Well-signed off the main Galway-Clifden road, Jenny Beale’s beautiful themed gardens near Oughterard have long been a favourite destination for families, school outings and everyone who finds a unique mix of history, legend and delightful garden design appealing.
Themes reflect the Celtic festivals and, in addition to woodland trails, a ring fort and a stone chamber, there’s a lovely café that’s worth a visit in its own right. The menu was originally vegetarian and, although the offering is much broader now, there is still a wholesome emphasis on seasonal vegetables and salads - organic when possible, and many of them grown in the gardens.
In 2012, Jenny undertook a fine extension of the main shop/café building, which has retained its essential homely character but is now much more spacious with the bright and airy café area overlooking the gardens - where there is also a multi-purpose building which can be used for anything from talks to weddings; and what a charmingly romantic venue for anyone who wants an alternative, slightly bohemian setting for their big day.
As before, everything is kept pleasingly simple in the café and, in fine weather, there is seating outside too. You’ll still find the ever-popular daily soup - chunky, wholesome organic vegetable with thyme, perhaps, a meal in itself with brown bread & butter and good value at about €4.95 - and a choice of quiches.
In fine weather the platters and salads are appealing (Brigit's Big Garden Salad Plate, perhaps, available with or without free range chicken, c.€8.95/€7.50), or you might be tempted to try local seafood in a terrine of Kinvara Organic Smoked Salmon with crab (c. €7.95). Mediterranean flavours suit this kitchen well and many regular visitors will travel especially for Nico's Mezze of olive tapenade, hummus & babaganoush, or the roasted vegetable and hummus Wrap (about €7.50/€6.95). A few wholesome choices are included for kids too, all at around €3.
It’s a lovely place to drop into for afternoon tea; great home bakes include delicious scones with jam & cream, and perhaps a luscious, walnut & apricot carrot cake, which is nutty and moist. Good coffee, tea or tisanes, soft drinks like cranberry or lemon juice and wines by the glass or bottle - just the kind of place you need to know about when exploring the area.
Allow time to browse the shop on the way out, as it’s little different from other gift shops, offering an unusual range of hand-picked items that reflect the philosophy of the gardens and include educatioal books and toys for children.
Good toilets too, including baby changing facilities, and environmentally friendly waste disposal including reed bed sewage treatment.
Special events - Summer Solstice Day, Summer Music in the Gardens, Elves and Fairies Day etc – held throughout the year.