1) Powerscourt Gardens – Enniskerry, Wicklow
One of the most famous and most-visited public gardens in Ireland. In 2014 it came third in a list of the best gardens in the world by the National Geographic Magazine and it’s not hard to see why. Beautiful walled gardens set the tone next to manicured Italian gardens, the Japanese garden offers an oasis of calm, great lakes are flanked by magnificent winged horse statues and water features. Children can explore the pet cemetery and parents can relax in the Avoca Handweavers Restaurant. The house was originally a 13th Century castle and the gardens span 47-acres so put aside a whole day to ramble.
Open all year round except Dec 25th & 26th. 9:30am-7pm during the summer months.
2) Mount Usher Gardens – Ashford, Wicklow
The BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine voted Mount Usher Gardens the best to visit in Ireland and it really is a ‘gardener’s garden’. The 22-acres were sculpted and designed by generations of the Walpole family from 1868 before being taken over by Avoca in 2007. The approach was inspired by the ‘Robinsonian’ method which speaks of working with nature to create beauty and relies on perennial plants and trees to achieve this. There are 4,500 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants to enjoy as well as the Vartry River which flows through the gardens.
Open daily 10am-6pm.
3) John F. Kennedy Arboretum – Wexford
Dedicated to the memory of JFK, whose lineage can be traced back to Wexford. This 22 acre plot is home to some 4,500 types of trees and shrubs sourced from all around the world and planted in botanical sequence. Families can partake in guided tours or navigate themselves through the different species via signposted walks or by downloading one of four orienteering maps, each different levels of difficulty including the ‘Wheel O’ Course suitable for participants with mobility issues. To entertain tiny troops there is a miniature railway, a pony & trap service and a playground and picnic area.
Open May – August 10am – 8pm. As part of heritage Ireland, the park is free to visit on the first Wednesday of every month.
4) Malahide Castle and grounds – Dublin
This medieval castle with its secret walled garden is the stuff of fairy tales. A recent multi-million euro redevelopment means the castle has undergone major refurbishment and now boasts a botanical interpretive centre, a museum and an exhibition of local history. Enjoy a guided tour of the castle and gardens and finish off with a meal in the seaside village of Malahide which houses many a fabulous restaurant.
Open all year round 9:30am – 5:30pm
5) Garnish Island Gardens, Cork
Take the ferry from Glengarriff pier to visit these Island gardens. The mixture of the 100 year-old woodlands and the effects of the warm gulfstream means these gardens are unique to Ireland with their range of exotic species. The Island is home to many a historical structure including a Martello tower dating back to 1805, a grecian temple and a clock tower. Be sure to take in Seal Island on your way back, home to a colony of 250 harbour seals.
Open 10am – 6pm.
6) Kylemore Abbey Walled Gardens, Galway
An hours drive from Galway City, these gardens are not to be missed. Set against the backdrop of a 19th Century gothic monastery and a beautiful glassy Connemara lake they are now one of the most popular tourist attractions on the West coast. Once a private home and then a Catholic boarding schools, it’s now home to the Benedictine nuns who offer access to certain rooms in the mansion as well as the award-winning Victorian walled gardens, the woodland trails and a craft shop and tea house.
Open 7 days a week. 9:30am – 5:30pm.
7) Mount Stewart, Co. Down
This 19th Century, neo-classical house and gardens are a must-see if you’re visiting Co. Down. Designed by Lady Londonderry and now owned by the National Trust they are best known for the variety of international plants and trees such as Japanese Maples, Olive trees and flowering evergreens from Chile. Highlights include The Sunk Garden, The Shamrock Garden, a large lake and signposted walks in the Lily Woods.
Gardens open 10am – 5pm, House open 11am – 5pm.
8) Ballymaloe Cookery School, Co. Cork
Not just Ireland’s most famous cookery school but also home to a beautiful set of gardens open to the public. The gardens include a herb garden, ornamental fruit garden, a celtic maze and wildflower meadow and The old pleasure garden complete with lake and a classic portico. Take a tour for information on the history of the estate and learn some tips on caring for plants and organic composting while you’re there.
June – Sep 11am – 5:30pm.
9) Altamont Gardens, Co. Carlow
The gardens span 40 acres and include a riverside walk along the River Slaney, formal and informal gardens. A mix of native plants and trees and exotic species can be enjoyed during a walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen which showcases ancient oaks and stone structures.
Open 9am – 6:30pm during summer months.
10) Brigit’s Garden, Roscahill, Co. Galway
Opened in 1997, the garden’s founder Jenny Beale wanted to create beautiful celtic landscape with the overarching idea of environmental education. The four main gardens reflect the yearly seasons and were inspired by the Celtic festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa. You can also take a stroll through the wildlife gardens, along a 11-acre woodland trail, a ring fort and stone chamber. While Celtic themes are striking, Beale explains that this is not a ‘nostalgic’ garden but a contemporary, designed by Chelsea Gold-medal winner Mary Reynolds. The gardens also celebrate the importance of biodiversity and environmental awareness.
Open Feb – Oct.
11) Botanical Gardens, Dublin
Home to 20,000 living plants and trees and the National Herbarium the gardens are Ireland’s seventh most visited tourist attraction and the second most visited free attraction. Huge, ornate greenhouses exhibit exotic specimens such as those found in the cactus house, orchid house and palm house. There are countless gardens to peruse including a rockery, rose garden and arboretum. As a hub proactive in initiatives for biodiversity sustainability and conservation your garden walks will be educational as well as beautiful.
Summer hours: 9am – 5pm weekdays, 10am – 6pm weekends.