A garden is a beautiful way to reflect the story of a building. Across the island of Ireland there are Blue Book destinations with magnificent gardens that each reflect their own unique history. The incredible gardens that surround these houses, hotels and manors are enjoyed by guests and gardening enthusiasts alike, making them an ideal escape for those who want to enjoy the treasures and delights of a spectacular garden.  

Cashel House, Co. Galway

 cashel house from flower bed

Cashel House has had a long history of owners who have been passionate gardeners and is full of historical riches amongst its 50 acres of gardens and woodland walks. This wonderful country house is in the heart of Connemara and overlooks Cashel Bay. It was built for its first owner, Captain Thomas Hazell, an English landowner, in 1840. The rose hedge he is said to have given to his wife as a gift for their 40th wedding anniversary remains today. The next owner was Jim O'Mara T.D. who was a keen botanist and turned the orchard field into a walled garden. “He was extraordinary and collected stuff from all over the world. We have an enormous collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias [from him],” said Kay McEvilly, who took over the house with her husband, Dermot, in 1967. (They took it over from Lt Col and Mrs Brown Clayton, also keen gardeners). The elegant dining room overlooks the gardens and serves delicious dishes with fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden. McEvilly loves bringing guests on a tour of the gardens and sharing its history. “We bring them up to the “Secret Garden” [named by O’Maras’s children], and show them the trees. I bring them to “Mary’s Garden.” I only had one sister and we were both gardening mad. She lived in Belgium and was killed in a motor accident so I built “Mary’s Garden” and recreated her garden there. It’s magic now, there is no sorrow, there is only joy in the garden. I think that’s what gardening is really all about, something you should enjoy and let others enjoy.”

For more information on Cashel House, please click here

Castle Durrow, Co. Laois

castle durrow rose garden

The aptly named Flower family, later to be known as Viscounts Ashbrook, started the glorious gardens at Castle Durrow 300 years ago. After the Ashbrook family left, the gardens fell into disrepair until the Castle was taken over by Shelly and Peter Stokes in 2000. The couple converted it into a beautiful hotel and began a lengthy restoration of the gardens. There are 50 acres of lush lawns, green parkland, forest, colourful borders, a river and orchards. There is a spectacular sunken garden with a canal, a Victorian Grotto and a pleasure garden. The chef handpicks produce from the kitchen garden every day. Shelly Stokes loves gardening and was determined to bring the gardens back to their former glory. “We treat the garden like a part of the house and we are always adding to it.” Stokes said that roses thrive at Castle Durrow but “everything grows well with us.” “It’s not a hidden garden only for people that know a lot about gardening, it’s accessible for everyone. We do tours that are very popular for experienced gardeners as well as people who just love the gardens. We have a back terrace where people can sit and look out over the green and there’s the rose garden with all the little rose beds. It’s a pleasure garden really, it’s for enjoyment.”
For more information on Castle Durrow, please click here


Marlfield House, Co. Wexford

marlfield house gardens peacocks

Set in 40 acres of woodland with an ornamental lake, rose, vegetable and herb gardens and lawns, Marlfield House, Co. Wexford, is a haven for garden lovers. Run by the Bowe family for 40 years, this 1840s Regency house is a heavenly oasis. You will meet peacocks, hens, dogs and ponies during your walks in the gardens. Laura Bowe has taken over running the gardens from her parents -  “It is a very enclosed, secretive garden and has a very continental, French feel people would say.” Bowe describes it as a very luscious garden with roses, camellias, rhododendrons and hydrangeas all growing well there. “The garden is enclosed so you are surrounded by shrubbery and trees so it’s almost like a little micro-climate. Our restaurant is very much garden to plate and we can grow anything here, really, [and successfully grow] herbs like basil and coriander. I think it is because we are in the sunny south east. It is ideal for the avid gardener to [visit]. I think because it’s got different seating areas and little nooks and crannies through it that it is very romantic, so couples love it. Kids love it and families come here, too. People are fascinated with our gardens.”
For more information, please click here

Enniscoe House, Co. Mayo

enniscoe house tes and scones and gardens

The gardens at the classical Georgian Enniscoe House are hidden among the woods at the foot of Mount Nephin in County Mayo, and garden enthusiasts will adore its pastures, woodlands with lakeside walks, pleasure grounds and carefully restored Victorian garden. The Enniscoe Estate has been in the same family since the 1650s and the house dates from the 1790s. It is now run by Susan Kellett and her son DJ. “Our gardens are of great interest because there’s the ornamental side and then there’s the working organic market garden side,” said Susan. “The ornamental garden is laid out to a late Victorian/Edwardian layout.” As with all Blue Book properties, there is a huge emphasis on providing delicious food for its guests and as much of Enniscoe’s own organic fruit and vegetables, when in season, are used in their dishes from the community gardening scheme that operates within it. “During our restoration [of the gardens] in the 1990s, we created two books with a detailed history of the restoration itself and some of the original references from the gardeners. We also have some of the 1870s receipts from buying plants, shrubs and trees so it’s perfect for somebody interested in garden history. I hope guests who come here take away a feeling of continuity; that the people that lived in the house from the beginning thought the gardens were important, and spent time and energy [on them].”

For more information on Enniscoe House, Please click here


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