9 Irish country house hotels with enchanted gardens to enjoy this summer
Ireland’s Blue Book has superb hotels and country houses all across the country, with wonderful gardens to explore
There’s something for everyone to discover at Ireland’s Blue Book properties this summer. Photograph: Getty Images
It’s no secret that over the past year we’ve fallen in love with gardens, and in Ireland we’ve got some of the best and most beautiful in the world. Here are nine beautiful spots to discover on your travels this summer.
Fresh florals in Connemara
Cashel House Hotel, overlooking Cashel Bay, Co Galway, is a wonderful base from which to explore the Wild Atlantic Way. But it’s not all about the sea. This gracious 19th century country property, a National Garden Award-winner, is surrounded by 50 acres of gorgeous gardens. Not alone does it have access to its own little beach but a host of ponds, streams and shaded walkways.
The grounds and woodlands are peppered with benches and nooks from which to admire the flowers, flowering shrubs and specimen trees. Don’t forget to check on progress in its fruit, herb and vegetable gardens - its bounty ends up fresh on your plate each day.
Elegance inside and out
In a wonderful case of nominative determinism, the gardens at Castle Durrow in Co Laois were laid out 300 years ago by the Flower family. Today it is the Stokes family which carries on the green fingered tradition in this peaceful pocket of the world, restoring their magnificent gardens to their former glory.
Guests arriving along its tree-lined avenue can look forward to elegant surrounds both inside and out. The property has 50 acres of lush lawns, including a walled garden, colourful borders and green parkland, as well as orchards, a wild forest and a stately river. And the trees planted by the Flowers’ are only now reaching their peak – discover them for yourself when Castle Durrow opens again in August.
Reach for the sky in West Cork
For a unique combination of wild nature, manicured gardens and a monolithic sculptural garden created by a world-renowned artist, check into Liss Ard Estate in Skibberreen, West Cork.
This stunning estate is home to US artist James Turrell’s epic Sky Garden, a giant crater – 50m by 25m - that encompasses everything from passage tombs and henges to fairy forts. It also chimes with the property’s name, which translates from the Irish for high fort. This vast estate, with accommodation that is similarly generously sized, includes parkland, a 50-acre lake, waterfalls, ponds and formal gardens.
A pot pourri of scent and sights
Given its location in the sunny south east, it’s no wonder Co Wexford’s Marlfield House is a gardener’s paradise. In fact it’s a 40-acre pot pourri of manicured gardens, herbaceous borders, woodland walks and ornamental lakes, with rustic bridges and wisteria clad walkways thrown in.
There’s a fowl reserve too, with ducks, geese and black swans. Get culinary tips from the kitchen garden whose fresh produce is put to work by the chefs each day while sisters, Margaret and Laura Bowe bring the outside in - the property’s uber-elegant rooms are filled with vases of fresh cut flowers.
Historic figures at Ballyfin
Ballyfin Demesne in Co Laois is a 600-acre haven of peace and parklands, spanning everything from ancient woodlands to quirky follies, ripe for exploration. The landscape was laid out in the 1700s, inspired by the gardening world’s most celebrated figure, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
It includes a medieval style tower, built as a folly in the 1860s, a walled garden with formal borders and a restored Edwardian rock garden complete with waterfall. The colour scheme of its walled gardens is based on a plan of the great Edwardian gardener Gertrude Jekyll, starting with white, silver and grey and reaching a crescendo of mauve and pink.
Parkland pleasure in Mayo
Tucked into woods at the foot of Mount Nephin, Enniscoe House is approached via a winding avenue through parkland with stunning views of Lough Conn. This classic Georgian property is known for its great food, freshly sourced from its richly stocked organic market garden, as well as from local suppliers, ensuring that the best of whatever is seasonal is served on your dinner plate.
It’s the perfect recipe for a leisurely break with a mix of pastures, woodlands and lakeside walks, plus a carefully restored Victorian walled garden. Tickets for the gardens are available to purchase by the public for visits at selected times, but guests get to enjoy them at all times - for free.
Achieve Japanese Zen
With sweeping lawns and an avenue of ancient lime trees, passing through the pillars at Viewmount House in Co Longford is like traveling back to a more-stately time. The manor house was built in 1620 and converted to a Georgian style in the mid-1700s. The lush green countryside surrounding it is set off by four acres of meticulously maintained gardens.
From lawn to pond, orchard to herb garden, every inch is carefully designed, with a variety of spaces to explore and enjoy, or sit back and soak up. A particular highlight is the Japanese garden with Tea House surrounded by water and ponds filled with Koi, perfect for quiet reflection.
Year-round colour at the castle
Glin Castle, a 400-acre demesne on the banks of the Shannon Estuary, may look out onto a rocky foreshore but for garden lovers all the best views come from the inland side, where its walled garden sits, sheltered and south facing. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, exotic plants thrive here including groves of gunnera – like giant rhubarb - camelia and rhododendron, under Killarney oaks and Monterey pine.
There’s a riot of colour for most of the year, from a daffodil filled hill to the flaming Persian Ironwood. There’s also a 19th century walled garden and two gothic wooden temples – one overlooking a spectacular herbaceous border, the other overlooking the Shannon - from which to contemplate the beauty around you.
The gardener’s garden
When you’re already in the Garden of Ireland, it takes a very special garden to compete. Hunter’s Hotel near Ashford, in Co Wicklow, is just that. This heritage property has been run as a hotel by the same family for 200 years and attracts everyone from European royals to Hollywood royalty.
A highlight for many is its two-acre garden, picturesquely situated on the banks of the river Vartry. More than enough for any gardener, it’s also just up the road from Mount Usher, a world class example of a “Robinsonian” style garden and one of TV gardening guru Monty Don’s personal favourites.
Whether you’re hankering after lush parkland or manicured lawns, specimen planting or riots of colour, cottage gardens or quirky follies, Ireland’s Blue Book properties boast glorious gardens. See Irelands-blue-book.ie for more.