As well as being famous for authors, poets, and literary greats the country of Ireland also has its share of outstanding natural beauty. People come to visit Ireland for all kinds of reasons, some come to the country to explore the vibrant city life and pub culture, others come here to see the stunning ancient castles, and perhaps even to kiss the Blarney Stone. But many come to visit Ireland’s amazing gardens that are found all over the country.
The culture and heritage is abundant in this lovely country as is its miles of rugged, rocky coastline, sandy beaches, and areas of lush and natural flora and fauna. In this article we will examine some of the most beautiful gardens that are available to visit on the Emerald Isle.
What are the best gardens in Ireland to visit?
The answer is; everywhere. From north to sound and east to west of the country there are stunning examples of trees and plant life both in naturally growing areas and in carefully designed and created gardens that are crafted and shaped in to beautiful creations for your enjoyment. Here are some of the best ones you can visit during your Irish vacation.
Set in the beautiful Galway region of Ireland these gardens sit on 11 magical acres of natural woodlands and wildflower meadow areas. They create of the story of Ireland’s heritage and mythology and contain a fairy ring and Celtic garden areas.
There is also a thatched cottage and the largest sundial in the country on display. This stunning area won an award in 2017 and continues to be a popular spot for tourists and locals to visit.
The gardens areas take you on a walk through ancient Celtic seasons and there are areas that extensively promote sustainable living, green living, and renewable resources. With examples and ideas on how to reduce your own carbon footprint and impact on the planet.
This is an educational area and it provides tours and walking groups with lessons and caters to the local schools. There is a super cafe on site for when you have finished exploring and want to enjoy a snack or a cup of coffee.
This area is a home and garden land that was owned by Lord Lansdowne, who in 1870 began a project to transform the land into a beautiful 400 acre woodland retreat.
The Lord traveled extensively through the Himalayas and other far-flung regions and brought back plants and shrubs from his expeditions to plant in the garden. Dereen houses a collection of rare and exotic trees and has some of the biggest rhododendrons ever to be seen that have been growing there since the 1800s.
The gardens cover over 400 acres that are a haven for wildlife and deer. It’s also an entertaining area for children as the grounds are home to ‘Dereenies’ which are 2 inch tall fairy houses.
During walks there have been reports of sounds coming from behind the rhododendrons that are attributed to the occupants of these tiny dwellings. Derreen Gardens is also a popular place for bird watchers with an array of sea eagles, cormorants and other bird species inhabiting the area.
Caheer Bridge Gardens
An award winning garden in County Clare, this garden is created around an old restore cottage on the river. It has been featured in several publications including the Irish Times and is open for viewing by appointment only.
The gardens were created by Carl Wright who has created an impressive garden around the hope. The true talents of designing this natural space become apparent when you learn that the house and grounds is located in the Burren.
An area known for its challenging weather systems, constant westerly winds, and lack of naturally growing plants and trees. If trees grow at all in this region many of them are almost horizontal owing to the persistent winds. This garden is cleverly designed in a system of garden rooms that shelter themselves from the elements.
Helen Dillon’s Garden
Starting her career as a junior assistant to other famous gardeners working at a gardening magazine and cultivating her own grounds for over 40 years, Helen Dillon has been named in the past as ‘the undisputed Queen of Irish gardening’.
Her garden has become known for its ever-evolving and changing style Once there was a lawn, now there is a canal. There used to be pristine and uniformly colored borders, now there’s an explosion of different colors.
Helen has authored several books on gardening and has been quoted as claiming that gardening is a constant editing process and that what you take out can be as important as what you put in. The Dillon garden reflects Helen’s ever-evolving and constantly changing style and is open to the public to view and tour.
Covering almost one complete hectare and featuring a victorian glass house and folly, Bellfield Gardens and house have become a popular visitors spot.
The folly was built from salvaged materials and the gardens are home to a wide variety of plant species including narcissus and several varieties of unusual snowdrops.
There are also substantial displays of roses, peonies, iris and clematis. The home and gardens have been featured in several magazine and publications including the Irish Garden, The Sunday Business Post and the Irish Independent.
It has been listed as one of the best 10 gardens in Ireland and has an impressive water feature. A popular vacation destination, the grounds contain converted cottages that were fashioned from the old stable and farmhouses where visitors may stay.
Kilmokea Country Manor
Located in the Wexford area of Ireland this country manor house and garden area became famous for being the home of the first ‘Tree Fairy Village’ and is visited by fairy hunters from all over the world that come to view the increasing number of fairy homes hidden in the trees.
The garden is a romantic and peaceful creation reflecting a natural and unspoiled quality. Loveseats are scattered throughout and there is a waterfall that cascades through different areas of the garden.
The Viking Settlement, the Myrtle Wood and Norman Motte and Bailey can all be seen by guests. The grounds are tranquil and peaceful and there are many examples of plants and organic fruit bearing trees.
The gardens were originally created in 1947 and have been meticulously maintained and added to over the subsequent years. The area is one of the most historic sites in the southeast and possibly dates back to 2000 BC.
There have been examples of pottery and other relics of early Bronze Age life. It has been a Viking and a Norman settlement and there was a monastery in the local area.
Kilruddery House and Gardens
Situated on the outskirts of Dublin this is a fantastic place to spend a day out away from the noise of the city. Kilruddery is a well preserved house and gardens that has been in the same family for 16 generations.
The garden areas were originally created by the 3rd and 6th Earls of Meath and have thrived ever since. Designed by famous a French gardener the design of the grounds follow a formal style.
There was an Orangery built in 1853 which houses a collection of statues and sculptures, and legend has it that a family tiara was sold to finance the building work.
The Walled Garden, while one of the original features has fallen into disrepair and an restoration project started in 2011, has restored the garden to its former glory. It covers 4 acres and is accessible by an impressive ornamental gate.
Mount Usher Garden
Described by the famous Monty Don as one of his most favourite gardens ever and given a top rating by the Good Gardens Guide, Mount Usher is known as one of Ireland’s greatest gardens.
It features an informal and relaxed layout in the laid back Robinsonian style of garden. In the sheltered valley setting there are planting of a wealth of trees, shrubs and plant species.
As the seasons change so do the colors and smell of this impressive garden scene. Originally created by the Walpole family the gardens have been continuously developed over a period of 150 years.
The garden contains over 5000 species of trees and plants and has an extensive collection of northern conifers and eucalyptus trees. There is also a large amount of area wildlife with herons, kingfishers, otters, and hedgehogs living in the grounds.
This is not your typical plant and tree garden, Victoria’s Way is an impressive sculpture garden featuring statues from in and around India. Buddha and dancing Indian deities line the pathways of this area.
This garden is not a fun park for families, rather it is a meditation garden that was designed specifically for adults that were seeking peace, quiet and a break from the daily hustle and bustle of life.
People come here to rest and relax or sit in quiet contemplation while enjoying the various different art works.
Mobile phones are not allowed and the area advises people to reduce their normal walking pace to a lower level, all in an effort to promote a calm and peaceful experience.
The garden covers over 20 acres with walkways and ponds along the trails. It can take at least an hour to walk the main trail and longer if visitors pause to sit on one of the many benches provided along the way.
The National Botanical Gardens
Located in Galsnevin in County Dublin the National Botanical Gardens are just under 50 acres in size and contain in excess of 15000 different plant and tree species from around the world.
As well as the many commonly seen varieties of plant life the garden is keen on promoting conservation efforts and is also home to over 300 different endangered plant species and grows 6 species that are already extinct in the natural world.
The gardens contain beautifully restored glass houses and have won awards for conservation architecture. Visitors to the gardens can visit the planted glasshouses, stroll the grounds and see the rose garden and rock garden areas along with many other species and types of flowering plants.
The Botanical Gardens also contain the national Herbarium and are a premier scientific institution and are a much visited tourist attraction.
Garinish Island Gardens
Famous as a world-class garden location this garden area is located in Bantry Bay.
The beautiful grounds were created by a unique collaboration between Annan Bryce and Harold Peto and after some years the gardens were donated to the people of Ireland in 1953.
The garden features several stunning walks and pathways and is home to some plant specimens that are not commonly found in the Bantry area.
The gardens are in a unique position that creates a microclimate, which allows some rare and exotic species of plant to thrive here that are not typically seen.
Several structures are located in the area and include a Martello Tower that was an original feature of the island and dates back to 1805, a clock tower, and both Grecian and Italian temples.
They are the finest of their kind and the Irish National Stud Japanese Gardens are famous throughout the world. Located on the Tully Estate and created in the early 1900’s the gardens were laid out by a famed Japanese horticulturist and his son over a period of 4 years.
Tons of rocks and Scots pine was shipped in to create the desired effect. The gardens were styled to represent the ‘Life of Man’ through the use and placement of plants, trees, flowers and water features.
The area is extremely similar to the traditional Japanese gardens of the early twentieth century and is visited by over one hundred thousand people per year.
In a blend of eastern and western cultures, the gardens weave their way through various stages of life from birth to death, motherhood to old age and the afterlife.
Located close to the town of Kildare the Japanese Gardens have become a popular tourist destination over the years with thousands of visitors coming to see the uniquely stylized area.
Kylemore Abbey and Gardens
Kylemore Abbey and Victorian walled gardens are a popular Irish tourist attraction. Home to Benedictine nuns since the 1820’s this 6 acres garden is nestled on the 100 acre estate.
Woodland and lakeshore walk weave their way through this peaceful area and you can even make a wish at the Giants Ironing stone. The restoration of the Abbey, church and walled gardens was undertaken by the nuns residing on the estate and is now one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions.
The walled garden in the largest in Ireland and there are daily tours available for visitors to learn about the history of the estate and its buildings.
The garden was the last of its kind to be created in the country and the only one to be built on a bog. At one time the creation was so impressive that it was compared to the world famous Kew Gardens in London.
In the original design, there were a number of glass houses that contained exotic fruits and plants. Unfortunately, they became derelict over the years, and only the brick foundations remained.
In 1996 restoration works began and 2 of the glasshouses have been rebuilt. In a unique twist only plants and vegetables that were grown in the Victorian period are grown in the garden today.
Powerscourt Estate and Gardens
Nestled on an 18th century historic estate and covering some 47 acres these well maintained gardens and house have become a popular tourist destination. Voted one of the top ten gardens in Ireland by National Geographic this lovely location is found in County Wicklow.
This unique and well maintained natural area is maintained by a team of dedicated gardeners and features secret hollow, terraces, and winding trails throughout the landscape.
Powerscourt gardens were created in 1731 and have been extensively maintained and extended over the years. Among the many features are The Italian Garden, the Dolphin Pond, and Pepperpot Tower.
While there visitors may enjoy an exhibition that details the history of the estate or enjoys shopping in one of the specialty shops. Originally the house was a 13th-century castle that was destroyed by a fire and was extensively altered in the 18th century.
The entire area is currently owned by the Slazenger family and it is open for guests to visit throughout the year. Set against the Sugarloaf mountain this garden features many varieties of trees and plant life.
Inspiration for many of the gardens features were obtained from the Palace at Versailles, and palaces and castles of Vienna and Heidlberg.