I don’t know about you, but I am obsessed with garden shows on Netflix and actually can’t get enough of inspiration from Monty Don! Luckily for us, Ireland’s Ancient East is filled with some of Ireland’s finest gardens – and they definitely let the Emerald Isle live up to its name. Check out these wonderful gardens in Ireland’s Ancient East well worth a visit – you’ll see that Wicklow isn’t the only Garden County!
Co. Wicklow is also known as the Garden County of Ireland, and it’s what inspired me to create such a list. However, even if this county owns most of the gardens the other counties also have some hidden gems to offer. But let us start with Wicklow…
This is a garden in the broadest sense – after all, the Glendalough valley and lakes aren’t exactly man-made! Still, hiking in the hills or along the two lakes is a deeply satisfying way to connect with nature. Start by visiting the monastic site and choose your hiking path to lead you through this stunning corner of Wicklow. A spiritual walk through Ireland’s history that will leave you stunned at the dramatic nature of the East. I’ve taken a closer look at Glendaloughover here – it’s a fantastic day out in itself!
Powerscourt Estate & Gardens
One of the most famous gardens in Ireland surely is the one located in Powerscourt. Opening up when you enter through Powerscourt Estate draping down from its terrace you first of all get a stunning overview across the gardens. When you then make your way down the steps from the Avoca Terrace Cafe in the manor house, you can wander along the lake, get inspired by the Japanese Garden or take a look at the beautifully kept pet cemetery. The Pepperpot Tower is another highlight – also great for kids to run up to. A more tranquil place is the Walled Garden, there you find the most beautiful flowers and you get great inspiration for your own gardening aspirations at home. Daniel Robertson, the architects of the gardens surely created something majestic here.
Kilruddery House & Gardens
Located very closely to Dublin you will find Kilruddery House & Gardens you might have heard of it because of its Farmer’s Market that runs from March until the end of summer. The setting within the old mansion is so fitting and gives the market a wonderfully medieval atmosphere. Even though the house actually “only” dates back to the 17th century. The French gardener, Bonet, has developed the gardens that disclose themselves just behind the big estate. Visit the garden’s beautiful Orangery, or take a walk through the wooded areas as well as through the planted parts of the garden. Kilruddery House also offers loads of events throughout the year around beekeeping, falconry or kid’s events.
Mount Usher Gardens, Arboretum & Avoca Garden Café
Another reputable garden in Wicklow is the one surrounding Mount Usher. The garden as well as the estate is operated by Avoca, so you can expect to be well looked after when it comes to a little lunch break at the Cafe. The amount of plants and flowers you can find here are incredible. The colour scheme and scents of flowers and trees like rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias among numerous others, will make you dream. Water is a central and omnipresent theme in the garden that you will always come across when you wander through Mount Usher Gardens making it the perfect place for a tranquil outing. Not to mention, Mount Usher is one of Monty Don’s favourite gardens, so you know it’s good!
Carlow has a bit more of a countryside feeling to it and I can highly recommend an escape to this county. You will find gorgeous manors as well as beautifully structured gardens here…
The “Jewel in the Crown” of the county is the historic mansion of Borris House in Barrow Valley. Extremely popular for weddings but also a great spot for a day’s out you can expect to fully unwind when you visit Borris House. Set high on a hill you will have a stunning view across the landscape – in the far distance you can see sheep, painted like white soft dots in the lush green grass. The grounds are huge and you can look forward to a lovely stroll through the new-developed Lace Gardens, the woodland paths or the fairy trail. How enchanting!
Crowned as one of the “most romantic gardens in Ireland”, Altamont Gardens was created in a gorgeous Victorian style. It stretches across 16 hectares and inhabits native as well as exotics flowers and trees. You will experience a great mix of wild and orderly garden when you walk through it. What I love about this garden specifically are the lake and river walks. The calming feeling of water rushing next to you is just so de-stressing. Another highlight of Altamont is the Walled Garden, that is diligently run by gardener Robert Miller, where you can find a vast amount of flowers within a relatively small space.
Huntington Castle & Gardens
The county manor dates back to the 17th century and used to belong to the Baron of Esmond. Surrounding Huntington Castle in Clonegal, its garden features a Yew Tree Walk as well as a Lime Tree Avenue. Throughout you will experience the heavy focus the creators laid on trees – chestnuts, hickory and Siberian crab. You will find water features, such as the lake or fishing pond. It’s a great escape for a stroll with the family, but also take a look at the beautiful castle itself. Initially built as a garrison, the architecture is simply stunning.
One of the sunniest parts of Ireland does not only produce delicious strawberries but also wonderful gardens. The Wexford Garden Trail is the perfect route to explore the most beautiful spots in this county. Apart from garden centres and gardeners that you can meet to exchange tips and tricks about your own gardening you can also get some inspiration by walking through fantastically designed gardens.
Located close to Wexford Town, you will find the Johnstown Castle Gardens. You might have across the castle before or even stayed there for a wedding? The castle itself is already stunning but wait until you explore the gardens. It is a wondeful mix of wild and formal gardens, cosy woodlands and lakes stretching across 50 acres. The garden was designed by Daniel Robertson, who also created Powerscourt Gardens. Look forward to relaxing walks or peaceful picnics on the grounds. North of the castle you will also find a deer park, as well as pleasure grounds and a farm. It could be great outing for the whole family.
Just like Wexford, Waterford also has its own Garden Trail. It’s the perfect route if you want to explore the man-made collaborations with nature. Visit 14 gardens along the trail, ranging from estate gardens to smaller house gardens. What’s great is that the trail connects with the Waterford Greenway, so you might want to take another break in one the gardens along the route with your bike.
Mount Congreve Estate Gardens
One of the most popular – in the whole country and abroad – are the Mount Congreve Gardens. Across a space of 30 hectares you can find beautifully planted woodland gardens as well as an additional 2-hectare big walled garden. Marvel at native and exotic plants and flowers in the grounds, up to 3000 different types of trees and over 2000 rhododendrons. You can even book a guided tour! The garden was modelled after Exbury in Hampshire and inspired Ambrose Congreve, who contracted architect John Roberts to create this absolutely stunning place.
Only a stone’s throw from Dublin, County Kildare is probably best known as “horse country”, since the county is leading in the Horse Racing Industry. The equestrian connection with nature is always palpable in Kildare, which creates a unique atmosphere for the flora in the county.
The Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens
Famous for horse breeding, Colonel William Hall Walker established his exquisite stud in Kildare and adjoining, Tassa Eida developed the beautiful Japanese Garden that fits perfectly to the elegance of the place. Think tea houses, bridges, bonsai and water features; all to give you a tranquil feeling of relaxation and practising mindfulness. If you love horses then that’s your place to be as you may want to add a little time out on a horse’s back riding through the surrounding area…
Start planning your adventure
People don’t call Ireland the Emerald Ireland for nothing – we definitely have a serious green thumb! Come rain or shine, the many gardens and botanic gardens of Ireland’s Ancient East are the perfect way to add a splash of colour to your day. Sitting down for lunch at a nearby café will only make your trip that extra bit special.
If you fancy a stroll through one of Ireland’s most beautiful gardens, why not combine it with a lovely staycation? I’m always on the look out for the best hotel deals – you’ll find my most recent offers in Ireland’s Ancient East just below. :)