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Rare and unusual plants mingling happily with native species among rocks and heather

Co Galway
Contact Ardcarraig
Tel: +353 91 524 336

Please mention when enquiring.


Opening Months: May, June, July
Opening Days:
Opening Hours: By appointment
Admission Charge: €5
  • Appointment Only
  • Admission Charge

There is nothing quite like Ardcarraig, perhaps because people don’t try to garden in such apparently inhospitable spots among the rocks and heather. Yet the sights to be seen in this 5 acres of hillside where Lorna McMahon has developed her own style of gardening with nature, are every bit as breathtaking as the most contrived of gardens. And to add to the pleasure for those already familiar with Ardcarraig, Lorna’s new home, now perfectly integrated into the garden, the opportunity to for further creations.

Deep in the heart of the garden acers, hostas and a Japanese snow viewing lantern are reflected in a rock fringed mountain pool as though they just happened to be there. Dazzling splashes of violet Iris ensata and magenta Primula poissonii, line a stream against a backdrop of moorland. But of course these lovely effects didn’t just happen: years of backbreaking work have gone into the garden. Lorna opened up clearings, planted hazel and holly as shelter, and made rustic steps up and down the hillside coaxing things to grow between rocks.

Things started traditionally enough 35 years ago when Lorna planted a dwarf conifer garden beside the house but before long the garden grew beyond a bluebell and hazel wood to take in new areas each year The Mary O’Connor Garden (named for a gardening friend) is planted with rambling roses like Kifsgate, and summer flowering hoherias and eucryphias. Azalea lined steps lead on to the Primula Garden where some of the 40 varieties represented surround a pool with stands of phormium,royal ferns add to the lushness and the dawn redwood and snakebark maples provide autumn colour.

The streamside bog garden, full of water loving plants gives way to the Japanese Garden where, beside a cascade, an obliging rock represents Mount Fuji. When Mrs McMahon sadly lost her husband Harry in ‘96, trees and shrubs given by friends began to appear on her doorstep, so she began another garden in his memory. More trees and shrubs arrived and were planted in the natural rock garden beside the stream in what promises to be the loveliest of all the areas.

The more formal side of the garden grew too with a sunken circular enclosure sheltering tender plants in commemoration of Lorna’s gardening aunts. An old mill wheel and a Cretan jar act as focal points. A former tennis court took on a new lease of life as a knot garden filled by herbs with a Shakespearean and Biblical theme. A moss garden in the hazel wood features mosses and ferns which thrive in the damp climate.

The traditional lawns have made way for informal gravelled areas and in the area around the house and drive there are exciting new plants including apollonia, Sophra microphylla contorta , Cornus capitata,Stachura salicifolia, with fine speciments of Acer aconitifolia and Cornus controversa below the house. Many other rare and unusual plants mingling happily with native species, all planted so densely that the garden almost cares for itself.

Best time of year to visit: May, June, July

Groups & Tours

  • Groups Accepted
  • Groups Need Appointments
  • Accept Only Groups
  • Guided Tours

Tour Days:


Other Facilities

Official open days and plant sales on the last three Sundays in May from 2pm -6pm

Ardcarraig Garden Galway
Ardcarraig Garden Galway
Ardcarraig Garden Galway
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On the Oughterard-Clifden road, 5km out of Galway - 2nd left after Glenlo Abbey.

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