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Southern Ireland’s Gems

7 Nightsfrom £1395.00 pp

Feel the Irish heartbeat in the gardens misty wet with rain.

Tour Overview


In and around Dublin and the lively city of Cork, we meet enthusiastic and skillful owners and take a stroll through some of the garden gems of the Emerald Isle.

The tour begins in Dublin, where we visit the outstanding private gardens of June Blake and Jimi Blake, along with the Talbot Botanical Garden at Malahide, Newbridge Demesne with its perfect ‘Brownian’ landscape and Russborough, whose gardens are set around a grand Palladian mansion.

Heading south, we call in at the Italianate garden at Corke Lodge; Powerscourt, one of Ireland’s most famous gardens, and the wild and informal garden at Mount Usher.

From our base in the cultured city of Cork we tour Ilnacullin with its magical island setting, historic Bantry House and a couple of excellent private gardens.

Tour Highlights
  • The stunning Palladian mansion of Russborough House
  • The historic island gardens of Ilnacullin
  • Recently renovated gardens at Bantry House
  • Take a tour of Jameson’s Distillery
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Tour Itinerary Back to top of page

Day 1
We depart from London Gatwick airport on our flight to Dublin (flights from other regional airports may also be available at a supplement – please contact us for details). Upon arrival we will join our coach and transfer to our first visit, the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. There are over 300 endangered species from around the world within the living collections at the Gardens, six of which are species already extinct in the wild. Orchids have a special place at Glasnevin - it was here in the 1840s that orchids were first grown to flowering stage from seed by the then curator, David Moore. The orchid house has been restored along with the great Palm House.

Following our visit we continue to our hotel, the comfortable Creggan Court Hotel in Athlone, where we will enjoy dinner in the evening.

Day 2
Following breakfast we travel to Malahide Castle where we will visit the Talbot Botanical Gardens, the ornamental gardens adjoining the castle which were largely created by Lord Milo Talbot. He was an enthusiastic plant collector who brought specimens from around the world to create the gardens here. The gardens are best described as a small Botanic garden, with in excess of 5000 difference species and varieties of plants present.

We continue to Newbridge Demesne, which boasts acres undulating pastureland, woodland, watercourses and pleasure grounds, very reminiscent of the sort of landscape created by ‘Capability’ Brown in England. The centrepiece of the entire estate is the fine Georgian Mansion, Newbridge House. Within the lovely Walled Garden we discover extensive orchards and a collection of old Irish apple varieties.   Two 19th Century glasshouses have recently been restored and sections of the walled garden have been replanted with fragrant herbaceous borders.

Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

Day 3
We visit two fascinating sites this morning. The beautiful gardens at the Royal Hospital Kilmainhaim were originally used for medicinal purposes but over time they became the private gardens of the Master of the RHK who was in charge of the British Army in Ireland at that time. We also stop at the Irish War Memorial Gardens designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. We view the gorgeous sunken rose gardens, herbaceous borders and extensive tree plantings whilst pausing to reflect on the lives of the soldiers who are remembered here.

This afternoon there will be some free time in Dublin, an opportunity to visit some of the city’s many attractions, including Trinity College and the Book of Kells, and perhaps the Guiness Storehouse. (Please note entrances are not included).

Dinner is served in the evening.

Day 4
This morning, after breakfast, we visit Hunting Brook, home of Jimi Blake, the former head gardener of Airfield Gardens in Dundrum.  Hidden in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, near Blessington, the garden is a plantsman’s paradise with contemporary borders, creating a fusion of prairie and tropical planting in a natural setting.  There is something for everyone here, from lazy woodland walks through the ancient glacial valley to the remains of a 7th century ring fort, where an extensive range of woodland plants are grown, many of which were collected on various trips around the world.  Hunting Brook is now home to Ireland’s largest collection of ornamental grasses with over 200 different species and cultivars.

Following our visit we continue to Jimi’s sister’s garden at June Blake’s Garden and Nursery.  June is a passionate plantswoman who grows from seeds sourced all over the world.  Her garden is extensive and sits in the old cut granite farmyard of Tinode House.  It is surrounded by majestic old beech and chestnut trees which provide a sheltered environment in which she grows a unique mix of bamboos, ornamental grasses and perennials with many plants offered for sale in her nursery.

We end the day at Russborough House, a stunning Palladian mansion overlooking some of the most impressive views in Ireland. Designed in 1741 by Richard Cassels, it took 10 years to build and with the Wicklow Mountains and Blessington Lakes just a stone’s throw away, the setting is idyllic. Sir Alfred and Lady Beit bought Russborough in 1952 to house their impressive art collection. They left this historic mansion, its collections and their fascinating life story to the Irish people in 1978. Tours of the house and the parkland that surrounds it are included.

Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

Day 5
This morning after breakfast we check out of the hotel and head to our next visit: the gardens of Corke Lodge.  The house was built in the 1820s to designs by William Farrell as an Italianate seaside villa and a Mediterranean grove was planted with a Cork tree as its centrepiece.  In the remains of this romantic wilderness, the present owner designed a garden punctuated by a collection of architectural follies salvaged from the demolition of Glendalough House, an 1830s Tudor revival mansion built for the Barton family by Daniel Robertson who designed Powerscourt Gardens.  The ancient garden of box parterres is punctuated by melancholy gothic follies and emerges eerily from the dense boskage of evergreen oaks, myrtles and a writhing cork oak tree with deeply corrugated bark.  Avenues of cordyline plans and tree ferns, dense planting of sword-leaved New Zealand flax and clumps of whispering bamboos lend a magical atmosphere to this rampantly imaginative creation.

We continue to Powerscourt Gardens, Ireland’s most famous gardens which first began to take shape over two and a half centuries ago.  Enjoy the charming walled garden, the striking terraces, fine statuary and varied trees which are linked by carefully designed walks and are all set in the magnificent surroundings of the Wicklow mountains.

We then head south, stopping en route at Mount Usher, a lovely informal garden which dates back to 1850. The garden was inspired by Irish gardening maverick William Robinson who eschewed formal Victorian bedding schemes in favour of a more naturalistic style. There are approximately 5000 different species of plants, shrubs and trees originating from all over the world, including some exceptional species from the southern hemisphere, such as the wonderfully scented Japanese Magnolia obovata and collections of eucryphia and eucalyptus.

We continue to our accommodation at the Imperial Hotel, Cork. This well-known hotel has played host to several well-known guests including Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens and the composer, Liszt.

Dinner is served at our hotel in the evening.

Day 6
This morning after a full Irish breakfast we visit the gardens at Bantry House.  With beautiful views, Bantry House has been in the White family since the mid-1700s.  The gardens were developed by the second Earl of Bantry and his wife and their ideas were inspired from their travels around Europe. The gardens contain seven terraces with the house located on the third. One hundred steps are located behind the house and are built to appear to rise out of a fountain and are surrounded by azaleas and rhododendrons. By 1997 the grounds of Bantry House were suffering from neglect in certain places. A European grant was obtained to start the restoration process which is still ongoing.

This afternoon we will take the ferry across to Garinish Island in Bantry Bay to visit Ilnacullin, surely one of the high points of our visit to Ireland. Some gardens become so well known that their reputation quickly outstrips the actuality. Ilnacullin is, if anything, even more beautiful than one expects it to be. The garden, commissioned from Harold Peto, was made for Annan Bryce in 1910. The elegant Italianate folly overlooking a sunken garden is familiar from countless photographs with the Caha Mountains behind. The beauty of Ilnacullin comes from its wonderful intermingling of the formal and the wild.
Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

Day 7
This morning we visit Mary Byrne’s private Hillside garden, a mature, sloping woodland garden of four acres which has won two Irish national awards. Rhododendrons, magnolias, azaleas, ancient trees and Australian and South African rarities all vie for attention here.

We continue to the private garden of Coosheen, situated on the estuary of Cork harbour and housing a remarkable collection of plants.  A series of raised beds and troughs contain rare and unusual smaller perennials, alpines and bulbs; and woodland plants like Beesia calthifolia and Saruma henryi create a beautiful tapestry of foliage.

Afterwards, we take a detour from botany to visit Jameson’s Distillery, one of Ireland's most popular whiskey distilleries. We enjoy a guided tasting at the original Bow Street distillery in Smithfield Dublin, where John Jameson first set up shop in 1780.

We enjoy a final visit to Fota Arboretum and Garden which contains one of Britain and Ireland’s finest collections of rare and tender trees and plants but also many hardy specimens. Some of Europe’s finest examples of conifer and broadleaf trees and rare shrubs flourish in the mild climate; the Victorian fernery and walled gardens house exceptional collections of Tasmanian tree ferns and roses respectively and the restored orangery boasts a magnificent 19th century glass roof.

Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

Day 8
Following breakfast, we travel to Cork Airport for our return flight to London. 

What's Included Back to top of page

  • Seven nights’ half board at four-star hotels: four nights in Dublin and three nights at the Imperial Hotel, Cork
  • Flights from London Gatwick to Dublin and back from Cork. Other regional flights are also available on request at a reasonable supplement
  • Comfortable coaching throughout Ireland
  • Visits to the gardens of Newbridge Demesne, Russborough, Corke Lodge, Mount Usher, Hunting Brook, June Blake, Powerscourt, Ilnacullin, Bantry House, two private gardens and Talbot Botanic Gardens; Jameson’s Whiskey Distillery and Fota Arboretum
  • Services of horticulturalist Trevor Edwards as tour manager

Supplements Per Person Back to top of page

  • Single room        £280.00
  • Insurance          £45.00 (under 65); £90.00 (65-74); £135.00 (75-90)

Departure Points Back to top of page

Click here to print a brochure
Click here to make an online reservation

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