Southern Ireland's Gems (RHS Package)

8 Days

From £1395pp

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  • The stunning Palladian mansion of Russborough House
  • The historic island gardens of Ilnacullin
  • Recently renovated gardens at Bantry House
  • Take a tour of Jameson’s Distillery

In and around Dublin and the lively city of Cork, we meet enthusiastic and skilful owners and take a stroll through some of the garden gems of the Emerald Isle.

Feel the Irish heartbeat in the gardens misty wet with rain. Our tour begins in Dublin, where we visit the outstanding private garden of June and Jimi Blake. It is surrounded by majestic old beech and chestnut trees which provide a sheltered environment in which they grow a unique mix of bamboos, ornamental grasses and perennials with many plants offered for sale in their nursery. We also stop at the Talbot Botanical Garden at Malahide Castle; Newbridge Demesne with its perfect ‘Brownian’ landscape; and the stunning Palladian mansion Russborough House. 

Heading south, we call in at the Italianate garden at Corke Lodge where an ancient garden of box parterres is punctuated by melancholy gothic follies. We also stop at one of Ireland’s most famous gardens, Powerscourt; as well as the wild and informal garden at Mount Usher. Finally, in the cultured city of Cork we tour Ilnacullin, whose beauty comes from the wonderful intermingling of the formal and the wild; and historic Bantry House,  where 100 steps have been built, and appear to rise out of a fountain surrounded by azaleas and rhododendrons. 


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Day 1

We depart from London to Dublin. Upon arrival we transfer to the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. There are over 300 endangered species from around the world within the living collections at the Gardens, six of which are species already extinct in the wild. Orchids have a special place at Glasnevin - it was here in the 1840s that orchids were first grown to flowering stage from seed by the then curator, David Moore. The orchid house has been restored along with the great Palm House.

Following our visit we continue to our hotel, the comfortable Creggan Court Hotel in Athlone, where we dine tonight.

Day 2

Following breakfast we travel to Malahide Castle where we will visit the Talbot Botanical Gardens – the ornamental gardens adjoining the castle which 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. We continue to Newbridge Demesne, which boasts acres of undulating pastureland, woodland, watercourses and pleasure grounds, very reminiscent of the sort of landscape created by ‘Capability’ Brown in England. The centrepiece of the entire estate is the fine Georgian Mansion, Newbridge House.

Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

Day 3

We visit two fascinating sites this morning. The beautiful gardens at the Royal Hospital Kilmainhaim were originally used for medicinal purposes but over time they became the private gardens of the Master of the RHK who was in charge of the British Army in Ireland at that time. We also stop at the Irish War Memorial Gardens designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. We view the gorgeous sunken rose gardens, herbaceous borders and extensive tree plantings whilst pausing to reflect on the lives of the soldiers who are remembered here. This afternoon you can enjoy free time in Dublin.

Dinner is served in the evening.

Day 4

This morning, 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. Following our visit we continue to Jimi’s sister’s garden at June Blake’s Garden and Nursery. Her garden is extensive and sits in the old cut granite farmyard of Tinode House. We end the day at Russborough House, a stunning Palladian mansion overlooking some of the most impressive views in Ireland. Designed in 1741 by Richard Cassels, it took 10 years to build and with the Wicklow Mountains and Blessington Lakes just a stone’s throw away, the setting is idyllic.

Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

Day 5

This morning, we check out of the hotel and head to our next visit: 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. We continue to Powerscourt Gardens, Ireland’s most famous gardens which first began to take shape over two and a half centuries ago. We then head south, stopping en route at Mount Usher, a lovely informal garden which dates back to 1850. 

We continue to the Imperial Hotel, Cork, where dinner is served this evening.

Day 6

This morning, we visit the gardens at Bantry House. The gardens were developed by the second Earl of Bantry and his wife and their ideas were inspired from their travels around Europe. This afternoon, we take the ferry across to Garinish Island in Bantry Bay 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 beauty comes from its wonderful intermingling of the formal and the wild.

Dinner is served back at our hotel this evening.

Day 7

This morning we visit Mary Byrne’s private Hillside garden, a mature, sloping woodland garden of four acres which has won two Irish national awards. We continue to the private garden of Coosheen, situated on the estuary of Cork harbour and housing a remarkable collection of plants. Afterwards, we take a detour from botany to visit Jameson’s Distillery, and enjoy a guided tasting at the original Bow Street distillery in Smithfield Dublin. We also visit Fota Arboretum and Garden which contains one of Britain and Ireland’s finest collections of rare and tender trees and plants but also many hardy specimens.

Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

Day 8

Following breakfast, we travel to Cork Airport for our return flight to London.

What's Included

  • 7 nights at 4* hotels, 4 in Dublin and 3 in Cork — dinner, bed & breakfast
  • Visits to Newbridge Demesne, Russborough, Corke Lodge, Mount Usher, Hunting Brook, June Blake, Powerscourt, and Ilnacullin
  • Services of horticulturalist Trevor Edwards as tour manager
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