Garden walks in Ireland: six to savour

Dancing fountains, rare rhododendrons, white stags and shadows of famous philosophers: gardening journalist and author Fionnuala Fallon picks six of Ireland’s prettiest garden walks.

Mount Stewart Garden, County Down provided by Richard Johnston

1. Powerscourt Gardens, Eniskerry, County Wicklow

Garden overview: Featuring ornate terraces, dancing fountains, a flower-filled walled garden and panoramic views of the Wicklow Mountains.

Added intrigue: This historic garden is frequently used as a location for Hollywood movies and TV-series such as Far and Away, King ArthurThe Tudors and Camelot. Recently voted third in a list of the world’s top 10 gardens compiled by National Geographic, explore its beautiful wooded valley where you’ll find the Pepperpot Tower, modeled on a pepper-pot from Lord Powerscourt’s dining table.

See or do nearby: Visit the spectacular Powerscourt Waterfall or hike part of the 127 km (79 miles) Wicklow Way.

2. National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin

Garden overview: Founded in 1795 by members of the (Royal) Dublin Society, the ‘Bots’ is at the heart of Ireland's horticulture history.

Added intrigue: Wander through its flower-filled borders, visit the wonderful Palm House where the philosopher Wittgenstein used to sit and write. Admire the Great Curvilear Range designed by famous Irish ironsmith Richard Turner before taking the path that leads to a tranquil woodland walk along the River Tolka.

See or do nearby: Take a guided tour/visit the interactive museum of Glasnevin Cemetery.

3. Antrim Castle Gardens, Randalstown Road, County Antrim

Garden overview: Magnificently situated close to the banks of the Sixmilewater River, much of Antrim Castle’s historic gardens dates back to the late seventeenth-century.

Added intrigue: Take a walk through the historic gardens of Antrim Castle, keeping an eye out for the ghostly White Lady wandering through the ruins of the building. Visit the newly refurbished Clotsworthy House and the Garden Heritage Exhibition where you can discover more about the history of the gardens and the story of the Masereene family dynasty. Then head for the ancient motte, whose timber castle was once the centre of an Anglo-Norman manor. Admire the flower-filled terrace gardens, stroll along the peaceful lime avenues and visit the newly created formal parterres laid out in the style of the late seventeenth century. Along the way, watch out for the centuries-old stone statue of a wolfhound, the formal garden pond and the gardens’ long canals. Legend has it that on the 31st of May of each year, a ghostly coach pulled by four ghostly horses descends into the murky waters. Finish off, with a leafy woodland walk to the shores of Lough Neagh.

See or do nearby: Go canoeing along Lough Neagh canoe trail, Northern Ireland’s largest inland lake with a shoreline of over 90 miles.

4. Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow

Garden overview: This wonderfully atmospheric country garden is set amid the rolling countryside of County Carlow and is famed for its collection of rare snowdrops.

Added intrigue: Stroll beneath the shady grandeur of the ancient beech trees that line the so-called Nun’s Walk, visit the magnificent walled garden, and then follow the twisting path that ambles past scented old roses, neatly-cut lawns, and an ornamental lake filled with water lilies, descending into woodland where rare rhododendrons, exotic specimen trees and ancient oaks grow before reaching the banks of the salmon-filled River Slaney.

See or do nearby: Try a guided hike/foraging workshop in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains.

Stone dinosaurs and the Land of Eternal Youth? Check out our final two garden walks. 

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5. Mount Stewart, Newtownards, County Down

Garden overview: This National Trust property at the top of the Ards Peninsula in County Down is renowned for its exquisite, eccentric gardens.

Added intrigue: Check out the stone dinosaurs and duck-billed platypuses in the exotic Dodo Terrace, and the Shamrock Garden with its huge topiaried Irish harp that stands above the Red Hand of Ulster picked out in scarlet bedding plants. Then follow the winding path that leads away from the house and around the lake, past the part of the gardens known as Tir N’an Og and the statue of the white stag that waits to escort humans to ‘the land of eternal youth’.

See or do nearby: Take a Game of Thrones locations tour or visit the stunning Titanic Belfast.

6. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

Garden overview: Surrounded by deciduous woodland and the wild, cloud-stained skies of Connemara, Kylemore Abbey’s 2.4-hectare walled Victorian garden (the largest in the country) is a national treasure.

Added intrigue: Stroll along its vast flower borders, admire its wonderful bedding displays and enjoy a tour of the productive kitchen garden and restored glasshouses. Then take one of the many different guided hikes/woodland walks through this historic 1000-acre estate to enjoy magnificent mountainous views of the abbey, its gardens and the surrounding countryside including Diamond mountain, the legendary home of Fionn McCumhaill, the mythical Irish warrior.

See or do nearby: Take a ferry to Inishbofin Island or a boat tour of Killary Fjord, both on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Think that's the end of Ireland's green-fingered glories? Think again with these exciting specimens and these walled wonders. And while you're at it, take a peek inside the Garden of Ireland, County Wicklow.

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