In the Southwest we are spoilt with the most stunning gardens, while away the hours amongst the must amazing fauna and furze ….
Derrynane National Park: Home of Daniel O’Connell in grounds of this subtropical garden.
Glanleam: Exotic woodland gardens with bamboo forests and ferns.
Muckross House Gardens: Located in Killarney National Park
Derreen: Subtropical conditions where exotic trees and shrubs flourish.
Garnish Island: Beara Peninsula
Derrynane National Park
Derrynane House, the ancestral home of Daniel O Connell is now a public museum commemorating one of Ireland’s leading historical figures, known by the nation as the Great Liberator. Derrynane House was opened as a museum in 1967 and is furnished with family portraits, writings and many items relating to Daniel O Connell.
The house is surrounded by beautiful subtropical gardens. From the house it is only a few minutes walk to Derrynane beach and to the harbour.
Glanleam House & Subtropical Garden
Glanleam, Valentia Island , Co Kerry. Tel: +353 (0)66 947 6176
Opening Months: April, May, June, July, August, September, October
Opening Hours: 10am – 7pm
Experiencing this garden is like straying into a benign jungle where the most exotic of plants rule in wild profusion. And if ever there was a place to give a sense of other worldliness it is Glanleam. The 40 acre site on an east facing bay on Valentia Island was created in the 19th century by the 19th Knight of Kerry, with plants sent back by plantcollectors from all over the world,particularly Australasia.
Much of the collection and itsdescendants survive, spreading andgrowing to enormous proportions inthe warming breath of the GulfStream, proving the point that thingsgrow faster in Ireland than atanywhere else at this latitude. Paths wiggle through luxuriant growth pastcordylines, bamboo forests,Beschorneria yuccoides, groves oftree ferns, embothrium and myrtles(including the variant Luma apiculata‘Glanleam Gold’ with cream bordered leaves which originated in the garden.)
Ferns, much collected by Victorians,are a particular feature and includespecies like the chain fern and theKillarney fern.
The garden is long and narrow in shape with paths winding back and forth between different features and prospects. There is an upper walk through thickets of camellias, a sea walk edged with bluebells and primulas, and a gunnera walk near the house. Streams and water features throughout the garden add to the interest. Restoration work is ongoing by current owners Meta and Jessica Kressig and, while storm damage which uprooted scores of trees posed challenges, it has also opened up new areas and opportunities.
Muckross House & Gardens
Situated in Killarney National Park, Muckross House and Gardens are among the most popular of Irish visitor attractions.
Queen Victoria paid a visit here, to the Herbert family, in 1861. The House was later owned, in turn, by Lord Ardilaun (of the Guinness family) and by the Bourn Vincents. Today, many of the rooms in this magnificent mansion have been restored to their original Victorian splendour.
Between the months of April and July, Muckross Gardens are spectacularly adorned with the red and pink flowers of mature Rhododendrons. Other garden features include a Sunken Garden, a Rock Garden and a Stream Garden. An Arboretum, containing many trees from the Southern Hemisphere, was established here in 1972.
Muckross Traditional Farms are situated adjacent to Muckross House. These working farms recreate and portray the traditional farming methods, and way of life, of a typical local, rural community of the 1930s.
The Walled Garden Centre incorporates the Garden Restaurant, Mucros Craft Shop and the three Mucros Craft Workshops. The Garden Restaurant offers excellent menu choices, while Mucros Craft Shop offers an extensive range of quality giftware. Handcrafted items from Mucros Pottery, Mucros Weaving, and Mucros Conservation Bookbinding are also on sale here.
Lauragh, Kenmare, Co Kerry. Tel: +353 (0)64 83588
Opening Months: April, May, June, July, August, September, October
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm daily (but closed Mon-Thurs in Aug except by appointment) Admission Charge: Adults €6.00, Children under 16 €3.00; Family Ticket (2 adults + children under 16) €18.00
The passion of an Edwardian grandee for shrubs and trees collected from around the globe and lush sub tropical growth promoted by the Gulf Stream combine to make this an unforgettable place. Not for ideas which can be copied in the average garden, to be sure, but for a store of indelible memories.
Among them are the sight of huge rhododendrons in bloom like so many vividly coloured clouds that have come to rest improbably on the wild shores around Kilmacillogue Harbour. Or an island linked by an extraordinary plank bridge to the shore, and veritable thickets of tree ferns in sheltered, green twilight where you might expect dinosaurs to come crashing through the primeval-looking growth.
The sights are a reminder that a wider range of plants can be grown in Ireland than anywhere else at the same latitude. A fact which no doubt spurred on the 5th Marquis of Landsdowne when he planted 400 acres of woodland to shelter a collection of shrubs and specimen trees, many of them brought back from his sojourns as Viceroy of India and Governor General of Canada.
The estate, now owned by the Hon David Bigham, is still in the same family, and head gardener Jacky Ward’s father was head gardener before him This is a place for stout walking shoes, the better to explore the labelled paths starting with the Big Rock and leading to the evocatively named ‘Kings Oozy’ (a boggy area where Edward VII planted a tree), or the viewing point known as Knockatee Seat – or to get up close and personal with shrubs which include camellias, magnolias, crinodendrons and hoherias.
Best time of year to visit: May, June, July
Glengariff, Bantry Bay
Located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay, in Southwest Ireland, Ilnacullin is a small island of 15 hectares (37 acres) known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world as an island garden of rare beauty. The gardens of Ilnacullin owe their existence to the creative partnership, some seventy years ago, of Anna Bryce, then owner of the island and Harold Peto, architect and garden designer. The island was bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953, and was subsequently entrusted to the care of the Commissioners of Public Works. To-day management of the island is in the hands of the Office of Public Works.
The island is named Garnish (the near island) on official Ordnance Survey Maps and is widely known by that name. The alternative name Ilnacullin or Illaunacullin (island of holly) also has a long history in the locality, and appears on at least one early map; it may in fact be the older name for the island. As there is another island garden called Garnish not far away in County Kerry, there is much to be said for using the distinctive name Ilnacullin for the island garden at Glengarriff, County Cork, and this has been the practice of the Office of Public Works for some years now.
Visiting the Island
The island is open to visitors each day from 1st March to 31st October. During the winter months, from November to February, it is closed to visitors except by special arrangement. Ilnacullin is reached from Glengarriff by privately operated boats. A charge for admission to Ilnacullin is made by the Office of Public Works on arrival at the island. This charge is quite separate from the fares collected by boat owners.
Ilnacullin is renowned for its richness of plant form and colour, changing continuously with the seasons. The vivid colours of Rhododendrons and Azaleas reach their peak during May and June, whilst the hundreds of cultivars of climbing plants, herbaceous perennials and choice shrubs dominate the midsummer period from June to August. Autumn colour, particularly on the magnificent heather bank, is rich during the usually mild early autumn months of September and October.
Because of its sheltered situation and the warming oceanic influence of the Gulf Stream the climate is in some respect almost subtropical, and is favourable to the growth of ornamental plants from many parts of the world. Winters are mild, and frosts are light and of short duration.
Average rainfall and humidity levels are high, the mean annual rainfall being 1850 mm (73 inches) with annual totals as high as 2540 mm (100 inches) on record.
Even for those who are not particularly interested in gardens, Ilnacullin is an attractive place to visit. There are many attractive views of the scenery of the surrounding district from the island. Ilnacullin and its surrounding waters are quite rich in wildlife, the seals which frequent the rocks on the southern shore being of particular interest to many visitors.