Enchanting Gardens in Ireland – Amazing Irish Experiences

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Ireland is a country known for stunning landscapes and natural beauty. The abundant rainfall that contributes to the country's '40 shades of green' is also at least partially responsible for the lush gardens you'll find across the country.

While the majority of public gardens seem to be concentrated in the ‘sunny southeast', you can easily add a visit to a magnificent garden to any itinerary.

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Traveling in Ireland podcast episode 196

Top Gardens in Ireland

While gardens may not be what most people plan their Ireland vacation around, chances are you'll visit at least one.

And you should.

The combination of nature's artistry and human design make visiting Irish gardens a truly spellbinding experience worth fitting into your itinerary.

These gardens are well-known and tend to be found on many Ireland itineraries.

Powerscourt Gardens

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Nearly every day trip from Dublin to Wicklow includes the 47 acres of immaculate gardens on the Powerscourt Estate. And for good reason.

Everything you look for in a magnificent garden you'll find here. Walled garden? Check. Japanese garden? Check. Immaculate lawns. Yep. Woodland pathways. You got it. Lake with a fountain? Yes – and it even has a grand stairway leading to the house. You'll even find a tower, worthy of any fairytale, that you can climb.

Plan to spend a few hours here if you can. And before you leave grab lunch from Avoca to take to the Powerscourt Waterfall- the tallest in Ireland (separate entry fee).

Kylemore Abbey Walled Garden

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It's about a 15-minute speed-walk from stunning Kylemore Abbey in County Galway to the Victorian walled gardens that are nestled beneath the Black Stack Mountains. If you have the time, I highly recommend a more leisurely stroll. If you don't want to walk a free shuttle is available.

The garden covers approximately 6 acres and is divided by a mountain stream. The eastern half of the garden is the formal flower garden, lush with blooms in all colors and sizes. Crossing the stream to the western half you enter the ‘kitchen garden' with vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees.

To fully explore Kylemore Abbey & Gardens allow 3 hours minimum. This will give you time to enjoy the tour and history of the house, walk along the lake to the miniature Gothic church, visit the gardens (where you might also see the Connemara ponies), and enjoy a well-earned treat in the Tea Rooms or the visitors centre.

The Gardens at Blarney Castle

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The Blarney Stone may be the first thing people think of when visiting Blarney Castle in County Cork, but I think the castle ruin dims in comparison to the estate's extensive gardens.

With over 11 gardens ‘areas' spread over 60 acres you'll find plenty to explore. My personal favorites are the Poison Garden, which sits just beneath the castle's famous stone. Harry Potter fans will recognize some of the plants here. The Rock Close is the oldest ‘garden' on the estate, said to be an ancient druidic settlement.

Not far from this is a circle of nine standing stones, two of which have fallen, known as the 7 sisters. The legend tells of a chieftan with 9 children – 2 sons and 7 daughters. Taking his sons on their first battle against a cattle raider, the sons were killed. Returning home with the bodies of his sons it is said he stopped at this spot and ordered his men to knock over two of the stones.

When visiting Blarney Castle & Gardens allow yourself a minimum of 2.5 hours – though I recommend a full morning or afternoon.

The Gardens at Muckross House

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You'll find Muckross House in the heart of Killarney National Park in County Kerry.

During the 1850s the gardens underwent extensive work for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1861. In the early 20th century the Bourne Vincent family expanded the gardens with the addition of the Sunken Garden, the Rock Garden and the Stream Garden. Today the gardens are most popular in the summer months when the rhododendrons are in riotous bloom.

You can drive to Muckross House or take a jaunting car tour of the national park that can take you to Muckross House.

Irish Gardens Worth Adding to Your Itinerary

Some of these gardens may be a bit off the tourist trail. But that's definitely to your benefit as you may feel like you have them to yourself!

Lismore Castle Gardens

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Though you can't tour Lismore Castle in County Waterford (though you can rent it if you pockets are deep enough), the idyllic gardens are open to the public. We love the ‘hidden' natural playground and the more natural trails away from the manicured formal garden.
Tip: just down the road is one of my favorite ‘hidden' spots – Ballysaggartmore Towers. Be sure to wear your walking shoes!

Vandeleur Walled Garden

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The tranquil oasis of Vandeleur Walled Garden near Kilrush in County Clare is known for its stunning rose collection and relaxing garden paths. A small hedge maze and a meditation path take your mind in different directions as you explore. This is a great spot to visit if you are using the Shannon Ferry as you cross from Clare to Kerry (or vice versa).

Irish National Stud & Gardens

Located in County Kildare on the route from Dublin to most points west, these gardens should be on your list, even if you're not a ‘horsey type'. The magnificent Japanese Garden, often called the finest of their kind in Europe, is a soothing guide through the ‘Life of Man', allowing you to choose your own path and teaching you a few life lessons along the way. St Fiachra's garden named for the patron saint of gardeners has a more soothing, natural feel, a perfect spot to sit and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

The Gardens at Glenveagh Castle

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Located in Glenveagh National Park in Donegal the castle gardens feature both a Victorian Garden and a walled garden. Surrounding this you have acres of ‘wild' gardens with marked trails to explore. No cars are allowed in Glenveagh National Park so you can opt to walk, rent a bicycle, or take the shuttle to the castle. You can easily spend a few hours here wandering the gardens, touring the castle, and wandering the trails.

The Gardens at Bantry House

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Bantry House in West Cork is surrounded by gardens. In front of the house, leading to the bay is the terraced garden with 14 round beds. Behind the house is an ornamental garden overlooked by 100 steps. Climbing to the top of these steps offers a dramatic view of Bantry Bay and an entrance to the woodlands. Beyond this is the walled garden which is slowly being restored.
Tip: You can stay in Bantry House!

Birr Castle Demense

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If you want one garden the entire family will love, choose Birr Castle Demense. Beyond the formal gardens and terraces – including the world's tallest box hedge – you'll find woodland strolls, waterfalls, river walks, and the ‘Whirlpool Spiral' of lime trees. In the middle of all of this is the world's largest telescope (until the early 1900s) and Ireland's largest treehouse. There is also a wonderful science museum. Birr Castle is still a private residence, but some summer dates do offer castle tours.

Glenarm Castle Gardens

Located along Northern Ireland's Causeway Coast, the gardens at Glenarm Castle include a formal walled garden with vibrant flower borders and more informal spots like the kitchen garden and herb garden. The walled garden is also home to seven rescued hedgehogs. While visiting you'll also want to enjoy the woodland walk.
Tip: Glenarm Castle offers a few options to stay onsite, including ocean view pods and the Barbicon Gate.

Special Mentions

The final two gardens aren't full gardens but definitely deserve to be shared.

Garden of Remembrance

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On a hill in Ringfinnan seemingly endless rows of trees overlook Kinsale, County Cork. Created by Kathleen Cait Murphy, a New York City nurse originally from Kinsale, the Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to the firefighters and their Chaplain, Father Michael Judge, who died during, and following, the attack on New York on September 11, 2001. Each tree includes information about one of the fallen heroes and many are adorned with personal items left by family and friends.

Dunbrody Abbey Hedge Maze

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If you find yourself in County Wexford I highly recommend a stop to complete this hedge maze created of yew trees. In the centre is a tall viewing platform – terrific for yelling hints to those who are still trying to navigate the maze.
Before leaving be sure to visit Dunbrody Abbey, just across the road. This Cistercian Monastery has been standing 850 years.

Ireland's magnificent gardens are a testament to the country's natural beauty and rich history. From the grandeur of Powerscourt to the remote wildness of Glenveagh, each garden offers a unique experience that will leave you wishing you could recreate even a bit of that magnificence at home.

Whether you're a green thumb or simply appreciate the wonders of nature, consider adding a couple of these gardens during your unforgettable trip to Ireland.

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