Birr Castle & Gardens

Birr Castle & Gardens

Birr Town is just 1½ hours drive from Galway City, making it the perfect place to visit for one of our Sunday day trips.

Located right in the heart of Birr town is Birr Castle, Gardens, and Science Centre, the Castle itself is the private residence of the 7th Earl of Rosse, and is open to the public via booked tours only from May through to August.

On the other hand the gardens and the grounds are open to the public pretty much all year round, with the admission fee being €9.00 per adult.

One of the main features on the grounds is the Great Telescope or Leviathan constructed by William Parsons the 3rd Earl of Rosse and is quite an impressive sight. Built in the 1840’s at one time it was the biggest telescope in the world.

Birr Castle & Gardens

The Great Telescope

When you pay your entry fee you will receive a detailed map guiding you through the different walking trails around the grounds and gardens, featuring highlights as you make you way around.

Birr Castle & Gardens

Flowers in bloom

We decided to use this for reference only and meandered around the grounds passing the Great Telescope through the wildflower meadow, on to the Victorian fernery and back around to the formal gardens. A highlight in the formal gardens is the box hedges, which are over 300 years old and according to the Guinness book of records are the tallest in the world.

Birr Castle & Gardens

Waterfall in the Victorian Fernery

My personal favourite area to walk through was the Victorian fernery with its mini waterfall. It was so easy to get the impression that the fairy folk were not far away, watching us as we navigated the meandering walkways and bridges. I could have happily just sat listening to the water cascade down the rocks and waited for one of them to appear.

For more information on Birr Castle & Gardens click here.

Birr Castle & Gardens

Wildflowers in the meadow

Birr Castle & Gardens

Arched entrance to the Formal Garden

Birr Castle & Gardens

Bluebells in bloom along the old vine greenhouses

Birr Castle & Gardens

Remnants of the vine greenhouses with flowers in bloom

Tollymore Forest Park – Rainy Afternoon Walk

Tollymore Forest Park – Rainy Afternoon Walk

On a recent trip to Newcastle in Co Down we spent a rainy afternoon exploring Tollymore Forest Park, as an alternative to our Slieve Donard climb which got rained out the previous day (see post about that here).

Tollymore forest park is very close to Newcastle and is well signposted from there. The forest park itself is spread over 1,600 acres and sits at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. It is Northern Ireland’s first official state forest park and was established in 1955, but it dates back much further than that, the arboretum in Tollymore was first established in 1752.

Interesting facts about the park include: the wood from the oak trees there was used by Harland and Woolf for the interiors of the white star liners, including the Titanic and it has also recently been used as a location for the TV series Game of Thrones, another good reason to visit if ever there was one.

The forest park has a well-established recreation area with camping and caravan sections, children’s playground, car park and facilities. To enter costs £5 for a car and all of the walking trails start from the car park.

There are four walking trails in total the blue is half a mile long and passes through the arboretum, the red trail follows the river Shimna up to Parnell’s bridge and back down along the other side of the river, this one is three miles, the black trail (mountain trail) is five and a half miles long to which you can add another three miles to complete the Drinn’s Trail.

For our first visit we decided to follow the red trail by the river Shimna, which passes by some of the many bridges created to cross the river. In Tollymore forest park there are sixteen bridges in total, constructed from both stone and wood and we passed a fair few of them on our walk. This walk also takes in the Hermitage, an elaborate stone shelter built into the side of the gorge above the river. Designed by James Hamilton in 1770 in memory of his friend the Marquis of Monthermer.

Rain aside, spending a day walking through Tollymore forest park, along the banks of the melodic Shimna River is an absolute must do, that is if you are in the area. We are planning a camping trip very soon to relax and take in more of this wonderful forest park and its surroundings.

For further details click here

Sunny Sunday walk in Kylemore Abbey Gardens

Sunny Sunday walk in Kylemore Abbey Gardens

Recently we had a family visit to Kylemore Abbey and Gardens, with the main focus of our visit being the gardens themselves.

On a sunny day in there can be no better place to while away a few hours wandering through this wonderfully restored Victorian walled garden. Nestled in the heart Connemara and completely surrounded by a rugged mountainous skyline the garden stands testament to the ingenious engineering and gardening feats of the Victorians.

The garden itself was developed in the late 1800’s but fell into decline and became completely overgrown, that was until 1995 when the Benedictine Nuns began a program of regeneration leading to the garden opening to the public in 2000.

Sunny Sunday walk in Kylemore Abbey Garden

Entrance to the walled garden

In its original form the walled garden would have employed 40 gardeners and had 21 heated glasshouses, the ground structure of which can still be seen today. Only a small section of one of the glasshouses is standing, but this gives you a glimpse into how spectacular the original structure must have looked, imposing in its grandeur against the impressive mountains framing it.

The garden is divided into two areas, by a natural mountain stream that flows right down the centre. As you walk through the main gate you are immediately greeted by the formal gardens, which are planted exclusively with heirloom Victorian plants. Paths leading to the left, right and down the centre guide you around the garden that is surrounded by the original wall. Made from Irish granite and Scottish red bricks, the wall was designed to protect the garden from the elements, helped by the red bricks’ ability to absorb the sun during the day and release the heat by night, but also to protect the garden from the many sheep who could hungrily munch their way through many a plant.

Sunny Sunday walk in Kylemore Abbey Garden

Vista from the vegetable and herb beds

The head gardener’s cottage has also been restored and is open to the public, where you can gain in part an insight into the living conditions of the day. The house itself was the only structure to remain intact while the rest of the garden went into decline and has housed many people including the travel writer A.E. Johann.

The second half of the garden contains the vegetable and herb beds alongside the fruit trees. Through the second gate on the far side is a plantation of oak trees.

Sunny Sunday walk in Kylemore Abbey Garden

Outside the only standing section of the original glasshouse

The garden is accessible by bus or you can walk the 1.6 km over to it. On a sunny day the walk is an opportunity to soak in the surrounding vista and I would heartily recommend it.

For more information about Kylemore Abbey and entrance fees visit their website Click Here.

Sunny Sunday walk in Kylemore Abbey Garden

Vista from the formal gardens

Sunny Sunday walk in Kylemore Abbey Garden

Glasshouse as seen from the fern area surrounding the mountain stream as it babbles it way through the centre of the garden.

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