Garden Getaways - 10 of the Best

While many are open all year, this is perhaps the perfect time for garden visits - and some of Ireland's loveliest gardens offer accommodation too, so why not try one (or more) of these gorgeous garden getaways this year...

Kilmokea Country Manor & Gardens
Great Island Campile Co Wexford

Mark and Emma Hewlett’s peaceful Georgian country house is set in seven acres of Heritage Gardens where the Three Sister rivers, the Suir, the Barrow and the Nore meet, and they are members of the Wexford Garden Trail. It’s very much a family home offering pet friendly ‘boutique B&B’ rather than a hotel, with elegantly furnished rooms in the main house, also newer rooms and self-catering suites in an adjoining coach house, which allow for greater independence – and, as well as light daytime food in the Conservatory café, dinner in the dining room is available to resident guests by reservation. The gardens are fascinating, with much to interest everyone, whether you are on a tour, a serious horticulturist, a keen historian or just having a family day out – when the Fairy Village in the woodland garden will delight little people. Everyone is sure to appreciate the organic ‘potager design’ vegetable garden, which supplies the kitchens in season – and a thoughtful recent addition is a peaceful Memory Garden, designed as place of solace and reflection.

Ballymaloe House & Cookery School
Shanagarry Co Cork

Ballymaloe may be Ireland’s most famous country house and restaurant but, although it has developed considerably (in a quietly organic way) since it was first opened by the late Ivan and Myrtle Allen in 1964, it is still very much itself. Led by the seasonal rhythms of the farm and gardens, there is a purposefulness to the calm and restful ambience and, whether you choose the soothingly traditional bedrooms in the main house, the adjacent courtyard rooms with their own entrances, or self catering in the charming farm cottages, it is a wonderful place to stay – and, of course, to dine. The lovely gardens and woodland are always a joy – and, just 4km up the road, Ballymaloe Cookery School is set in a one hundred acre organic farm and its wonderful gardens are also managed organically - “all the plants receive a generous dose of good farm yard manure early in the spring to set them up for the season”. Garden Tours are available, also gardening classes and workshops. Along with other great country houses nearby, Longueville House and Ballyvolane House, Ballymaloe is on the on the East Cork Heritage and Garden Trail.


Cashel House Hotel & Gardens
Cashel Connemara Co Galway

The McEvilly family have run this gracious property at the head of Cashel Bay as an hotel since 1968. The building is covered in a soft cloak of climbing plants and the gardens, which are informal and quietly secluded, are open to the public by appointment for most of the year - and also part of the Connemara Garden Trail. The gardens are over 200 years old and, with their paths and small walks covered in ‘mind your own business’ (soleirolia soleirollii) and edged with moss covered rocks, they are a delight. A fine Beech Walk leads up to the herb and vegetable gardens, and the old walled garden, now known as The Secret Garden, is planted with rare trees and shrubs from all over the world - The Irish Tree Society has listed all the rare trees in the gardens. The seats dotted enticingly around the gardens include one at the viewpoint favoured by Cashel’s most famous guest, General de Gaulle, and, as well as pleasing the eye, these beautiful gardens supply seasonal kitchen produce and fresh flowers for the house. Cashel House makes a relaxed (and pet friendly) getaway, with beaches, golf, horse riding, sea fishing, salmon and trout fishing all available nearby - and it offers good value too.

Hunters Hotel
Rathnew Ashford Co Wicklow

Thanks to its beautiful setting alongside the River Vartry and charming old-world ambience, a visit to Hunter’s Hotel is always special – and particularly in summer, when afternoon tea is served in the lovely gardens and the herbaceous borders are at their best. One of Ireland’s oldest coaching inns, it was built around 1720 and has been in the same family now for five generations - brothers Richard and Tom Gelletlie take pride in running the place on traditional lines, as many guests will remember their late mother, the legendary Maureen Gelletlie, doing for many years. People come here for old-fashioned comfort and food based on local and home-grown produce – with the emphasis very much on ‘old fashioned’, which is where its charm and character lie. It’s a lovely place to be based when visiting gardens around the county dubbed the Garden of Ireland and the large kitchen garden that provides fruit and vegetables for the hotel is invariably interesting for a browse. The gardens are open to visitors all year from 10am-dusk; voluntary contributions to the Irish Cancer Society are encouraged.

Carrig House Country House & Restaurant 
Caragh Lake, Killorglin Co Kerry

Should an excuse ever be needed to visit Kerry, garden lovers will find they are spoilt for choice. With its dramatic beauty and a climate tempered by the gulf stream, the county - and particularly the Ring of Kerry - is renowned for its wonderful gardens, and semi tropical plants thrive here. Famous examples include Glanleam Gardens, Valentia Island; Derreen Garden, Kenmare; and Kells Bay Garden, Glenbeigh. A perfect base for exploring them - or simply for a restful getaway - would be the Slattery family's charming and hospitable Victorian house on Caragh Lake, which is handsomely set in fine gardens with the lake and mountains providing a theatrical backdrop. The extensive gardens are of great interest, both for the way they interact with their magnificent setting and for plantings of rare and unusual plants from all over the world, which provide an ever-changing spectacle throughout the year. A laminated map is available, naming the various areas - Waterfall Garden, Rock Walk etc - and personalised tours can be arranged. It’s a lovely place to stay - and you will eat very well here too, in a charming lakeside restaurant, which is open to non-residents.

Burtown House & Gardens
Athy Co Kildare

On the Carlow-Kildare border, just 10 minutes' drive west of Athy, Burtown House is an early Georgian villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, parkland walks and farmland. It is one of only two houses in Co Kildare to have remained in the original family, and an extraordinarily talented one at that. Latterly it was home to the late Wendy Walsh, one of Ireland’s finest botanical artists and a wonderful gardener. Her favourite specimens are established here in the gardens that her daughter Lesley, also a highly regarded painter, and her son James Fennell, the photographer (best known for the famous Vanishing Ireland series, with words by his historian friend Turtle Bunbury of nearby Lisnavagh), have extended and improved over two generations to create the memorable experience that visitors enjoy today. Burtown is a member of the Carlow Garden Trail and a must-visit when planning a trip to the Kildare/Carlow area - and it is also a wonderful place to stay, with a range of characterful and very comfortable self catering options (house, apartment, studio...) on the property. And, of course, Burtown is also home to The Green Barn restaurant, which overlooks the walled kitchen gardens (open daytime Wed-Sun, dinner Sat night).

Angler's Return
Toombeola, Roundstone, Co Galway

A member of the Connemara Garden Trail, Lynn Hill’s charming and unusual house overlooks the Ballynahinch River, near Roundstone, and was built as a sporting lodge in the eighteenth century. Fishing remains a major attraction and, even if you are not a fisherperson, it’s a place to be outdoors - there are maps and information for walkers; riding and boat trips can be arranged for guests; and there is golf nearby too. But you don’t even have to leave this lovely property to enjoy time out of doors as the house is set in three acres of gardens, established in a natural style in the 19th century and inviting guests to wander over rocky outcrops and through old trees. It is lovely throughout a long season and this tranquil spot also makes a charming and hospitable base for visiting other Connemara Garden Trail members - and, of course, for painting holidays in this stunningly scenic area. As well as B&B, Lynn has a kitchen solely for guests' use and offers a semi-self catering option (or fully self-catering, if preferred) for those who like to be independent.

Viewmount House
Longford, Co Longford

This lovely 1750s Georgian house on the edge of Longford town was once owned by Lord Longford. It is set in four acres of beautiful wooded gardens, much of which were developed by former owner James Kearney over nearly 20 years as a series of rooms, with many intriguing features. It really is a delightful house and has been sensitively restored with style, creating a very special away-from-it-all place to stay. The six guest bedrooms in the main house all have their particular charm (one is especially large, but all are lovely) and there are a several newer two-storey garden rooms, which are ideal for families, or anyone who enjoys being away from the action and having extra space. Viewmount also provides a great setting for VM Restaurant, which is in old stone buildings alongside the house. It opened in late 2008 and quickly took the midlands by storm, making Longford a destination for food lovers. Viewmount is a lovely place to stay and a fine base to explore an area that deserves to be better known - well worth a journey.

Mount Juliet Estate
Thomastown, Co Kilkenny

Lying amidst 1500 acres of unspoilt woodland, pasture and formal gardens beside the River Nore, Mount Juliet House is one of Ireland’s finest Georgian houses, and one of Europe’s greatest country estates. Even today, after considerable sensitively undertaken redevelopment which includes the opening of what is effectively a second (modern) hotel within the complex, it retains an aura of eighteenth century grandeur, as the elegance of the old house has been painstakingly preserved - and the gardens remain reassuringly complete. Staying here should be a joy for any guest, but garden lovers find a day or two spent here especially enchanting as there is much to explore, including a wonderful walled ornamental garden that is especially famous for its stunning double herbaceous borders which provide an ever-changing spectacle of colour from early summer to late autumn. And the kitchens are well supplied too – exceptional cooking based on the best of local produce has long been a point of pride at Mount Juliet (notably in the elegant Lady Helen Restaurant), and it is home to one of Ireland’s largest herb gardens.

Rathmullan House
Rathmullan, Co Donegal

Set in extensive gardens on the shores of Lough Swilly just outside the village of Rathmullan, the Wheeler family’s famous country house hotel has a well deserved following for its unique blend of quality and informality; the fantastic location; family- and pet-friendliness; superb food, and an innovative mindset. Donegal has an other-worldliness that is increasingly hard to capture in the traditional family holiday areas and, although it has changed through the years, Rathmullan House still retains a laid-back charm and that special sense of place - and it is greatly to their credit that the Wheeler family have developed their business (and extended the season) without compromising the essential character of this lovely place. Good food has always been at the heart of everything here, and the lovingly tended walled organic kitchen gardens are a joy – there’s even a little table set up in a sunny corner, where you can enjoy a quiet drink. And the names of their two excellent restaurants - The Cook & Gardener, overlooking a soothing formal garden, and The Taproom (previously The Cellar Bar) for casual dining – tell the story of their commitment to seasonal foods and craft drinks. A visit here is always a special treat.

The Mustard Seed
Ballingarry Co Limerick

Having been established in Adare by the original owner Dan Mullane, in 1985, The Mustard Seed later moved just ten minutes drive away to this very special and hospitable Victorian country residence, and it is now in the safe hands of the former manager, John Edward Joyce. Set on seven acres of lovely gardens, with mature trees, shrubberies, kitchen garden and orchard - and very luxurious accommodation - The Mustard Seed is the perfect destination for a few days pick-you-up. It not only offers sumptuous rooms in the main house, but also suites with their own entrances in a converted former schoolhouse in the garden – perfect for regular guests who make this their base for activity holidays including golf, fishing and walking – and for guests travelling with pets, who get a thoughtful welcome here. (Well-behaved dogs are allowed in most areas of the hotel, except the restaurant.) The Mustard Seed started out as a restaurant and has long been renowned for its superb seasonal food, with menus inspired by the wonderful organic produce supplied by the kitchen gardens - do allow time to see them before dinner and, perhaps, hazard a guess as to what will be on chef Angel Pirev's menu that evening - and other ingredients that are carefully sourced from the region's organic farms and artisan food producers. A one-off.



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