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Glenveagh Castle Gardens


Elaborate series of gardens with tender specimens in a wilderness setting.

Co Donegal
Tel: +353 74 913 7090

Please mention when enquiring.

Glenveagh Castle Gardens

Opening Months: March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October
Opening Days:
Opening Hours: Park open 10.00am - 6.00pm
Admission Charge: Garden FREE; house €3
  • Appointment Only
  • Admission Charge

The more improbable the location the more exotic a garden seems, like some silken tent pitched in a savage wilderness. There could hardly be more Gothic setting for Glenveagh Castle than the wild vastness of Lough Veagh. The isolated ice age valley is set in 25,000 acres of bare mountain and moorland in a national park, hardly the place you expect to find Chusan palms and tree ferns.

Formerly owned by evicting landlord John Adair, his benevolent American widow Cornelia began to lay out the grounds and plant the gardens after his death in 1885. After a chequered period when it was occupied by both sides in the Civil War, and owned by a Harvard Professor Kingsley Porter who disappeared mysteriously on Inisbofin Island, Glenveagh was blessed in the ownership of American gas meter heir Henry McIlhenny.

A connoisseur and legendary host who entertained celebrities like Greta Garbo and Grace Kelly at the castle, McIlhenny was also a passionate gardener. He engaged garden designers Lanning Roper and Jim Russell and, between 1947 and 1983, vistas, stonework statuary and a whole series of interlocking gardens were added to the grounds.

Cars are left behind at the interpretative centre and an eco friendly bus carries passengers along a winding road beside the lake to McIlhenny’s dreamlike creation. Behind the castle lies an ornamental potager, with a traditional herbaceous border running through the centre, ranks of vegetables contained by neat box hedges, a dolphin fountain and a Gothic orangerie designed by Philippe Julien.

Beside the house there is a small Italian garden, its classical busts and clipped formality in complete contrast to the exotic profusion of the Pleasure Ground, with its swirling masses of damp loving hostas, astilbes and rodgersia, and
exotic shrubs like Michelia doltsopaand R cinnabarinum.

Changes of style and vistas of the dramatic landscape delight the senses. There is a formal flagged terrace known as the Belgian Walk, lined with huge terra cotta pots of azaleas, a dramatic flight of 67 steps climbing the hillside between R cilliatum, a hidden rose garden, a Viewing Garden, a Swiss walk through magnificent rhododendrons, and a Himalayan garden - all waiting to be discovered.

Throughout the grounds there are all kinds of unusual and tender specimens, Eucryphia moorei, Styrax janponicus katsura tree, stately large-leaved rhododendrons like R falconeriand R sinogrande, and Japanese Trochodendron aralioides.

In 1983 Henry McIlhenny gave the castle and gardens to the nation and it is now cared for by the Heritage Service of the Office of Public Works.

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

Gardens Strengths

Rhododendrons, walled garden

Groups & Tours

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

Tour Days:

Sunday, Saturday

Tour Times

Themed Garden Walks take place at 2pm Every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from June - Sept


Glenveagh Castle Gardens - County Donegal Ireland
Glenveagh Castle Gardens - County Donegal Ireland
Glenveagh Castle Gardens - County Donegal Ireland
Glenveagh Castle Gardens - County Donegal Ireland
Glenveagh Castle Gardens - County Donegal Ireland
Glenveagh Castle Gardens - County Donegal Ireland
Glenveagh Castle Gardens - County Donegal Ireland
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Glenveagh National Park is located 24km north-west of Letterkenny and can be reached via the villages of Kilmacrennan or Churchill. Access from Letterkenny is by the (N56) road through Kilmacrennan, turning left on to the Gweedore road (R255), or alternatively via Church Hill, and past Gartan and Akibbon lakes (R251). This route passes close to both Newmills and the Glebe Gallery.

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