Estate Garden Trail
Ballynatray House Gardens
Dating back to the 18th Century, Ballynatray is a privately owned estate steeped in ancient history, with breathtaking views across the river Blackwater. The meticulously restored house nestles in a bend on the north bank of the river beneath a natural amphitheatre of steeply rising ground. With an area of parkland immediately around the house comprising of a deer park to the west, a wide expanse of marsh, the walled garden to the east and its former parkland stretching on down to the Blackwater, this is a must see for visitors to the South East.
The garden trail follows the main drive through parkland and reed beds with spectacular views of the wooded Blackwater River, including the Pleasure Ground and Kitchen Garden. It has a varied mix of habitat, ranging from mature oak woodland to open arable and grass land through to foreshore and marsh habitat. Due to this mix of different habitats, the estate can support an amazing array of different mammals and birds that would generally not be observed in any one place. These include: grey seals, otters, red squirrels, fallow deer, peregrine falcons, buzzards and the occasional hen harrier, barn owls, egret or long-eared owl.
From the Youghal Bridge on the N25, travel up-river on the road marked Knockanore/Glendine Church. Continue past the twin yellow lodges on the right and stop at the Glendine Lodge,take the next right.
Curraghmore Estate Gardens
Curraghmore, meaning ‘Great Bog’, is the last of four castles built by the de la Poer family after their arrival in Ireland in 1167. It is now the historic home of the 8th Marquis of Waterford. Some 2,500 acres of formal gardens, woodland and grazing fields make this the largest private demesne in Ireland. Some of the most striking features of this garden include beautiful terraces designed by the various Lady Waterford’s of the day, a unique shell grotto built and decorated by the Countess of Tyrone in 1754, a stone-arched bridge built for King John to cross the River Clodagh in 1205, now one of the oldest structures in Ireland. A sitka spruce, planted in the 1830s stands guard over this bridge and is among the tallest trees in Ireland.
In the 19th century work at Curraghmore concentrated on the gardens and the Victorian refacing to the front of the house. Formal parterre, tiered lawns, lake, arboretum and kitchen gardens were all developed during this time and survive for visitors to enjoy today. Some of Ireland’s most remarkable surviving trees were planted in the estate’s arboretum, and today, these trees frame miles of beautiful river walks.
From Waterford: Off the N25 in the Cork direction, 3.5km from Portlaw.
Dromona House Gardens
For well over 500 years this period property has been lovingly maintained by its family who have lived in this location since 1200 and has been the seat to 21 generations of principal Irish families including the FitzGeralds, Lords of the Decies, and later the Villiers-Stuart. This historic house sits overlooking the Blackwater River with a garden and woodland that extends over 30 acres. Between 1742 and 1744 the 1st Earl of Grandison planted some 64,480 trees, many of which are still standing. Amongst the terraced looped paths, woodland walks, and 22 acres of mature native trees are rhododendrons interspersed with magnolia, camellia, azalea, and many other acid loving plants, shrubs, ferns, mosses and woodland flora.
Other features of Dromana include the Ladies Walk and the 17th century Bastion, an outer fortification and boat house with a grassed roof. While Dromana is predominately a spring garden, throughout the summer months herbaceous borders offer a continual splash of colour. This is a glorious place to visit at anytime throughout the year. There is the opportunity to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea (by prior arrangement) while watching the spectacular array of birds and otters on the river.
Dromana House and Gardens is located 5km south of Cappoquin on the east bank of the River Blackwater. Approaching from Cappoquin, take the Dungarvan Road (N72). Turn right on sharp bend onto Dromana Drive/Villierstown road. Approaching from Villierstown direction, entrance is on your left as you leave the wooded area of Dromana Drive.
Lismore Castle Gardens
Visitors are invited to wander through the historic gardens of Lismore Castle, arranged over seven acres within the 17th century outer defensive walls. These historic gardens are divided into two very different halves, the upper garden, a complete example of the 17th century walled garden first constructed by Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Cork, in about 1605, and the lower garden, mostly constructed in the 19th century for the 6th Duke of Devonshire, is an informal garden with trees, lawns and shrubs.
Camellias are the first heralds of spring, and are followed closely by the magnolias and spring flowering bulbs. A fine collection of rhododendrons maintain the interest through late spring and early summer. The upper garden is home to herbaceous borders and a working kitchen garden providing vegetables, fruit and herbs for the castle kitchens. Vegetable beds are edged with roses and grass paths adding a decorative interest to the functional space. The stately yew avenue is much older than the garden itself, dating back to the 17th century. There is a wide variety of beautifully maintained plants and trees to enjoy as well as a permanent sculpture collection.
From Dungarvan take the N72, approximately 15 miles west. From Fermoy take the N72 east approximately 20 miles.
Mount Congreve House & Gardens
Ambrose Christrian Congreve (14 April 1907-28 May 2011) was the son of Major John Congreve and Lady Helena Blanche Ponsonby, daughter of the Eighth Earl of Bessborough. An Irish industrialist, he ran Humphreys & Glasgow, the gasworks manufacturers and petrochemical engineers, from 1939, when he took over from Dr Arthur Glasgow, his father-in-law and a co-founder of the firm. He remained there until 1983, when the company was sold to an American concern. However, his enduring passion was his garden, Mount Congreve, near Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford. The garden famous the world over for its rare species of plants and also its plant nurseries. Ambrose was honoured with a CBE in 1965, awarded 13 Gold Medals at the Chelsea Garden Show in London, a Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1987, and a Gold Medal (for a Great Garden of the World) by the Botanic Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts in 2001.
Mount Congreve had, between house, gardens and nursery some seventy staff who presented Ambrose with a Wollemi pine on the occassion of his 100th birthday, a recently discovered plant from the age of the dinosaur (the oldest fossil of which dates back 90 million years). At his centenary lunch celebration, he quoted what he described as an old proverb: “To be happy for an hour, have a glass of wine. To be happy for a day, read a book. To be happy for a week, take a wife. To be happy for ever, make a garden.”
The Estate Gardens
This Waterford garden consists of seventy acres of intensively planted woodland overlooked by 18th- and 19th-century plantations of oak and beech with more than 16 miles of paths and interspersed views of the River Suir. The collection consists of 300 varieties of magnolias, 600 varieties of camellias, 3,000 varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas, 250 types of Japanese cherries and maples, and half a mile of hostas. The four acres of walled garden arranged into May, June, July and August borders are each filled with varieties of herbaceous plants, including special iris beds and hydrangeas in north-facing beds. Runs of every sort of vegetable that can be grown in Ireland are interspersed with rows of aster and chrysanthemums for Mount Congreve House. Glasshouses provide grapes, peaches and nectarines along with displays of orchids, collections of rare fuchsias and begonias, and of almost extinct varieties of cyclamen.
Ambrose Congreve opened his private domain to visitors and it is said he enjoyed testing their knowledge and would ask them to identify three unusual plants which were kept in pots at the main garden gate. Those that would guess right would be treated to the full tour, those that did not, enjoyed only the shorter one.
The wholesale nursery which he established in the 1960s (and which continues as a separate business) won many medals for its displays at the “plant Olympics” – the Chelsea Flower Show.
It was fitting, therefore, that when Ambrose Congreve’s long life, so much of it devoted to planting, came to an end at the age of 104, he was in London for that very event. The Congreves were in constant residence and the estate passed in direct descent from father to son until the death of the late Mr Ambrose Congreve in 2011. His wife died in 1995, and there were no children of the marriage. He and his wife are buried in the grounds of Mount Congreve, beneath a little temple overlooking the River Suir. Following Congreve’s death, Mount Congreve House and gardens was left to the Irish State. It is wonderful to see Mount Congreve open to welcome visitors again in 2014, with a small admission charge for the garden tour.
Off the N25 Cork/Waterford Road: 8km beyond Waterford turn right at the sign for Tramore; take the second turn to the left and the gates are on the right.