A Tour of Ireland's Glorious Gardens
Gardens in Dublin and Dublin Surrounds
Day 1 & 2 : Dublin
Within the Malahide Castle Demense you will find the Talbot Botanic Gardens which contain almost 5,000 plant species. Emphasis has been placed on Southern Hemisphere plants, particularly Australasian and Chilean species. The gardens were largely created by Lord Milo Talbot between 1948 and 1973 and cover an area of 6.6ha of shrubbery.
Lovers of flowers should also visit the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin where the restored Turner Conservatory hosts the palm houses. in 1790 the Irish Parliament, granted funds to the Dublin Society (now the Royal Dublin Society) to establish a public botanic garden. In 1795 the Gardens were founded on lands in Glasnevin
The National Botanic Gardens is noted for its fine plant collections holding over 15,000 plant species and cultivars from a variety of habitats from all around the world. Famous for its exquisitely restored and planted glasshouses, notably the Turner Curvilinear Range and the Great Palm House, both recipients of the Europa Nostra award for excellence in conservation architecture.
Visitors can enjoy such features as the herbaceous borders, rose garden, the alpine yard, the pond area, rock garden and arboretum. Conservation plays an important role in the life of the botanic garden and Glasnevin is home to over 300 endangered plant species from around the world including 6 species, which are already extinct in the wild.
Other gardens of interest in the city are Marlay House and Demense. The 4.5 acre Walled Garden is near the main house and consists of restored regency ornamental and kitchen gardens. The ornamental garden boasts an extensive display of period plants, ranging from herbaceous borders to shrub beds. The Head Gardener's house, orangery, arbor and water features combine to create a distinctive atmosphere. Located just over the wall, the kitchen garden houses a fine collection of Regency fruit trees, vegetables and associated bothys.
Stay in Dublin:
A choice of accommodation awaits you on your visit to Dublin, from the stylish 5 star Merrion Hotel in the heart of the city centre to Barberstown Castle, in the beautiful green countryside and only a short drive outside of Dublin, or how about the petite King Sitric Townhouse in the village of Howth, with amazing sea views.
Day 3 & 4: Wicklow ( Known as The Garden of Ireland)
A visit to Wicklow can start in one of two places, Killruddery House and Gardens or Powerscourt House and Gardens. Both are located within close proximity of each other and if you are on a tight timetable you could visit both in the one day.
Killruddery is situated on Dublin’s doorstep, home to the Brabazon Family (the Earls of Meath) since 1618 and currently the home of the 15th Earl of Meath. Killruddery Gardens are unique in that they are the oldest in Ireland still surviving in their original 17th century style together with 18th and 19th century additions. The Gardens were designed for the entertainment of a large number of people and therefore the scale is comparable to that of a park. The Gardens should be regarded as mainly the work of the 5th and 6th Earls.
Russborough House and Parklands overlooks Blessington Lake and the nearby Wicklow Mountains. Russborough's Walled Gardens are currrently being restored by volunteers of the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland however visitors are still welcome to the gardens to see the important work being done to restore the walled gardens to their former splendour.
The grounds of this magnificent country house are also home to an impressive hedge maze, numerous walking trails where interesting flora and fauna can be discovered, and the fascinating birds of prey centre.
Powerscourt House and Gardens: A house and garden of world renown, Powerscourt is a sublime blend of parkland, terraces, statuary, walled enclosures, rambling walks and ornamental lakes. It is a sublime blend of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, statuary and ornamental lakes together with secret hollows, rambling walks, walled gardens and over 200 varieties of trees and shrubs.
The charming walled garden, the striking terraces, fine statuary and varied trees are linked by carefully designed walks and set in the magnificent surroundings of the Wicklow mountains.
Travelling just 30 minute south by car you reach the Mount Usher Gardens. Laid out along the banks of the River Vartry, Mount Usher has been designed in the Robinsonian style. Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants have been introduced from all parts of the globe and are planted in harmony with woodland and shade loving plants. Like all the great gardens of Ireland, Mount Usher offers varying pleasures at different seasons of the year. Rhododendrons in Spring, a blaze of Summer colour and the wistful tints of Autumn, all elegantly set off by the crystal waters of the river.
Stay in Wicklow:
Hunter's Hotel, set in 2 acres of award winning gardens on the banks of the river Vartry is a wonderful choice for your stay in Co. Wicklow. Rathsallagh House is converted from Queen Anne stables in 1798, set in 530 acres of peaceful parkland with its own walled garden.
Day 5: Kildare
The Japanese Gardens at Tully were created between the years 1906-1910. Devised by Colonel William Hall-Walker (later Lord Wavertree), a wealthy Scotsman of a famous brewery family and laid out by the Japanese Eida and his son Minoru. The Gardens, planned to symbolise the 'Life of Man', are now of international renown and are acclaimed as the finest Japanese Gardens in Europe.
In 1999 the Irish National Stud created a commemorative garden to St. Fiachra, Patron Saint of Gardeners, to celebrate the Millennium. It was designed by Professor Martin Hallinan, award winning landscape architect. He created a garden which presents visitors with a similar natural environment to that which inspired the spirituality of the monastic movement in Ireland during the 6th and 7th centuries.
Stay in Kildare:
These award winning gardens are a must on a garden lover's list.
At the end of the day overnight at Barberstown Castle near Straffan.
Gardens in the Midlands of Ireland
Lawns are bisected by sculpted yews sloping down to a romantic lake surrounded by rare trees, rhododendrons and shrubs. A profusion of roses, old fashioned and modern, and herbaceous plants scent the air. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen with its canopy of ancient oaks leads to the majestic River Slaney.
Along the River Walk, you may see salmon and trout rising, perhaps even an otter, and throughout the garden, an abundance of birds and butterflies. On your return via the Hill Walk, there are wonderful views of the Blackstairs and Wicklow Mountains and Mount Leinster.
The Carlow Garden Trail currently features 16 different gardening attractions with an additional two gardens in the srrounding counties of Kilare and Wexford
Mount Juliet Estate in Co. Kilkenny
Day 2: Laois
Moving on from Kilgraney House wander a little further south to Heywood Garden in Ballinakill. Co. Laois. Completed in 1912, the property consists of gardens, lakes, woodland and architectural features. It was transferred to State ownership in November 1993 from the Salesian Fathers who had taken care of it since 1941. The formal Gardens form the centre-piece of the property and were designed by the famous architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) and probably landscaped by Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932).
It is one of four Gardens in this country designed by him, the others being in the War Memorial Park, Lambay Island and Howth Castle. The Gardens are composed of four elements linked by a terrace that ran along the front of the house which now no longer exists. An extensive re-planting programme is currently underway.
After your visit to Heywood Gardens retire to Castle Durrow for the afternooon and evening.The castle is a piece of Irish history embodied in stone. As a building, its massive solidity is combined with an old-world charm and elegance that is distinctive and attractive. Built by Capt. William Flower (later to become Viscount Ashbrook) in 1716 as his family home in the Midlands of Ireland, its pre Palladian design and formal gardens were the height of fashion in their day and the grey / blue cut stone contrasts with the breathtaking views of the landscape. The castle is now owned by Peter and Shelley Stokes. Since acquiring the property in 1998, Shelley has worked to restore the gardens to their former glory.
Castle Durrow can arrange gardens tours with their head gardener for guests staying in the castle. The garden tour wanders through The Pleasure Gardens, The Good South Garden, The Parkland, The Courtyard and The Walled Garden and lasts for about one and a half hours.
Day 3: Co. Offaly
Continue to stay in Castle Durrow but arise and travel south to visit Birr Castle Demesne. Ireland's Largest, Award-Winning Gardens at Birr Castle feature beautiful natural landscapes and stunning formal gardens. The world's tallest box hedges, Victorian fenery, lake, rivers and waterfall provide an unforgettable day. Meander through the 5 miles of paths boasting an impressive worldwide plant collection. Walk through the hornbeam cloisters and enjoy the fragrance of the enchanting springtime Magnolias specially propagated. Follow "The Red Tree Trail" and discover the Demesne's 50 trees of distinction.
Visit the Castle's World Famous 'Great Telescope' and marvel at the Third Earl of Rosse's leviathan creation, it was the largest in the world for over 70 years.
Gardens of the West
This tour will take you around some of the finest restored and natural gardens in the west of Ireland. No need to hurry on this tour so take your time and stay a couple of nights to enjoy your garden delights.
Day 1 and 2: Co. Clare
Let's start this tour in The Burren, from the Gaelic word Boireann. This is Ireland's most famous natural garden - an area of limestone rock covering imposing majestic mountains, and tranquil valleys with gently meandering streams. With its innate sense of spiritual peace, extraordinary array of flora and wildlife, and megalithic tombs and monuments older than Egypt's pyramids, the Burren creates a tapestry of colour and a seductively magical aura which few people leave without wanting to experience again.
Stay in Clare:
If you are visiting stay overnight at Gregans Castle, a beautiful old manor house, situated half way up (or down) Corkscrew Hill, a road that lives up to its name.
Slightly further along the coast you will pass through the village of Lahinch and there on the outskirts is the quaintly named Moy House, a little gem to stay in where all the bedrooms overlook the majestic Atlantic Ocean, literally a stone's throw from your bedroom window.
Day 3 and 4: Co. Galway
Moving on to Connemara, which features Ireland's unspoilt countryside at its best is Cashel House where the gardens are so beautiful that you will find it hard to leave. If you are clever you can combine your visit here with one of Kay McEvilly's garden courses, so not only will you get to see some rare and exotic plants and trees but you will also learn a little about soils and pruning etc. so you will know as much as that annoying neighbour who boasts about her garden.
From Cashel House travel to Kylemore Abbey. Set in the Connemara mountains, the Abbey is a beautiful neo-Gothic Castle. Built by the English industrialist Mitchell Henry in 1868, visitors to the three reception rooms in the Abbey are touched by its history steeped in romance and tragedy. One mile west of the main Abbey building are the 6-acre (24,000 m2) Victorian Walled Gardens, built by Mitchell Henry at the same time as the construction of Kylemore Castle between 1867 and 1871.
This garden was one of the last walled gardens to be built during the Victorian period in Ireland and is the only garden in Ireland that is located in the middle of a bog. The garden was so advanced for the time that it was even compared with Kew Gardens in London. Huge engineering feats were successfully employed to heat the 21 glasshouses that were originally built to house exotic fruits and plants. These glasshouses were heated by three boilers, one of which doubled as a limekiln, and a complex system of underground hot-water pipes measuring 1,538 meters (5,000 ft) in length.
Uniquely, only plants and vegetables which grew in Victorian times are grown in the garden today. There are walks signposted around the main gardens with details about each of the garden highlights. A shuttle bus runs every 15 mins to the Garden from the Visitor Centre or alternatively, visitors may take the 20 minute woodland walk to reach them.
Gardens of the South West
Ireland is considered by many to be a botanical paradise with its moderate climate, which encourages all kinds of native and non native plants to thrive. This is all due to the prevalent south west winds coming from the gulf stream and which warms the west and south west of Ireland’s isle.
As you make your way from the West to the South West, as a lover of flowers and nature, the best place to stay is in the centre of all this botanical magnificence at The Mustard Seed in Ballingarry, Co. Limerick. The Mustard Seed has its own Irish country house garden with its very substantial kitchen garden providing much of the vegetables and herbs on its menu; not forgetting the hen house and run which supplies its own free range eggs.
Within close proximity to The Mustard Seed are the exotic Terra Nova Gardens, Moanwing Gardens, Knockpatrick Gardens and Phil Boyce’s garden where there is a studio for those who wish to paint and garden classes for those who just simply cannot get enough knowledge of the joys and beauty of Irish nature.
Cork & Kerry
Bantry House and Gardens: The structure of the garden as we know it today, dates back to the second Earl of Bantry’stravels. Both he and Mary, his wife, travelled with notebooks and sketchbooks (now in the Archive at University College Cork) at hand, which helped to transform the small house at home into a “palazzo” comparable to those he had seen on the continent.
From Bantry we suggest a visit to Garnish Island, the fabulous garden island, also known a Ilnacullin, snugly rests in Bantry Bay about a mile (11/2km) from Glengarriff pier, Ilnacullin is a small island of 15 hectares (37 acres) known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world as an island garden of rare beauty.
Another beautiful garden in west Cork is The Garden at Glebe. Composed of different areas, each with its own special function and beauty. The practical yet pretty Potager contrasts with the slightly more formal Flower Garden, the boundary between the two being the quirky Waved Hedge. The natural abundance of the Meadow is reached via the curving grace of the Harold-Barry Walk which passes behind the Tunnels and the Henhouse. And there is lots more for you to explore.
While visiting these gardens we recommend you stay nearby in either Blairs Cove or the Park Hotel Kenmare. A little further away but with their own stunning gardens is Carrig Country House. To help with your tours we further suggest you visit the West Cork Garden Website for further inspiration.
A visit to Cork simply has to include a visit to Blarney Castle. The castle was built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland's greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, and has been attracting attention ever since. Blarney Castle is primarily famous for 'Kissing the Blarney Stone' but equally worth exploring are the beautiful grounds around the Castle and Blarney House. This includes parklands,gardens avenues,arboretums and waterways.
Alongside the castle battlements, the Poison Garden can be found. It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world including Wolfsbane,Mandrake,Ricin and Opium. These are labelled with information about thier toxicity, traditional and modern uses. A large number of plants that we now know to be toxic were once used widely as herbal remedies for all sorts of ailments. The old expression 'It will either kill or cure you' could not have been more apt. Blarney Castle's arboretums and Pinetum contain a collection of specimen trees, many of them rare and unusual such as the Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis, Foxglove Paulownia tomentosa, and Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissma. The fern garden is a very tranquil place in the heart of the estate. The garden contains over 80 varieties of ferns, all of which are flourishing.
Gardens of the South East
The Waterford Garden Trail highlights 15 different garden attractions throughout County Waterford. There is a wide variety of gardens open for viewing, ranging from the gardens of the great old houses, to smaller gardens.
One of highlights on the trail is Tourin Gardens, which extend over 5 acres and include a Walled Garden. A fine collection of camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and other shrubs give a beautiful seasonal display of colour. Rare and mature trees include a Champion London Plane Tree. Lovely walks along garden and woodland paths lead to Tourin Quay and a pond with wild duck and other wild life.
Still on the trail, Lismore Gardens are set in seven acres within the outer walls of the castle are worth a visit. The gardens are divided into two halves. The upper garden is home to herbaceous borders and working kitchen gardens providing vegetables, fruit and herbs for the castle kitchens. The lower garden has a wide variety of Camellias and Magnolias with early spring blubs.
Waterford is also home to Mount Congreve Gardens, which consist of 70 acres of intensely planted woodland and a four acre walled garden. The collection consists of over 3000 different trees and shrubs, more than 2000 rhododendrons, 600 camellias, 300 Acer cultivars, 600 conifers, 250 climbers and 1500 plants, plus many more tender plants.
Stay in Wexofrd/Waterford:
For your stay in the southeast of Ireland we recommend you divide your time between Marlfield House in County Wexford and Dunbrody House in County Waterford. Both are historical country house hotels set in beautiful estates.
Gardens of Northern Ireland & The North West
Start with a visit to Mount Stewart. Situated on the tranquil shores of Strangford Lough, this impressive house and award-winning gardens tell a unique story. From the manicured formal terraces to the grandeur of the lake, the gardens overflow with the vibrant color of the rare plants. Next, drop by Rowallane Gardens in Saintfield. An enchanting garden, it was laid out from the mid-1860s by the Reverend John Moore and afterwards by Hugh Armytage Moore, who established connections with botanic gardens throughout the world. Further on in the Northeast is Seaforde Gardens and Butterfly House. The centerpiece is the Maze planted in 1975 with hornbeam hedges. The Tropical Butterfly House features a large flight area with hundreds of exotic butterflies. Continue the tour to The Argory, which was built on a hill and has wonderful vistas over the gardens and a 320-acre wooded riverside estate.
Stay in Northern Ireland:
We suggest you stay in Newforge House while touring this part of Northern Ireland. Newforge House offers peace and tranquillity in the surroundings of a restored Georgian Country House less than 30 minutes drive from Belfast.
Situated in the Northwest of Co. Donegal, Glenveagh Castle and Gardens encompasses some 16,000 acres in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains. Such a great wilderness is the haunt of many interesting plants and animals.
The two major elements of the Garden, the Pleasure Gardens and the Walled Garden were constructed in the late 1880's. The original Victorian Garden layout remains intact. It was for Mrs. Cornelia Adair that the gardens were constructed. Mrs. Adair employed a Kew trained gardener to lay out the gardens. Some of the planting in the Pleasure Grounds such as the purple maples and the Scots pine trees were planted at this time. In 1929 Lucy and Arthur Kingsley-Porter became the new owners. They were also keen gardeners and Mrs Porter brought the dahlia known as Matt Armour to Glenveagh.
The last private owner, Henry P McIlhenny began to develop the gardens in the late 1940's with the assistance of Jim Russell of Sunningdale Nurseries and Lanning Roper, the well-known garden consultant. From the late 1950's through to the early 1980's the design and layout of the garden was developed to include the Gothic Orangery, the Italian Terrace, the Tuscan Garden and the development of the plant collection.
Glenveagh is well known today for its rich collection of trees and shrubs specialising in southern hemisphere species and a diverse Rhododendron collection. Displays of Rhododendrons are at their best from late March to the end of May. Displays of colour in the Walled Garden are at their best through the summer months.