How does your garden grow? …Presenting Ireland’s picturesque palaces ‘n’ gardens

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I’ve been to Ireland twice already before but when the gracious Ireland Tourism invited me to experience a slice of royalty along with its amazing gardens, I didn’t think twice. And as they say, third time lucky! And lucky, I was to be visiting the emerald isle for the third time. This time, the theme was castles and their gardens and so we were off on a quest to explore the Ireland Ancient East tour to check out the gorgeous green countryside with its historically rich castles and amazingly vibrant gardens. Presenting some of the most spectacular Irish castles and gardens.

Powerscourt Estate and Gardens

I have to start with the majestic Powerscourt Estate and Gardens in County Wicklow which sprawls across a surface area of 47 acres. It’s green, stunningly beautiful and of course, meeting part owner and main gardener Alex Slazenger made it more special. The country house is extremely impressive but a walk through the bountiful gardens made the visit so much better. Alex took us through the green walled garden, formal gardens, the Italian gardens, and even a garden with Japanese influences all surrounded by ornamental lakes, a unique pet cemetery, a Dolphin pond and Pepperpot Towers. There is a special grotto, a man-made cave from the days of yore (1721) with an open top. It is carpeted with moss that comes from the local river and is definitely cooler than the air outside. I sit on the bench to soak in the divine ambiance. Alex joins me and tells me why he loves coming here every day. “I spend two hours every morning at the gardens. It gives me a lot of peace.” Indeed! Incidentally, Powerscourt estate and Garden has also been voted as No 3 in the World’s Top Ten Gardens by National Geographic. No wonder… as it is definitely one of the most beautiful gardens in Ireland.

The Burtown House & Gardens

The Burtown House & Gardens is a treat to the eyes. It’s amazingly green but I guess, that’s why Ireland is called the emerald isle because there is an amazingly green natural carpet across the country. This house is still family owned and royal descendant James Fennell runs The Green Barn, a restaurant, shop and gallery. He takes us through his castle and shows us arts and artifacts, swords and weapons, beds used by the dukes and duchess of yore, pinpoints ancient family history and even tells us about the family ghosts hovering around. The castle is surrounded by greenery, and this is where he lives with his wife and three children. It’s well-manicured and looked after and you can stroll through the 72 hectares of garden and farmland, which the family maintains themselves. James’ hospitality is amazing too as he serves us delicious high tea comprising of sweets, savories and drinks which we enjoy to the hilt.

Huntington Castle & Gardens

Our tour of the castles and gardens took us through the impressive Huntington Castle & Gardens. Now Huntington Castle has a colourful story to tell… of Irish history, the proverbial family ghosts of errant druids, and of course, the family lineage. The weather is a bit gloomy with an occasional bout of drizzle but that doesn’t deter us. After a yummy tea break, we take a tour through the private home of heir Alexander Durdin Robertson who revels us with witty one-liners, anecdotes and stories. And the 17th-century gardens… like all Irish gardens, are well looked after even today. They have Italian and French influences and you will find a wide variety of species; from Japanese cypresses and palm trees to a rose garden and a collection of bluebells. Not to be missed: the yew walks through five-hundred-year-old yews. Seriously stunning! This is open for tours during select months.

One of the most picturesque gardens is the Woodstock Gardens & Arboretum. They have amazing hiking trails through the gardens of Woodstock Gardens & Arboretum. John Delaney, the main gardener of the estate narrated, “In 1814, the landlady Louisa Lennox found gardens truly exciting. At that time, there were fifty, now there are four.” The garden has many North and South American influences, including the monkey puzzle or monkey trees. Do visit these gardens, especially in autumn because the trees are amazingly stunning appearing in a medley of varied colors.

Lismore Castle garden

One of the most romantic of all the gardens is the one at Lismore Castle garden which is on the picturesque Blackwater River. The castle gardens are divided into many subdivisions but the best part of the gardens is the blooming roses of various hues. Darren Topps, the main gardener says, “Roses grow sprawling against the walls here. You can spot roses called ‘Kiftsgate’, The Generous Gardener, and Bonica 82 – all technical names for some beautiful varieties of roses, This, incidentally is the oldest and longest-developed garden in Ireland, started in the 1620s. The second garden at a lower level is amazingly green too with trees that include magnolia, camellia and rhododendron. Absolutely, beautiful!

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