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Irish Rover

Irish Rover

per person

Just like the Van Morrison song, this Irish Rover is wrapped in glory – the glory of some of Ireland’s finest gardens. A rich feast of horticultural excellence awaits, with memorable and beguiling gardens, enthusiastic and skilful owners and an ever-changing backdrop of lush green hills, fertile fields and glittering seascapes. Our north to south journey is packed full of gems yet relaxed and unhurried, taking in the very best that the Emerald Isle has to offer.

We begin in Northern Ireland at the dazzling and idiosyncratic garden of Mount Stewart, truly one of the great gardens of the world. We also visit romantic Rowallane and atmospheric Castle Ward.

We move on to Dublin where we meet Helen Dillon, the doyenne of Irish gardeners, at her new private garden, to which we have privileged access. We also meet June Blake, a passionate plantswoman who grows a unique mix of bamboos, ornamental grasses and perennials, her brother Jimi Blake at Hunting Brook, with its fusion of prairie and tropical planting and Carmel Duignan at her Italianate villa. We visit Malahide, one of the oldest and most historic castles in Ireland, with its own splendid botanic garden and Powerscourt, one of Ireland’s most famous gardens with magnificent vistas over the surrounding countryside.

Continuing south we call in at Mount Usher, a wild and informal garden with some rare and exceptional trees, on our way to the lively and cultured city of Cork. From here we tour Ilnacullin, with its magical setting on an island bathed in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and the fabulous Blarney Castle & Gardens, home to the famous stone which bestows eloquence on all who kiss it.

Our tour manager is popular garden designer, writer & broadcaster Trevor Edwards, who has clearly kissed the Blarney Stone more than once…

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  • Departure/Return Location
    Belfast / Cork Airport
  • Departure Time
    10:00 AM
  • Return Time
    10:00 AM
  • Included
  • Not Included
    All Inclusive
    Train Travel

Tour Plan

We depart from Gatwick on a flight to Belfast and upon arrival we visit Mount Stewart. After our visit we travel to the Dunadry Hotel, where we have dinner. Meals include: Dinner Hotel: Dunadry Hotel & Gardens
Today, following our full Irish breakfast, we will travel to Rowallane Garden. The first impression is one of mystery as you approach the house through a dark tunnel of conifers and rhododendrons, but this is quickly dispelled by the flower-filled spectacle which opens up before you. The liveliest gardening is to be found in the walled garden, where mixed borders are stuffed with big old shrubs and the occasional rare rhododendron animates the scene. Astilbes, hostas, meconopsis, primulas and much else form the underplanting. The walled garden has a kind of inner sanctum, where a lawn is planted with specimen trees and shrubs. Outside the walled gardens a walk through ramparts of rhododendrons leads to a naturalistic rock garden planted with azaleas, daphnes, olearias and pieris. In the afternoon we move to the southern tip of Strangford Lough, where Castle Ward sits in a wooded valley with a memorable view towards the lough. Apart from some traces of 18th century woodland, the garden is chiefly Victorian in character. Close to the house is a walled terraced garden filled with exotic planting, Acca sellowiana, Beschorneria yuccoides and large old plants of cabbage palm. Behind a screen of Irish yews a rock garden with dwarf conifers runs along one side of a mid 19th century pinetum with immense Wellingtonias. Perhaps the best thing about Castle Ward, though, are the grand walks in the huge demesne, with delicious views of trees and the lough beyond. We return to our hotel where dinner is served in the evening. Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner Hotel: Dunadry Hotel & Gardens
Following breakfast we check out of our hotel and travel south, crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland towards Dublin, where we call in at Malahide Castle. Malahide Castle is one of the oldest and most historic castles in Ireland. From 1185 until 1975, it was the home of the Talbot family, a remarkable tenure by a single family and one of the longest in Ireland. The estate survived such losses as the Battle of the Boyne, when fourteen members of the owner's family sat down to breakfast in the Great Hall, and all were dead by evening, and the Penal Laws, even though the family remained Roman Catholic until 1774. The interior is lavishly furnished with many antiques and paintings of interest. The ornamental gardens adjoining the castle cover an area of about 22 acres and 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. Following our visit, we transfer to our hotel. Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner Hotel: Hilton Hotel, Dublin
This morning after breakfast we will travel to the private garden of Carmel Duignan, a gardening writer and former television producer who has created a beautiful garden. A self-confessed plantaholic, she has amassed an extraordinary collection of plants from old familiar favourites to plants that are on the cutting edge of tenderness, rarity and current fashion. Old and new have been planted together with flair and artistry and the resulting combination of colour, shape and texture is quite stunning. Of particular interest is the small-flowered clematis and a good range of Pseudopanax. Next, we are privileged to visit the new private garden of celebrated Dublin gardener Helen Dillon, which has featured on Gardeners’ World. Helen is a world-renowned plantswoman, writer, lecturer and broadcaster who created a garden that was considered to be one of the gems of the horticultural world. Her new project is no less impressive and we will enjoy a personal guided tour with Helen. Our final visit today is to 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 return to the hotel where the evening is at leisure Meals include: Breakfast Hotel: Hilton Hotel, Dublin
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. Finally, we travel 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 return to the hotel in time for dinner. Meals include: Breakfast Hotel: Hilton Hotel, Dublin
This morning after breakfast we check out of the hotel and 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 south through the counties of Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford and on to our next hotel. Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner Hotel: Blarney Woollen Mills Hotel
This morning after a full Irish breakfast we travel west to Bantry Bay and take the ferry across to Garinish Island 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. In the afternoon we visit Blarney Castle and Gardens, which is perhaps most famous for its stone, which legend tells has the power of conferring eloquence on all who kiss it. However, the Castle is also surrounded by 60-acres of parkland, gardens, arboretums, avenues and waterways which provide a great source of interest and colour. We return the very short distance back to our hotel, where there will be time for a rest and a reviving cup before dinner. Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner Hotel: Blarney Woollen Mills Hotel
This morning after breakfast we travel to Cork Airport in time to check in for our return flight to London Gatwick. Meals include: Breakfast

Tour Dates

  • 14 May 2020
  • 13 August 2020