Taming Connemara

Its landscape is famously wild and rugged, but against the odds, Connemara has produced some of the most beautiful gardens in Ireland

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway
Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway

When it comes to feats of nature, you have to give credit to Connemara’s gardens. Connemara's location right on Ireland’s west coast means salt and storm is pitched against every single plant, tree and flower. But faith, and a lot of tender loving care, has prevailed, with local gardeners growing some of the most spectacular hydrangeas, rhododendrons, heather, azaleas and camellias ever to be seen.

A Connemara garden
A Connemara garden

“Connemara is such a wild and untamed place and its natural beauty is more than capable of holding one captivated,” says Shirley Lanigan, author of The 100 Best Gardens of Ireland. “Any garden that can hold its own against such a backdrop must be impressive.”

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The Connemara Garden Trail

One way of discovering the best gardens around here is with the Connemara Garden Trail. On the trail, you’ll find everything from formal to floral and from wild to whimsical, with many surrounding beautiful old houses. Some go for an exotic look – palm trees pop up here and there – others are all about maintaining 300-year-old traditions.

One of the most famous on the trail is Kylemore Abbey, with its six-acre Victorian walled garden and tragic love story. “The garden at Kylemore is so unique,” says head gardener Anja Gohlke, “I love the order of the formal garden beds set against the wilderness of Connemara.”

Walk on the wild side

Shirley Lanigan, meanwhile, is in no doubt about which are her favourites: “The flower-filled jungle that surrounds Cashel House and Lorna McMahon’s extraordinary hillside garden in Oranmore.”

Despite their differences, Shirley adds that all the gardens “fit and sit well into the rugged Connemara landscape. These gardens all deserve their place here.” 

We couldn’t agree more… Know anyone who fancies a walk on the wild side?

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