Ireland's great gardens (PHOTOS)


Muckross House Gardens
(Muckross Rd, Killarney, Co. Kerry)

This 18th century garden surrounds Muckross House, the focal point on the shoreline on Killarney’s Middle Lake. Often called “the jewel of Killarney,” the splendid 20-room Victorian mansion, built in 1843, provides a glimpse of the lifestyle of the landed gentry of Killarney in the 19th century. The well-manicured gardens outside are renowned worldwide for their collections of azalea, roses and rhododendron, as well as a sunken garden, rock garden, stream garden and walled garden.

Birr Castle Gardens (Rosse Row, Birr, Co. Offaly)

A 100-acre horticultural wonderland in the center of Ireland. The layout contains more than 1,000 species of trees and shrubs, including box hedges featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest in the world. Other facilities include a giant 6-foot reflecting telescope, built in 1845 and the largest in the world for over 70 years. 

Kylemore Abbey Gardens (Kylemore, Co. Galway)

A six-acre walled Victorian garden. Singled out as a winner of a Europa Nosta Award in 2002, this serene lakeside sanctuary was originally laid out in 1867, and took three years to complete, transforming a wilderness of rock and bog into a feast of flowers and plants set in geometrically designed borders and beds, along with hundreds of thousands of trees. Unfortunately, the garden fell into disuse for over 100 years until its recent restoration. The garden is divided into two sections, a formal flower garden for leisurely strolls and the kitchen garden containing fruit, vegetables and herbs. In addition, the former Head Gardener’s House has been turned into a mini-museum as has the Garden Bothy (workman’s house). The Tool Shed is also on view and shows examples of tools used in the Victorian era and small treasures uncovered during the garden renovations. A shuttle bus connects the gardens to Kylemore Abbey.

Brigit’s Garden (Off N 59, Pollagh, Roscahill, Connemara, Co. Galway)

A serene and off-the-beaten-path 11-acre garden reflecting Celtic festivals, with wildflower meadows, nature trails, woodlands and meadows and Ogham trees. There is also a thatched round house, ring fort and stone chamber, as well as a unique calendar sundial, at 50 feet in diameter, said to be the largest of its kind in Ireland. It’s a lovely respite from a busy day of touring. 

Glenveagh National Park Gardens (Churchill, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal)

A focal point of one of Ireland's finest national parks, these gardens were planted in the 19th century and include a rich variety of exotic and rare plants from as far away as Tasmania, Madeira, and Chile. In addition, there are themed sections such as the Belgian Walk, Swiss Walk, Italian Garden, Rose Garden, View Garden, and Vegetable Garden with edible and ornamental vegetables. There are also a variety of nature trails and a lush habitat for wildlife including the largest red deer herd in Ireland and rare Golden Eagles who were re-introduced to the parklands in 2001.

Mount Stewart Gardens (Portaferry Rd., Newtownards, Co. Down)

Set overlooking Strangford Lough on the Ards Peninsula, these gardens surround an 18th century neo-classical house, originally known as Mount Pleasant. The gardens were created in the 1920’s, and considered to be the leading plant collection and garden in Northern Ireland. The layout includes topiary and formal gardens (sunken garden, shamrock garden, peace garden, terraces, Italian and Spanish gardens) plus various walks, a rhododendron hill, lily wood and a temple of the winds.

Botanic Gardens Belfast
(University Rd. and Stranmillis Rd, Belfast)

Established in 1829, this 28-acre setting is known for its rose garden and herbaceous border sections, as well as an alpine garden, bowling green, giant bird feeders, rockery, specimen trees and sculptures. The grounds include two unique buildings – the Palm House, a curvilinear cast-iron glasshouse, containing exotic palms and other delicate plants from around the world; and the Victorian-style Tropical Ravine, sheltering exotic warm weather ferns and jungle plants, such as banana, cinnamon, and orchid.