Ireland’s green tourism

The green green grass of Ireland


Life & Style
Part of the restored flower garden at Kylemore Abbey, Connemara using bedding plants from the Victorian era.

Part of the restored flower garden at Kylemore Abbey, Connemara using bedding plants from the Victorian era.

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Ireland and NSW are remarkably alike, with friendly inhabitants who share a similar and whacky sense of humour.

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Ireland is about as remote from NSW as most places on the planet, and not just in distance.

Its climate is the polar opposite of ours - if the country had a national colour it would certainly be green.

Average annual rainfall of 750-1,000 millimetres a year in the east rises to over 3,000mm in the mountainous west. 

In other ways, though, Ireland and NSW are remarkably alike, with friendly inhabitants who share a similar and whacky sense of humour.

I’d heard that if you ask an Irishman for directions he’ll stop whatever he’s doing and take you there.

So I was delighted to discover on visiting the country last July that this is perfectly true, and moreover he’ll chat non-stop all the way, pointing out interesting sights as you go.

Ireland and NSW are remarkably alike, with friendly inhabitants who share a similar and whacky sense of humour.

My brolly stayed in my suitcase as Ireland was having an unseasonably arid summer with little or no rain since April even in the traditionally sodden west.

Farmers who normally rely on three cuts of grass for silage for winter fodder were reduced to one. 

But dry weather is good for tourism so together with a gazillion other visitors we made the most of it, enjoying the pubs and restaurants, untouched Georgian architecture, incomparable countryside and, I need hardly add, glorious gardens.

I do (seriously) try not to let too many of the latter creep into our travels, it being unfair to Bill but luckily Irish gardens are so beautiful that after less than half a dozen I was perfectly satisfied. 

Of these, the walled Victorian Gardens of Kylemore Abbey in Connemara (an hour from Galway, www.kylemoreabbey.com/) have lingered the longest in my mind.

They offer something to every gardener: trees, lawns, flowery borders, the loveliest woodland and lakeside walks, glass houses, splendid vegetable gardens, set in a secluded east-west facing valley bisected by a stream and sheltered by a mountain range.

A London doctor, Mitchell Henry, built Kylemore Castle in the mid-19th century after he and his wife fell in love with the lakeside site on their honeymoon.

They also created the six acre walled garden that originally included 21 heated glass houses and employed 40 gardeners.

After their death the property changed hands several times before being bought in 1920 by a group of Benedictine nuns who had lost their Abbey in Ypres during World War 1.

The nuns ran it as a school until 2010 and are now developing education and retreat activities.

They also magnificently restored the formerly run down gardens, using many plant varieties from the Victorian period. 

And thanks to a nearby mountain lake, everything was green and flourishing despite the warm dry summer. 

Heads Up: Sculptures in the Garden (www.sculpturesinthegarden.com.au/) exhibition at Rosby Vineyard, 122 Strikes Lane, Eurunderee, Mudgee, October 6 and 7, gates open 9am.

Entry $5, proceeds to Guide Dogs of NSW/ACT. Wendy Whiteley and local Mayor Des Kennedy will open the exhibition at 11am. on October 6.

For details contact Amber Norton-Knight, 0414 942 917.

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