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...

Mount Congreve House & Gardens
Kilmeaden Co Waterford

Deservedly lauded as a 'great garden of the world' and set to become one of the South-East’s (and Ireland’s) most exceptional visitor attractions following a €7m redevelopment, Mount Congreve’s beautiful 70-acre woodland gardens and 4-acre walled gardens lie within an easily accessed 140-acre estate off the N25, just 10 minutes outside Waterford City and adjacent to the Waterford Greenway. The18th century Mount Congreve House, which is now open to visitors for the first time, was home to six generations of the Congreves merchant family - notably the late Ambrose Congreve, who began work on the gardens in the 1950s and died in 2011 at the age of 104, when en-route to the Chelsea Flower Show! The recent works include ‘a re-invigoration of the gardens’ and much else besides, including new walking routes, a woodland playground for families, a wetlands walk (the one for dog owners), and an immersive audio-visual exhibition of the garden and family history. Also, in a glass-roofed courtyard, there’s a new visitor centre where The Stables Café offers delicious plot-to-plate menus – while The Gate Lodge offers stylish self-catering stays (with more accommodation conversions on the estate to follow soon). For further information visit:

Enniscoe House & Gardens 
Crossmolina Ballina Co Mayo

Set on the shores of Lough Conn, this timeless Blue Book property with its lovely meadow in the foreground features on the cover of our new edition ‘Best of the Best’ guide. It was our Country House of the Year in 2021 and is the special place where President Biden and his family chose to have a private day on their recent visit to Ireland, providing some fascinating downtime in a busy schedule. The North Mayo Heritage Centre is on site and they also visited the restored walled gardens and dined at the house, which has great charm and is known for its warm hospitality and deliciously natural food. Built in the 1660s by ancestors of the present owners, Susan Kellett and her son DJ, it’s a haven for anglers and anyone with an empathy for the untamed wildness of the area. The house is surrounded by woodlands (with an extensive network of paths) and the gardens, which have a long history, have seen major renovations in recent years. Garden plants are offered for sale, and there are Tea Rooms opening onto a terrace overlooking the ornamental gardens, also a shop stocking quality ‘non-tourist’ items and collectables. As well as exceptionally comfortable accommodation in the main house, a number of comforably converted outbuildings offer self-catering stays.

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. There is also a spa and indoor heated pool – 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 some other great country houses, hotels and gardens nearby, Ballymaloe is on the Ring of Cork HeritageTrail.

Lissadell House & Gardens
Ballinfull Co Sligo

The brightest historical and cultural gem of the North-West, Lissadell is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Sligo or planning a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. Former home of the Gore-Booths - notably Constance Gore-Booth who, as Countess Markievicz, was closely involved with the Easter Rising of 1916 and, in 1918, the first elected female MP – the current owners, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, have restored this national treasure as a family home and opened both the house and its lovely gardens to the public. The café serves wholesome light fare, mainly home baking but probably including produce from the Kitchen Gardens (which are well worth visiting) and perhaps even oysters from their own oyster beds. Open Jun-Aug, Wed-Sun 10.30am-6pm. Guided tours available, also luxuriously converted buildings on the estate offering ‘Platinum luxury rentals’ which are available all year. Rentals contact:

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 along with a number of other properties in the area, including Anglers’ Return, Ballynahinch Castle and Rosleague Manor, 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, and 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 also Kells Bay Garden, Glenbeigh - whose owner, Billy Alexander, recently won a second Gold Medal at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. 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.

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 delicious dinner menu that evening - along with other ingredients that are carefully sourced from the region's organic farms and artisan food producers. A one-off.







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