Ireland is a small country with a big heart helped along by a timeless landscape & friendly people whose lyrical nature is expressed through their warm welcome, gardens & folklore. Our 16 day garden tour takes in Dublin, Cork, Killarny, Ring of Kerry, Galway & Belfast.
Meet Michael McCoy, your Ross Tour Leader at Sydney Airport for the flight to Dublin – or meet us in Dublin tomorrow.
Arrive into Dublin, head straight for our hotel and check in.
Welcome Dinner this evening.
A guided tour of the city this morning finishing at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, founded in 1795 by the Royal Dublin Society. The gardens are carefully and cleverly planted with herbaceous flower borders, rose garden, mature trees and open lawns. Elegant 19th century glasshouses have been fully restored. The afternoon is free for you to explore.
The Wicklow mountains form the backdrop to Hunting Brook, the relatively young garden of plantsman Jimmi Blake. It’s an exuberant garden, dazzling with its wide garden borders all busy and urgent then restful as the splashing stream works its soothing magic. Jimmi is a seeker, forever on the hunt for the new, the exciting, the impossibly perfect. We’ll enjoy the ambience of this garden at lunch.
As we travel back into Dublin we’ll stop at Helen Dillon’s famous city garden. It’s one of the finest town gardens and a jewel in the heart of Dublin. With a strong sense of design and colour, she is aiming for the effect of a ‘box of Smarties-with all the colours dancing around, but completely free’. Meet Helen Dillon and learn about her passion for plants. Afternoon tea will be served in the garden.
Two grand gardens today both in County Wicklow but diametrically opposed in character.
First is Mount Usher hidden in its valley, enchanting and mesmeric with the River Vartry at its heart. A series of low weirs manipulates its flow into a succession of little falls and glassy stretches and it’s spanned by cobwebby suspension bridges. It follows the principle of William Robinson and his doctrine of naturalistic gardening. This is a remarkable garden where plants, river and landscape make a harmonious whole. We’ll have lunch here.
Second garden is Powerscourt, grand in the high Victorian tradition, with a fascinating history that reads like an Edwardian novel. A gentle walk through a series of magnificent garden spaces: the Italian Garden with its lake lies at the core of this garden. The Japanese Garden that is a delightfully Edwardian nestles in its hollow grotto, installed in 1908 just as Japanese fever was captivating Western Europe. Every flat space is garnished with statues. A huge flight of granite steps bisect the space and descend triumphantly to the pond. The walled garden with its ornate gates is home to a spectacular double herbaceous border; a bouncy bold multi-coloured affair. This is Ireland’s grandest garden!
It’s a treat today as we travel from Dublin to Cork with a coffee stop in Kilkenny, lunch in Waterford (we’ll check out the crystal), travel along the Copper Coast and then on to Cork. Cork is a nineteenth century merchant city, beautifully sited in the Lee Valley where the river opens into Cork Harbour. County Cork is Ireland’s biggest county. Check in to our central hotel with dinner included this evening.
It’s a free spirit that inhabits Lakemount, our destination this morning; a lusty celebration of full-bodied colour ; in petal, leaf and bark. There are lessons here in massed plantings of flower and foliage and the use of hydrangea to link it all together.
Lunch today is a treat at Ballymaloe Cookery School, fine cuisine and local produce. Darina Allen has created a series of kitchen gardens; an elegant potager with strict geometric design is planted with exotic and colourful vegetables. Her formal fruit garden is planted with apples, pears, plums, peaches, figs and cherries, many trained on arches. And the formal herb garden is a parterre with culinary and medicinal plants. Travel back to Cork with remainder of the afternoon free.
The gift of eloquence will be our reward when we kiss the Blarney Stone this morning. But it’s the gardens around Blarney Castle that will capture our imagination. High summer is peak flowering of the double border here and the 80m rose pergola that spans the path through it.
We are heading for lunch today at Glebe Gardens at Baltimore on the tip of its beautiful peninsula. As you would expect the heart of this garden is the potager with 24 raised beds in constant service during the growing season suppling fresh vegetables and salads.
Bantry Bay is our destination this morning and a boat ride across to Garinish Island and Ilnacullin. But before we do we’ll have an early lunch in Bantry Bay House. The jewel at Ilnacullin is the Italianate garden at one end of the island with its Palladian pavilion. Outside this classic nucleus lies the wild garden with exotics from all parts of the world growing happily. It’s the result of the wildly romantic partnership of Annan Bryce, then owner of the island and Harold Peto, architect and garden designer. And it’s surrounded by spectacular natural beauty with views of the bay and of Sugarloaf Mountain. Continue on to Tralee to check into our hotel.
We will explore the bewitching Ring of Kerry to the very west of Ireland, with its spectacular scenery, unusually mild climate and rapid changes in light and weather. The road wanders through villages, dips and rises in a roller coaster run hugging the mountain side high above a twisting shoreline before dropping to luxuriant woodland and sandy coves. Picnic lunch along the way.
We are heading to Galway for lunch then visit one of Galway’s idiosyncratic gardens Then its direct to our hotel in centre of Galway where we can settle in for the next two nights.
On our way to the Connemara we will visit the outstandingly beautiful and remote Kylemore Abbey. It was built in 1871 by Mitchell Henry, a business tycoon, surgeon and politician from Manchester. There is a Gothic castle with seventy rooms and in true Victorian style, a garden. While one workforce was building the castle, another was building one of the largest walled gardens in Ireland. A community of nuns of the Benedictine Order came in 1920 after their abbey in Ypres, Belgium was destroyed in World War I. Settling at Kylemore, they opened a world renowned boarding school for girls and began restoring the castle, converting it to an abbey, with Gothic Church. They also restored the six acre Victorian Walled Garden to its former glory. We will have lunch in the restaurant in the Abbey.
We’ll take the scenic route as we travel to Belfast via Althone and Cavan.
Drive the beautiful Antrim Coast today to Giant’s Causeway that is steeped in myth and legend. Some say it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool. This natural phenomenon is made of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago
We will learn the secrets of this inspirational landscape at the award winning Visitor Centre with superb views of the Causeway coastline. Travel back to Belfast with the remainder of the day free.
Irresistibly flamboyant describes Mount Stewart, and its owner Edith, Lady Londonderry, who built the garden with her husband Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart in 1921 with ex-servicemen from WW1 as her labour force. Built as a series of compartmentalised gardens to the south and west of the grand manor home, it was completed in less than 10 years. In this magically subtropical corner of Ireland, Edith’s Mount Stewart is an intense, fairytale world of frivolous myth-making all now safely held in the hands of the National Trust. Next we’ll visit Titanic Belfast, the birthplace of the Titanic. We will gather together tonight for a Farewell Dinner.
Relax this morning before our departure to Dublin to catch our flight to Sydney via Dubai.
You will be contacted by a Ross Tours Travel Manager to confirm your details and preferred method of payment.
Please refer to the Ross Garden Tours standard terms and conditions