With all that rain and rich, fertile soil, it is no wonder that Ireland – North and South – and Northern Wales are renowned for their magnificent gardens. Join Margaret River’s Gourmet Gardener, Julie Kinney, for a kaleidoscope of emerald green landscapes, historic castles, grand country homes, great food and warm hospitality.
From Belfast to the rugged coastal towns of Northern Ireland, awash with flora and glittering seascapes, and from Dublin across the Irish Sea to Wales, discover some of the most distinguished private and public gardens in northern Europe.
Grand gardens, walled gardens, cottage gardens, woodland gardens, a garden for everyone! Be overwhelmed by the ever-changing backdrop of lush green hills and the vision of garden owners, both young and old.
AT A GLANCE…
Stunning Northern Ireland and Wales’ beautiful rugged coastlines and the walled gardens of Glenarm Castle and Benvarden
Meet, visit and workshop with internationally renowned horticulturalists Jimi Blake, Helen Dillon, Angela Jupe and June Blake
Iconic Irish gardens Powerscourt, Mount Stewart and Mount Usher, and the breathtaking Bodnant in northern Wales
Visit 14 private gardens and experience home cooked regional Irish and Welsh fare in private homes amongst the armoury and antiques
Portmeirion, a pastiche of a Riviera town in miniature, creation of Sir Clough William Ellis on the coast of Snowdonia and his nearby family home, Plas Brondanw
Sun 14 Jun 2015 / Depart Australia
Suggested evening departure from Australia on Emirates / QANTAS Airlines flights to Belfast via London.
Mon 15 Jun / Arrival Belfast – Ballygally
Arrive in Belfast and transfer to Ballygally Castle .Tour arrangements begin this evening with a welcome briefing and dinner with Julie Kinney and fellow travellers. (D)
Tue 16 Jun / Ballygally
Today travel to the north-western coast, with its rugged coastal headland and spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean. Visit Downhill Demesne, with its stunning landscape and striking 18th century mansion of the eccentric Earl Bishop that now lies in ruins. Explore Hezlett House, one of Northern Ireland’s oldest buildings which is a thatched cottage (built in 1691), and learn about the reality of life in the rural 17th century. Stroll down to Mussenden Temple perched on 120 ft cliff edge, built as a summer library, its architecture inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome.
Lunch at the historic estate, Benvarden, built in the 1630s. The two acre walled garden has been cultivated uninterrupted since 1788, and owned by the Montgomery family since 1798. The grounds stretch to the banks of the river, which is spanned by a splendid 90 ft iron bridge.
Return via the Antrim coast road with spectacular scenery, regarded as one of the great tourist routes of the world. (BLD)
Wed 17 Jun / Ballygally
Morning travel south along the coast to Ballyrobert Garden, a 17th century landscape complete with the original modest cottage, barn and farm layout extending to sixteen acres.See the outstanding and uniquely created Ulster Cottage Garden, containing one of the province’s most extensive collections of herbaceous plants, laid out in intimate settings and sweeping borders. Enjoy a garden tour and talk, followed by lunch in the tearooms.
In the afternoon, continue to Glenarm Castle. For 400 years, it has been the family home of the Earls of Antrim. Enjoy a private guided tour of the House, home to Lord and Lady Dunluce. The garden displays one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens and was originally createdto supply the Castle with its fruit and vegetables, but is now is filled with exciting flowers and specimen plants to interest the keenest garden enthusiast. (BLD)
Thu 18 Jun / Ballygally – Culloden
Morning travel to Kilcoan Garden situated within the peninsula of Islandmagee. Enjoy a guided tour, including the cottage garden, orchard, vegetable and herb garden and the recently established ‘cut flower’ field. Learn a few Irish secrets to flower arranging, with a demonstration over morning tea.
Enjoy an orientation tour of the sights of Belfast, including the beautiful Edwardian City Hall, Queens University and Stormont Castle followed by a visit to the ‘Titanic Belfast’, a comprehensive, fascinating state-of-the-art exhibition detailing the construction, launch and maiden voyage of the city’s famous and ill-fated liner. After lunch (own expense) continue to Holywood, situated on the shore of Belfast Lough.
Afternoon at leisure followed by dinner at a local restaurant in Belfast. (BD)
Fri 19 Jun / Culloden
Begin the morning with a visit to Guincho Garden, a 12 acre informal garden laid out in the 1930s, but planted by Mrs Frazer Mackie from 1948 to 1979, with a large collection of rare shrubs and trees. Paths burrow through glades of rhododendrons and camellias along a hosta walk, or an exotic walk planted with South African plants, including eight different varieties of agapanthus and flowering Beschorneria yuccoides.
Prior to lunch travel to beautiful Rowallane Garden, a romantic garden full of colour, flowers and unique plants from around the world. The garden is an assortment of formal and informal spaces with the liveliest gardening in the inner sanctum of the walled garden. Spend time wandering through the path of rhododendrons leading to a naturalistic rock garden, or simply take a seat in the walled garden and leave the outside world behind.
Late in the afternoon visit Ballywalter Park Mansion and grounds, home of Lord and Lady Dunleath. The Estate is set over 1200 acres, with 30 acres of pleasure grounds, including a walled garden and an extensive rhododendron collection. Enjoy a guided tour of the house which has been in the family for 170 years, and was built in Italianate Palazzo style by the eminent architect, Sir Charles Lanyon. (BLD)
Sat 20 Jun / Culloden
Today visit Mount Stewart House and Gardens, truly one of the great gardens of the world. Enjoy a specialist garden tour of one of the UK National Trust’s most unique and unusual gardens. Created by Edith, (Lady Londonderry in the 1920s), the gardens are grand, and are known for their rich display of rare plants seldom seen growing in the British Isles. Following the garden tour, spend time exploring the 18th century neo-classical house which will have just undergone a £7 million restoration. Take time to stroll through the house and rooms, some of which have never before been open to the public.
Later, explore the private garden of David McMurran, known for its splendid hedging used to divide, enclose and frame. (BD)
Sun 21 Jun / Culloden – Durrow
This morning travel south, crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland towards Durrow. Visit the Irish National Stud situated in County Kildare, home to magnificent horses and one of Ireland’s finest natural treasures, the breathtakingly beautiful Japanese Gardens, renowned throughout the world and the finest of their kind in Europe. After lunch, enjoy a guided tour of the stud followed by time to leisurely explore the Japanese Garden and St. Fiachra Garden, a tribute to the Irish landscape in its rawest state. (BLD)
Mon 22 Jun / Durrow
A leisurely start today with a garden tour of Castle Durrow grounds by the head gardener.
Depart for Burtown House, an early Georgian villa surrounded by lush flower, vegetable and woodland gardens and beautiful parkland. Upon arrival enjoy a lunch, with fresh seasonal organic produce from the kitchen garden. Continue with a guided tour of the house and the ‘Artist’s Garden’, which is still owned and tended by three generations of a very talented family – the mother, Wendy Walsh, a renowned botanical artist, daughter Lesley, a painter, and son James, a professional photographer of historic properties. (BL)
Tue 23 Jun / Durrow
Begin this morning with a visit to Lismore Castle and Gardens, Irish seat of the Duke of Devonshire. The seven acre gardens are divided into very different halves. The Upper Garden is a complete example of a 17th century walled garden. The outer walls and terraces remain, and the plantings provide vegetables, fruit and herbs to match the tastes of those living within the Castle. The Lower Garden is informal, with shrubs, trees and lawns.
Late afternoon, drop by the Kilkenny Design Centre situated in the heart of Kilkenny City, offering an unrivalled selection of Irish handcrafted gifts of uniqueness and style. (BD)
Wed 24 Jun / Durrow
A full day of private garden visits. Begin with landscaper Arthur Shackleton’s (descendant of the explorer) own garden Fruitlawn, described as ‘enchanting’ for its ‘billowing borders and quiet corners’ by The Irish Garden Magazine.
Join Angela Jupe as she welcomes you to lunch at her Georgian farmhouse ‘Bellefield’. After lunch, enjoy a presentation on the history of Irish Gardens, followed by a tour of the garden and an opportunity to view her botanical art collection and explore the heritage buildings.
Late in the afternoon, visit Angela Jupe’s former garden at Fancroft Mill. Created in 1990, they cover 1.5 hectares and feature streams, wells and natural springs. Enjoy a brief introduction to the site and history of the Mill before exploring the gardens and the newly restored working mill, at your leisure. (BLD)
Thu 25 Jun / Durrow – Dublin
Travel to Dublin and enjoy a morning orientation tour of the largest city in Ireland.
The remainder of the day is free to explore this vibrant and friendly city. (B)
Fri 26 Jun / Dublin
This morning, travel south-west towards the Wicklow Mountains to visit two Blake Gardens. Begin with June Blake’s Garden and Nursery, an extensive garden that sits in the old cut granite farmyard of Tinode House.
Follow with a visit to Huntingbrook Garden, owned by June’s brother Jimi Blake, one of Ireland’s most renowned plantsmen. Huntingbrook is a dynamic and innovative garden set on 20 acres, with contemporary borders, creating a fusion of tropical, prairie and woodland planting in a natural setting. It is home to Ireland’s largest collection of ornamental grasses with over 200 species and cultivars. After Jimi’s homecooked, lunch enjoy a walk through the woodlands and the ancient glacial valley to the remains of a 7th century ring fort.
Later join one of Jimi’s friends nearby for yet another personal tour of a private garden. (BL)
Sat 27 Jun / Dublin
Today begin with a visit to Powerscourt Gardens, one of Ireland’s most famous gardens with a breath-taking panorama. The gardens first began to take shape over two-and-a half centuries ago and today stretch over 47 acres. Explore the charming walled garden, the sweeping terraces, and ornamental lakes which are linked by carefully designed walks – a magnificent estate overlooking Sugarloaf Mountain.
Continue to Mount Usher for a guided tour of a wild and informal garden, which dates back to 1850. The garden (nine hectares) is laid out along the banks of the River Vartry, and was inspired by William Robinson who favoured a more naturalistic style instead of the formal Victorian bedding schemes. It is a striking garden of meandering paths, glades and suspension bridges, from which numerous waterfalls can be viewed.
Enjoy a talk and tour of Helen Dillon’s house and private garden. Helen, a world-renowned plantswoman, writer, lecturer and broadcaster, has created a garden that is considered to be one of the gems of the horticultural world. The view of the gardens from the windows of the elegant Georgian drawing room, is one of the most photographed scenes in contemporary gardening. (B)
Sun 28 Jun / Dublin – Llandudno
Early start today, bid farewell to Dublin and travel to Holyhead, Wales via fast ferry (2 hours), crossing the Irish Sea.
Begin your exploration of Wales with a visit to Plas Newydd. The garden is one of intimacy and grandeur for all seasons, situated on the banks of the Menai Straits. Explore the Neo-Gothic house and Rex Whistler’s largest ever painting, an exquisite romantic mural in the Dining Room.Enjoy the stunning views of the mountains of Snowdonia as you wander through the 40 acre garden.
Continue to Llandudno, one of Britain’s finest Victorian seaside resorts, with its long crescent promenade and wide shopping streets.(BD)
Mon 29 Jun / Llandudno
Following breakfast, depart for Portmeirion, the famous Italianate village that stands on a rugged cliff top overlooking Cardigan Bay. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis acquired the site for Portmeirion in 1925 and, over the course of 50 years, developed the village in a unique and wonderfully eccentric style, while staying in harmony with the natural surroundings.
After lunch visit Plas Brondanw, at Croesor, Gwynedd. Plas Brondanw Estate was handed over to Sir Clough by his father in his mid-twenties. This Italianate garden is considered by many to be Clough’s most marvellous creation. Enjoy a guided tour of the mature gardens, wander the extensive avenues and delight in views that will take your breath away. (B)
Tue 30 Jun / Llandudno
This morning, delight in our final garden, Bodnant, world-famous for its botanical collection. The garden is set over 80 acres with grand ponds, impressive terraces and inspiring plants grown from seed and cuttings, collected over a century ago.
Continue to the Conwy Valley and the Furnace Farm, home of the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. Enjoy a traditional Welsh lunch in one of Wales’ most picturesque tearooms, converted 18th century farm buildings.
Afternoon free prior to a farewell dinner. (BLD)
Wed 1 Jul / Depart Llandudno
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
A morning coach transfer to Manchester Airport and Manchester city is included.
If returning to Australia today, Emirates/QANTAS flights depart early afternoon to Australia. Evening arrival in Australia on Thursday 02 July. (B)