Apologies for the two week hiatus, but I was off enjoying my time in Ireland. What a marvelous, magical country; if I didn’t have dogs and farm animals to return to, I seriously would have considered staying there!
We started our journey in Dublin and traveled clockwise around the island stopping in Enniskerry, the Wicklow Mountains, Kilkenny, Kilarney, Tralee, Ballyvaughn, Galway, the Connemara region and then back to Dublin.
Of course we stopped to visit several gardens on our travels: Powerscourt Gardens (Enniskerry), Muckross Gardens (Kilarney), and the Victorian Walled Garden at Kylemore Abbey (Connemara) made it onto the list.
Powerscourt — Part of Powerscourt Estate, a large country estate occupying more than 47 acres, the gardens were designed in 1731 and onward with the intent to create a garden that blended into the landscape beyond. They certainly succeeded on that front!
Today, Powerscourt Gardens includes the Walled Garden, the Italian Garden (portion of it above), the dolphin pond (immediately below), the Japanese Garden, and the Rhododendron walk.
Muckross House and Gardens — this was my personal favorite. The house was built in the 19th century and overlooks Muckross Lake.
In the 1850s, the gardens were installed over the course of 6 years in preparation for the scheduled visit of Queen Victoria. Future owners of the estate continued to add to the gardens. Today, it consists, in part, of a walled garden, rock garden, sunken garden, rhododendron walk, and stream garden.
Victorian Walled Garden (Kylemore Abbey) — the history of Kylemore Abbey is fascinating in and of itself, but too much to go into here. But in 1920, the estate was purchased by a group of Benedictine nuns fleeing from their abbey in war-torn Belgium. They re-opened their girl’s boarding school on-site, which just closed in 2010. They also undertook the restoration of the Victorian Walled Garden, which at that point was completely overrun by brambles and trees, back in the late 1990s with the help of some grants from Ireland.
The nuns still live in the abbey, but visitors are allowed to tour select rooms on the ground floor of the abbey, the Neo-Gothic Church (or “Cathedral in Miniature” as it is called) which was built by Mitchell Henry for his deceased wife, Margaret, and the gardens. Comprising roughly 6 acres, the gardens are divided by a mountain stream. The eastern half contains the formal flower garden, the glass houses, and the head gardener’s house.
The western half includes the vegetable garden, the herbaceous border, fruit trees, and a herb garden.
Connemara is a rather mountainous region, so you can see the steep incline of the garden. I’d hate to be the gardener responsible for pushing the wheelbarrows up that slope!
Lastly, it wasn’t a formal garden, but we spent one night at Gregan’s Castle Hotel in Ballyvaughn. It was surrounded by an adorable, little garden and looked out at the Burren (a geological wonder created by glaciation leaving a barren, limestone pavement that extends for miles) in the distance. The view was spectacular! A story is told that Tolkien used to stay at this hotel and that the Burren served as his inspiration for the land of Mordor.
All in all, a truly memorable trip.