Ireland's great gardens
Brigit’s Garden (Off N 59, Pollagh, Roscahill, Connemara, Co. Galway, www.galwaygarden.com) – 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, www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie) – 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, www.nationaltrust.org.uk) – 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, www.belfastcity.gov.uk/parksandopenspaces/parksdetails.asp?id=54) – 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.
Patricia (Pat) Preston has written 23 travel books (15 about Ireland). Her latest book, Ireland Travel 101 (http://www.IrelandTravel101.com) won 1st Place in the Travel Guide category of the North American Travel Journalists Association annual competition this year. Visit Pat’s web site (http://www.IrelandExpert.com).