all the time asking when I am coming to do their town. I think people get excited about seeing familiar buildings in miniature, and also about the fact that they can assemble it themselves. Whenever I complete a new kit, I take the assembled models to each of the shops or pubs, and it’s always a big surprise,” Anke told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Anke came up with the idea in 2005 when her son was building a model railway set.
Anke came up with the idea in 2005 when her son was building a model railway set. Image by Anke Eckardt

As well as making kits featuring sections of towns in Ireland, the project also sees the artist creating bespoke models for special events, or scenes that have been specifically requested by clients. Bookshops and pubs across the country have contacted Anke for models to be created in their likeness, while a bookshop in New Jersey even got in touch for a model. For a wedding in Dingle in County Kerry, Anke made models of 18 local pubs, which formed the centrepieces of the tables at the reception.

Anke researchers and photographs each location before drawing, painting and designing the models.
Anke researches and photographs each location before drawing, painting and designing the models. Image by TinyIreland

“I usually visit the town or building in question and make photographs of the facades and any aspects of the buildings I can get at. I also research the history and points of interest. I then make drawings with pen and watercolour and sometimes include views of the surrounding streets and landscapes. I scan the drawings and play around with them on Photoshop to fit onto the appropriate kit outlines I have created. Over time, my archive of drawings has become bigger and bigger, so if I need bushes, trees or stone walls, I dip into my previous work. Sometimes I even use sketches I made 30 years ago, long before TinyIreland,” Anke said. Once she is happy with the design of the kits, including the product photos, instructions and packaging design, Anke gets them printed and packed in Cork. The artist hopes to grow the range of towns on offer in the future.

More information on TinyIreland is available at the official website.