Welcome to the Boyne Valley where Ireland gets old and pretty all at the same time.
Just a 30-minute drive from Dublin City, the Boyne Valley is an area where ancient ruins lay side-by-side with pristine gardens, creating a magical landscape that begs to be explored.
Barmeath Castle, County Louth
The 300-acre Barmeath Castle estate sits handsomely in County Louth. A stroll along the lakeside walk reveals the aptly named fairy-tale island before winding into to the ornate gardens. History runs deep here, the castle dates from the 15th century and views of the Irish Sea and the Mourne Mountains provide the perfect setting for an afternoon ramble.
Beaulieu House and Gardens, County Louth
Open seasonally from May to September, Beaulieu House dates from the 17th century. If you’re looking for a touch of the whimsical, you’ve found it. Romance is on tap here, where a sprawling collection of houses, stables, a church (wedding bells are regularly heard at Beaulieu), manicured grounds and a multi-coloured four-acre walled garden add up to a pretty passionate whole. This could be love. Overnight for full effect.
Hamwood House and Gardens, County Meath
Built in 1768, this Palladian Meath pile is home to not one, not two but three beautiful gardens. The Pine Walk garden winds through a woodland of conifers, camellias and rhododendrons and the opulent Rose Garden is a more delicate affair with its ornamental rims and David Austin roses. Finally, into the Walled Garden, where a lily pond, herb garden and the serpentine rock garden house a pretty profusion of magnolias and flowering shrubs.
Word to the wise: you’re in County Meath. This means you’re a stone’s from the, erm, stone-clad passage tomb of Newgrange. In all its UFO-shaped glory, this is arguably one of ancient architecture’s finest hours.
Killineer House and Gardens, County Louth
Although it’s only open on certain days (see their website for dates), Killineer is worth serious attention. Built by a successful Drogheda businessman in 1838 the grand house is a chunky hunk but it’s the gardens where the magic happens. There’s an organic edge to the layout here that’s instantly attractive. Avenues melt seamlessly into fields, beach trees stand like ancient sentinels and the laurel lawn is a quirky curiosity. As a centrepiece, the lake is a winner, glinting in spring sun or twinkling under a winter frost.
Enter a world where monks once scurried between classes and the threat of Viking attack was a constant reality. This is Bective Abbey in County Meath. Founded by the King of Meath in 1147 for the Cistercian Order, Bective Abbey was a hub of education and cultural life. An intriguing mix of ecclesiastical and defensive architecture remains on the site. Its castle-like quality attracted non other than Mel Gibson, who shot some of his movie Braveheart here. Stunning, ancient, awesome!