The Great Gardens of Ireland

As we head into the fall and winter months, we can only dream of flowers on the trees and gardens in full bloom, but we can make plans. If you are planning a trip to Ireland, consider visiting some of the amazing gardens.

Here is a selection of the great gardens of Ireland, open to the public:

National Botanical Gardens

Botanic Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9

National Botanical Gardens.

It’s Dublin’s floral showcase, with over 20,000 different plants, a Great Yew Walk, bog garden, water garden, rose garden, student garden and herb garden.

Established in 1795, the layout also includes a variety of Victorian-style glass houses built to house tropical plants and exotic flowers. Set in 50 acres of land just two miles north of the city center and easily accessible by bus from Dublin, the gardens also boast over 300 endangered species from around the world and six species already extinct in the wild.

Powerscourt Gardens

Enniskerry, County Wicklow

Powercourt Gardens.

Powercourt Gardens.

An extraordinary array of 18th century gardens just 20km south of Dublin city, with the Sugarloaf Mountain as a backdrop. Floral arrangements have Italian and Japanese themes, as well as herbaceous borders, ornamental lakes, splendid statuary and decorative ironwork. Additionally, the grounds are home to a pet cemetery, wildlife park and a waterfall (the highest in Britain and Ireland) which tumbles down a 400ft high cliff. The gardens surround a restored 18th century house which also offers exhibitions, shops and a café with an outdoor terrace overlooking the whole garden landscape. It’s an easy half-day trip from Dublin by bus or car.

Mount Usher Gardens

Off the N 11, Ashford, County Wicklow

Mount Usher Gardens.

Mount Usher Gardens.

Another “must stop” for garden lovers en route to or from Dublin. Dating back to 1886, Mount Usher is a 20-acre paradise of more than 5,000 types of plants, trees and shrubs from around the world, blending familiar species like rhododendrons, magnolias, camellias, eucalyptus and palms, with the exotic, such as Burmese jumpers, Chinese spindles and North American swamp cypress. Water plays a vital role in the layout, with waterfalls and bridges visible in almost every section.

The gardens of the Irish National Stud

Tully, County Kildare

 The gardens of the Irish National Stud.

The gardens of the Irish National Stud.

Even if you have only a minimal interest in horses, it’s well worth a trip to the Irish National Stud, a sprawling horse farm set in 958 acres of prime grassland, to stroll through the adjoining gardens. . The Japanese Gardens, laid out between 1906 and 1910 to symbolize the Life of Man in 20 different stages from Oblivion to Eternity, are considered among the most beautiful in Europe.

The setup includes cherry blossoms, bonsai trees, and other exotic plantings, as well as a tea house and a miniature Japanese village. The new garden, known as St. Fiachra’s Garden, is named for the sixth-century Irish monk who is the patron saint of gardeners. Designed to recreate the serene environment that inspired the spirituality of the 6th and 7th century monastic movement in Ireland, this garden is a natural oasis of woodland, waterfalls and wetlands, as well as aquatic plants, islands and greenery of all types.

Bantry House Garden

Bantry, County Cork

Bantry House Garden.

Bantry House Garden.

This south-west Irish garden surrounds Bantry House, one of Ireland’s grandest houses built in 1740 for the Earls of Bantry. The gardens are set on a hill overlooking Bantry Bay. Wander among rare flowers, subtropical plants, sculpted shrubs, quirky statues, and riverside paths. Climb the steps behind the house for a panoramic view of the house, gardens and Bantry Bay.

Garish Island

off Glengarriff, County Cork

Garinish Island.

Garinish Island.

A small garden paradise on a 37 acre island off the west coast of Cork. Accessible by local ferries from Glengarriff pier, it is home to an Italian garden of rare and tender tropical plants not usually seen in Ireland or northern Europe. It is here that George Bernard Shaw is reputed to have written part of St. Joan. The walkways around the gardens, ideal for strolling, include pedimented ponds and gates, a Martello tower and a Greek temple overlooking the sea. You can easily spend a morning or afternoon here.

Muckross House Gardens

Muckross Road, Killarney, County Kerry

Muckross House Gardens.

Muckross House Gardens.

This 18th century garden surrounds Muckross House, a focal point on the shore of Killarney’s Middle Lake. Often referred to as ‘The Jewel of Killarney’, the splendid 20-bedroom Victorian mansion, built in 1843, provides insight into the lifestyle of Killarney’s landed gentry in the 19th century. The manicured gardens outside are world renowned for their collections of azaleas, roses and rhododendrons, as well as a sunken garden, rock garden, stream garden and walled garden.

Birr Castle Gardens

Rosse Row, Birr, County Offaly

Birr Castle Gardens.

Birr Castle Gardens.

A 100 acre horticultural paradise in central Ireland. The layout contains over 1,000 species of trees and shrubs, including boxwood hedges listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest in the world. Other facilities include a giant 6-foot reflecting telescope, built in 1845 and the largest in the world for over 70 years.

Kylemore Abbey Gardens

Kylemore, County Galway

Kylemore Abbey Gardens.

Kylemore Abbey Gardens.

A six acre walled Victorian garden. Named a Europa Nosta award winner in 2002, this serene lakeside sanctuary was originally laid out in 1867 and took three years to complete, transforming a wasteland of rock and bog into a feast of flowers and plants. in geometric borders. and beds, as well as hundreds of thousands of trees. Unfortunately, the garden fell into disuse for over 100 years until its recent restoration.

The garden is divided into two sections, a formal flower garden for leisurely walks and the vegetable patch containing fruit, vegetables and herbs. In addition, the former Maison du Chef Jardinier has been transformed into a mini-museum, as has the Jardin Bothy (worker’s house). The Tool Shed is also visible and shows examples of tools used in Victorian times and small treasures discovered during renovations to the garden. A shuttle bus connects the gardens to Kylemore Abbey.

Bridget’s garden

Off the N 59, Pollagh, Roscahill, Connemara, County Galway

Bridget's Garden.

Bridget’s Garden.

A serene, off-the-beaten-path 11-acre garden reflecting Celtic festivals, with wildflower meadows, nature trails, woods and meadows and Ogham trees. There is also a thatched-roof rotunda, circular fort and stone chamber, as well as a unique calendar sundial, at 50 feet in diameter, believed to be the largest of its kind in Ireland. It’s a nice respite after a long day of touring.

Glenveagh National Park Gardens

Churchill, Letterkenny, County Donegal

Glenveagh National Park Gardens.

Glenveagh National Park Gardens.

The focal point of one of Ireland’s finest national parks, these gardens were planted in the 19th century and include a rich variety of exotic and rare plants from as far away as Tasmania, Madeira and Chile. In addition, there are thematic sections such as the Belgian promenade, the Swiss promenade, the Italian garden, the rose garden, the garden with a view and the vegetable garden with edible and ornamental vegetables. There are also a variety of nature trails and a lush habitat for wildlife, including Ireland’s largest herd of red deer and rare golden eagles which were reintroduced to the parks in 2001.

Mount Stewart Gardens

Portaferry Rd., Newtownards, County Down

Mount Stewart Gardens.

Mount Stewart Gardens.

Overlooking Strangford Lough on the Ards Peninsula, these gardens surround an 18th century neoclassical house, originally known as Mount Pleasant. The gardens were established in the 1920s and are considered Northern Ireland’s premier plant collection and garden. The landscaping includes topiary and formal gardens (sunken garden, clover garden, peace garden, terraces, Italian and Spanish gardens) as well as various promenades, a rhododendron hill, a wood water lilies and a temple of the winds.

Belfast Botanic Gardens

University Road. and Stranmillis Rd, Belfast

Belfast Botanical Gardens.

Belfast Botanical Gardens.

Established in 1829, this 28-acre setting is known for its rose garden and herbaceous borders, as well as an alpine garden, bowling green, giant bird feeders, rock gardens, specimen trees, and sculptures. The grounds include two unique buildings – the Palm House, a curvilinear cast-iron greenhouse, containing exotic palms and other delicate plants from around the world; and the Victorian-style tropical ravine, home to exotic ferns and jungle plants, such as banana, cinnamon and orchid.

* Originally published in 2014, updated in 2022.

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