Baroque terraces and fountains, a flowery walled garden and panoramic views of County Wicklow make Powerscourt an irresistible place close to Dublin. Powerscourt, a palladian house designed by Richard Cassells, overlooks the Sugarloaf Mountain in North County Wicklow. It is both a cultural hub and a beautiful piece of gardner’s art. In summer, open-air theater takes place with pieces by Shakespeare and Jane Austen. In 2014, Powerscourt was listed no. 3 in the World’s Top 10 Gardens by the National Geographic. The garden is located in a beautiful wooded valley that is absolutely worth a visit. Be sure to visit the largest waterfall in Ireland, at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains, as well.
KILRUDDERY HOUSE AND GARDENS
Location: Greystones (50 minutes)
Just south of Bray, in the shadow of the Little Sugar Loaf Mountain, lies Killruddery House. Kilruddery House has been in the possession of the Branazon family, the counts of Meath, since 1618 and to this day the Earl and Countess of Meath still inhabit it. It’s eminently the most successful Elizabethan-Revival mansion in Ireland. The most distinguished feature of the house is the 17th-century geometric garden, among the eldest in Ireland, designed by the French gardener Bonet. The garden is to a large extent still preserved in its original 17th century style. One of the most stunning aspects of Kilruddery House is the Orangery, designed and built by William Burns in 1852. It was inspired by the design of the Crystal Palace in London and legend has it that the family tiara was sold to finance the magnificent work. Kilruddery is a wonderful place to escape to for a great day out. It caters for young and old and plays host to a varied calendar of events throughout the year, including a very popular farmer’s market on Saturday’s during season.
Location: Blessington (55 Minutes)
Near the Blessington lakes you will find the stately Russborough House. Russborough House was designed by architect Richard Castle in the mid-18th century in the palladian style, a neoclassical style – counterpart to the baroque – in which simplicity and harmony is aspired. The entire inside of the house is a delight for the art lover who can feast his eyes on the beautiful ornate plasterwork of the Italian Lafrancini brothers as well as the art collection of the owners, including works by Vermeer, Rubens, Hals, Velazquez and Gainsborough. The excellent 45 minute guided tours of the House are tremendously educative and will walk you through Russborough’s interesting and, at times, peculiar, history.
AVONDALE HOUSE AND FOREST PARK
Location: Rathdrum (20 minutes)
Just south of Rathdrum, in the heart of County Wicklow, lies Avondale House and Forest Park. Avondale house is a beautiful Georgian country house, designed by James Wyatt and built in 1777. The house’s claim to fame dates back to 1846, when Charles Stewart Parnell – a 19th century politician and renowned freedom fighter – was born here. The house is largely dedicated to Parnell and the struggle for the Home Rule. Within the house you will find an American room dedicated to admiral Charles Stewart, Parnell’s American grandfather who commanded the USS Constitution during the War of 1812. Avondale Forest Park, spanning over two hundred hectares of forests around the estate and rich in wildlife, makes for a beautiful walking opportunity. Walking trails range from an easy one hour stroll to tough five hour walks for the more advanced hikers. Within the Avondale Forest Park you will find a well developed arboretum dating back from the 18th century. The river Avonmore flows over the estate.
MOUNT USHER GARDENS
Location: Ashford (35 minutes)
Twice listed as the best garden to visit in Ireland by BBC Gardener’s World Magazine, the Mount Usher Gardens are enchanting and intriguing. Mount Usher in County Wicklow was constructed in 1860 by William Robinson. Robinson was inspired by Shakespeare’s “the art itself is nature” and created an informal garden for which he used a combination of native and tropical plants, resulting in a beautiful garden that is also a little bit wild. Mount Usher Garden is home to more than 5000 species of plants. Sit yourself down in the adjacent cafe Avoca and enjoy the best of what culinary Ireland has to offer.
Location: Roundwood (45 minutes)
Victor’s way is a privately owned meditation garden located on a backroad near the little village of Roundwood, county Wicklow. The 9 hectare property encompasses beautiful gardens and trees with amazing sculptures laid out on a fascinating trail. The park was designed by Victor, its owner, as a place for contemplation, where the messengers take the form of black granite sculptures. Find yourself taking pictures with a series of dancing Ganesh figures, contemplate the “Split Man”, which shows a figure, plagued by confusion, ripping himself in two and sit yourself down on a bench by the lake. A plaque by the entrance dedicates the park to mathematician Alan Turing.
SHEKINA SCULPTURE GARDEN
Location: Kirikee, Glenmalure Valley (20 minutes)
High up in the mountains in the peaceful valley of Glendalough, you’ll find Shekina Sculpture Garden. Shekina is a relatively small one acre garden where visitors can enjoy a collection of 15 modern sculptures by Irish artists such as Michael Casey, Ken Thompson, Anne Murphy and Imogen Stuart. The garden is designed as a place for both creation and contemplation. ‘Time Out Days’ are offered, during which participants are presented a guided reflection on the sculptures and are given the opportunity to be still in nature.