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Ireland’s Leading Independent Food & Hospitality Guide
Alternatively here are 10 Glorious Gardens taken from our guidebook to the most delightful gardens in Ireland that also highlights the best places for garden lovers to stay and eat - many also with exceptional gardens - while visiting them entitled Georgina Campbell's Ireland for Garden Lovers
Kilmokea Country Manor
Campile, Co Wexford
Mark and Emma Hewlett’s peaceful and relaxing late Georgian country house nestles above an estuary where the rivers Barrow and Nore meet, and is set in seven acres of Heritage Gardens with peacocks strutting around the house. Formal walled gardens feature topiary and the ‘lower garden’, which was started in 1947, is now home to over 130 species of rare and tender trees and shrubs. The house is open to guests and is elegantly and comfortably furnished, with a drawing room overlooking the Italian Loggia, an honesty library bar, and dinner available by reservation in the main dining room.
Cashel House Hotel
Cashel Co Galway
Standing at the head of Cashel Bay, Dermot and Kay McEvilly’s gracious property has been run as an hotel since 1968 - comfort abounds here, even luxury, yet it’s tempered by common sense, a love of gardening and the genuine sense of hospitality that ensures each guest will benefit as much as possible from their stay. The award-winning gardens, which run down to their own little private beach, contribute greatly to the atmosphere, and the accommodation includes especially comfortable ground floor garden suites, which are also suitable for less able guests.
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel
Recess, Co Galway
This crenellated Victorian mansion is renowned as a fishing hotel and enjoys a most romantic position in 450 acres of ancient woodland on the banks of the Ballynahinch River. It is also home to one of Connemara’s oldest gardens - set out among mature trees and shrubs, on many levels, the extensive landscaped gardens here have long been a point of pride and are open to the public every day throughout the season (there is a small charge, donated to local charities). A stay here is always a restorative treat and, after a restful night’s sleep, a Ballynahinch breakfast will give the best possible start to a day visiting the many nearby gardens.
Carrig Country House & Restaurant
Caragh Lake, Co Kerry
At the heart of Frank and Mary Slattery's sensitively extended Victorian house lies a hunting lodge once owned by Lord Brocket - and he chose well, as it is very attractive and handsomely set in fine gardens with the lake and mountains providing a dramatic backdrop. The house is welcoming and well-maintained, with friendly staff (Frank himself carries the luggage to your room) and a very relaxed atmosphere, notably in a series of sitting rooms where you can chat beside the fire or have a drink before dinner. The extensive gardens are of great interest and a laminated map is available, naming the various areas - Waterfall Garden, Rock Walk etc.
Ballymaloe Cookery School
Shanagarry, Co Cork
The gardens at Ballymaloe are delicious - traditional with an original twist, just like Darina Allen's recipes, and a myrtle in honour of Myrtle Allen has pride of place in the centre of the garden. Edible flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums are used in salads or for garnishes in the restaurant, while leggy sunflowers and artichokes add to the colourful profusion. There is always a new scheme: an Irish apple meadow, an arboretum and a rose garden are all part of the evolving scheme of things Darina Allen.
Bagenalstown, Co Carlow
In a lovely situation overlooking the Barrow Valley, Bryan Leech and Martin Marley's charming late Georgian country house - which (encouragingly) takes its name from the Irish 'cill gre?ne', meaning 'sunny hill or wood' - is well-placed for garden visits in a wide area. And, set in extensive wooded grounds with gardens that are open to the public by appointment, it is also a very pleasing destination itself; among many delights. there are interconnecting herb gardens, a tea walk, a monastic garden - and a productive kitchen garden that provides much for Bryan to transform into delicious dinners (non residents welcome by reservation).
near Fermoy, Co Cork
The Greene family’s gracious mansion is surrounded by its own farmland, magnificent wooded grounds, a recently restored trout lake and beautiful mature gardens, all carefully managed and well maintained. Garden lovers will find a stay here especially rewarding: an information leaflet detailing the garden and walks is available to guests, and a comprehensive general information directory for guests is exceptionally well-researched - a model of its kind. Other great gardens, including Lismore Castle are nearby and the standards of hospitality, comfort and food for which this lovely house is renowned make it an excellent choice for a peaceful and very relaxing break.
Letterfrack, Co Galway
With a loughside setting under the wooded lee of the Twelve Bens in Connemara, Kylemore looks for all the world like a moody Victorian painting, and the 19th century castle has a story to match. The 6 acre walled gardens, which originally took three years to complete, have now been restored with help from the Great Gardens Restoration Programme, the European Regional Development Fund and work by FAS. With woodland walks, the dramatic backdrop of Diamond Hill, a miniature Gothic cathedral, a shop and museum, there is plenty for the family to see and do – and, despite hefty admission charges, it can be very busy in summer.
Powerscourt House & Gardens
Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
Justly famed for the glory of its setting and the grandeur of its scale, Powerscourt is Ireland's most visited garden. Parts of the plan date back to the 1740s when Richard Cassel, also architect of Leinster House, designed a series of terraces and a circular pool as a suitably imposing foil to the Palladian mansion he had created for Viscount Powerscourt. The entrance to the garden is now through the house, which was gutted by fire in 1974. Most of the building now houses an interesting shopping complex and there are temptations a-plenty at the garden centre too; lunch at Avoca’s Terrace Restaurant is recommended - altogether a very satisfying place for a day out.
Comber, Co Down
Anna and Ken Johnson’s delightful house near Strangford Lough looks over their own ten-acre wildfowl lake to the rolling north Down countryside, and not only does it make a comfortable base for visits to major County Down gardens - three National Trust gardens are nearby, including Mount Stewart - but they have a wonderful garden of their own as well. There is a cosy sitting room for guests’ use and accommodation is quite simple and cottagey - who could fail to be charmed by real Irish linen on the beds, and uninterrupted rural views, especially when two of these pretty rooms have seating areas and their own balconies?
The "ten of the best" above are samples from one of the books in the Georgina Campbell’s Ireland series, the critically acclaimed Ireland... for Garden Lovers (Epicure press, EUR20), which is available to purchase online here or in all good bookshops. Co-authored by well-known journalist and garden writer, Marianne Heron, it combines a guide to the most delightful places for garden lovers to stay and eat, with one to the top gardens of Ireland. Planned equally for the serious garden visitor and city dwellers simply longing for space and serenity, this full colour guide will be a handy reference for planning holidays and short breaks in the most delightful surroundings.