Ireland's great gardens (PHOTOS)


The summer is here, giving us more reasons to travel to Ireland. Besides warmer temperatures, more sunshine and longer hours of daylight – with blossoming trees and bushes, tender new green leaves, flowers along the roadsides, and gardens galore.

Here is a selection of Ireland’s great gardens, open to the public:

National Botanic Gardens (Botanic Rd., Glasnevin, Dublin 9)

This is Dublin’s floral showcase, with more than 20,000 different plants, a Great Yew Walk, bog garden, water garden, rose garden, student garden, and herb garden. Established in 1795, the layout also includes a variety of Victorian-style glass houses built to house tropical plants and exotic flowers.  Situated on 50 acres of land just two miles north of the city centre and easily reachable by Dublin Bus, the gardens also have over 300 endangered species from around the world, and six species already extinct in the wild.

Powerscourt Gardens (Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow)

An extraordinary array of 18th century gardens just 12 miles south of Dublin City, with a backdrop of the Sugarloaf Mountain.  The floral layouts have Italian and Japanese themes, plus herbaceous borders, ornamental lakes, splendid statuary, and decorative ironwork. In addition, the grounds hold a pet cemetery, a wildlife park, and a waterfall (the highest in Britain and Ireland) which tumbles downward from a 400-foot high cliff. The gardens surround a restored 18th century house that also provides exhibits, shops and a café with outdoor terrace overlooking the entire garden landscape. It’s an easy half-day trip from Dublin by bus or car.

Mount Usher Gardens (Off N 11, Ashford, Co. Wicklow)

Another “must stop” for garden enthusiasts, en route to or from Dublin. Dating back to 1886, Mount Usher is a 20-acre paradise of over 5,000 types of plants, trees, and shrubs from all over the world, blending familiar species like rhododendrons, magnolias, camellias, eucalyptus, and palms, with the exotic, such as Burmese jumpers, Chinese spindles, and North American swamp cypress. Water plays an essential part of the layout, with cascades and bridges, visible in just about every section.

The Gardens at the Irish National Stud  (Tully, Co. Kildare)

Even if you have minimal interest in horses, it is worth a trip to the Irish National Stud, a sprawling horse farm set on 958 acres of prime grasslands, to walk through the adjacent gardens. The Japanese Gardens, laid out between 1906 and 1910 to symbolize the Life of Man in 20 different stages from Oblivion to Eternity, are considered among the finest in Europe. The configuration includes cherry blossoms, bonsai trees, and other exotic plantings, as well as a tea house and a miniature Japanese village. The newer garden, known as St. Fiachra’s Garden, is named in honor of the 6th century Irish monk who is the patron saint of gardeners. Designed to recreate the serene environment that inspired the spirituality of the 6th and 7th century monastic movement in Ireland, this garden is a natural oasis of woodlands, waterfalls, and wetlands, along with aquatic plants, islands, and greenery of all types.

Bantry House Garden (Bantry, Co. Cork)

This garden in SW Ireland surrounds Bantry House, one of Ireland’s grandest houses built in 1740 for the Earls of Bantry. The gardens are spread on a hillside overlooking Bantry Bay. Walk among the rare flowers, subtropical plants, sculpted shrubs, original statuary and waterfront paths. Climb the steps behind the house for a panoramic view of the house, gardens, and Bantry Bay. 

Garinish Island (off Glengarriff, Co. Cork)

A small garden paradise on a 37-acre island off the West Cork coast. Accessible by local ferry boats from the pier at Glengarriff, it is home to an Italian Garden of rare and tender tropical plants, not usually seen in Ireland or northern Europe. It was here that George Bernard Shaw is reputed to have written part of St. Joan. The paths around the gardens, ideal for strolling, include ponds and pedimented gateways, a Martello tower, and a Grecian temple overlooking the sea.  You can easily spend a morning or afternoon here.