When planning a trip anywhere the first thing you need to sort out is transport, while public transport is great sometimes you need a bit more independence to explore those off the beaten track places. As you know we are fairly independent travelers but the challenges of hiring cars and all the small print can often be overwhelming. iI is sometimes good to head off knowing your back is covered and if anything goes wrong there is someone to fix it making your holiday to Ireland stress-free. It is nice to find a company like CIE Tours, that not only supports independent travel but also offers the chance to have a more structured holiday if that is what you prefer.
Ireland, as I am sure you know, is referred to as the Emerald Isle because of the beautiful shades of green found all over the country. This also means there are some stunning gardens you can visit while you are there, We fell in love with visiting gardens in the UK, some of the most stunning gardens like the Priory Gardens in Bath with its Palladium Bridge and the Lost Gardens of Eden in Cornwall. Ireland offers a range of garden styles to visit on your road trip from the traditional formal gardens of Powerscourt to the woodland wilds of Brigit’s Celtic Garden to the Japanese Garden at the Irish Horse Stud to the Indian gardens at Victor’s Sculpture Park, you are spoilt for choice.
On our visit to Ireland in 2010, it was Winter (and snowing) so we missed out on the gardens but when we return we are hoping to visit these ones that offer something a little unusual and unique.
Victor’s Way Indian Sculpture Park
As lovers of both gardens and unusual places to visit this tick both boxes for us and has to be one of the most unusual gardens to visit in Ireland. The Victor’s Way Indian Sculpture Park is designed specifically for adults looking for a place to contemplate and is situated at Roundwood near Wicklow. Set in 22 acres of parkland, there is a 2km walking path where you can discover the 44 granite sculptures representing the spiritual progression to enlightenment. Featuring a skeletal-like Buddha and one referred to as ‘The Split Man’ showing a male ripping himself in two, supposedly representing ‘the mental state of the dysfunctional human’, there are many opportunities to reflect and rejuvenate on your visit. It is recommended to spend at least an hour for your visit. While these figures may be more at home in India than country Ireland the gardens offer an unusual and reflective place for visitors to enjoy.
Entry fee: €5
Open: Late April to September 12.30 to 6pm
Address: Old Enniskerry Road, L1036, about 2 km north of Roundwood in Co Wicklow,
The Irish Sky Garden or Crater
Designed by American artist, James Turrell whose designs encompass the use of light and space, the Sky Garden in Liss Ard in Cork is a sight to behold. The garden itself is situated close to the original Liss Ard ‘high fort’and was inspired by Mayan, Egyptian and Celtic archaeological ideas. It is different from a traditional garden, entering through a stone archway, a long passage then, a series of steep steps, transitioning from the wood to the oval-shaped interior. Measuring 50 by 25 metres it is designed so you do not hear any sound from outside the area and as you explore in silence it must be quite surreal. In the center is the ‘Vault Purchase’, designed for two people to lie, toes touching and experience the full vista of the Irish sky as it is framed by the shape of the gardens.
Currently, the Gardens are only open to guests staying at the hotel, this gives you the chance to experience the gardens at all different times of the day…you can even do a night visit.
Address: Castletownshend Road Skibbereen, County Cork P81 NP44
Powerscourt Estate Gardens
Compared to some of the great estate gardens in France a Germany, not only is Powerscourt one of the most beautiful gardens in Ireland, it has also been voted number 3 in the world by National Geographic. The gardens were designed in the 18th century and feature 47 acres feature formal walled gardens, ponds, pavilions and of course the highest waterfall in Ireland. The Wicklow Mountains frame the formal gardens, stunning terraces, and more formal gardens to give it a unique vista to be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. It is also home to the largest Pet Cemetary in Ireland, where the family pets of all sizes are lovingly remembered. With it’s close proximity to Dublin and its extensive garden diversity, it is no wonder Powerscourt is the most visited garden in Ireland.
Entry fee: €10 March to October €7.50 November to February
Open: All Year 9.30am-5.30pm you can prebook your visit here
Address: Powerscourt Demesne, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, A98 WOD0
Brigit’s Celtic Garden
Opening in 2004, with the vision of creating a special garden for people to relax and reflect and provide environmental education, Brigit’s Celtic Garden is a relaxed woodland design, that reflects the western Ireland landscape. Based on the Celtic festivals, Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa, the 4 interwoven gardens give visitors the chance to enjoy the beauty of nature. There are so many things to discover including a Celtic nature trail (for both adults and children), a roundhouse, the largest Celtic calendar sundial and even a Celtic ring fort (for those of us who still believe in fairies). It is definitely a garden where you can explore, reflect, relax and learn something new.
Entry fee: €8 October – February €6 April to September
Open: November to February 10am-5pm March to October 10am-5.30pm
Address: Pollagh, Rosscahill, Galway, Co. Galway
Irish Horse Stud And Gardens
The Irish Stud and Gardens gives you the chance to not only visit the horses but also what is described by many as the best Japanese Garden in Europe. The Japanese gardens were built in the early 20th Century taking 4 years and 40 laborers and going by the surrounding landscape it was no mean feat. To add to its authenticity, lanterns, bonsai, a tea house and even a stone village were shipped in from Japan, While there you can also visit, St Fiachra’s Garden (St Fiachra is the Patron Saint of Gardeners), built in 1999 commemorate the millennium of the Irish Stud. It features 4km of woodlands, waterfalls, ferns, and orchids. Here you will find plenty of beautiful spots to while away some time and relax on your road trip.
Entry fee: €11.50 ( for entry to all areas)
Open: February to November 9am-6pm
Address: Tully, Kildare, Co Kildare R51 KX25
Have you been to Ireland? If you visited any gardens what were your favourites?