Mount Usher Gardens | co. Wicklow

Mount Usher Gardens

Can you believe this picture was only taken a couple of weeks ago? That’s the magic of maple trees bringing you Autumn in the middle of Spring! The Mount Usher Gardens in county Wicklow have a beautiful maple walk and more than 5000 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants in which you can happily wander.

I had been patiently waiting Spring this year to finally visit one of the most renowned gardens in Ireland. I had first heard of it thanks to Magda’s colourful post and as I’m ticking off my list of things to do in Wicklow, it started to feel slightly wrong that I hadn’t explored one of its star-gardens yet. An hour bus journey or so will take you to Ashford, a little town where the gardens are located. As you go through the car park, you’ll find yourself in a courtyard surrounded by charming little shops. Delicatessen, garden centre and clothes shop,… if you know Avoca you’ll be familiar with the aesthetic. They manage the garden, and in typical Avoca’s fashion, they graced the place with an inviting cafe with a gorgeous vista on the garden’s gazebo. I sat ‘front row seat’ near the window and ordered a peanut butter parfait and a pot of peppermint tea. While I enjoyed my dessert, I observed the rich life of the garden unfolding right before my eyes, insects going about their day and perfectly round robins perched on nearby branches staring right at me.
Mount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens

At the entrance you’re presented with a map offering a choice of trails. The lady at the desk recommended that I follow the tree trail as they have some champion trees of Ireland and the UK. It was fun to try to guess the varieties according to the leaf shapes and have a close look at weirdly exotic trees from Iran or China. I would have never thought these could thrive on Irish soil. Wild garlic was covering the forest ground, filling it with its sharp fragrance.
But call me frivolous, I think I am more of a ‘flower girl’ than a tree-hugger because the area I enjoyed the most was the ‘Island’, a patch right next to the house where so many posies bloom in eye-catching bursts of colours. I was also lucky to catch the tail-end of the bluebell season. I don’t think there’s something that invites more to the reverie than a bluebell wood. Will you look at that purple blanket, don’t you want to dive in it?
Mount Usher GardensMount Usher GardensMount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens

Mount Usher gardens were founded in 1868 by Edward pole and stayed in his family’s estate for a little more than a century. There’s an interesting philosophy behind the creation of this beautiful piece of land. The family was greatly influenced by William Robinson, a famous Irish gardener who reacted against the rigid approach of gardening of his time. He believed a garden should grow on nature’s term.
In the Eighties, Madeleine Jay, a garden lover, bought the property and took the Robinsonian style a step further by managing the property organically. A way of doing that is still carried on today by Avoca.

Mount Usher Gardens
The Walpole family’s pet cemetery Mount Usher Gardens

The Vartry River runs through the gardens and I think, instinctively, people tend to walk along it. It’s a pleasant walk, there are beautiful little cascades, suspension bridges and from time to time, a fish burst out of the water to catch a fly or a mosquito. But wander off the river path and you’ll find yourself inside a beautiful Irish oil painting.

Mount Usher Gardens

MOUNT USHER GARDENS’ PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Mount Usher Gardens – website
Ashford, co. Wicklow, Ireland

Opening Hours
10am-6pm (Mon-Sun, all year)

Admission
General €7.50 / Reduced €6.50 / Children under 16 €3.50 / Children under 4 Free

Bus
133 Bus Eireann (from Dublin)

Lavender Harvest Sale | co. Wicklow

Lavender Harvest Party

Last month, I had quite a little exciting Saturday planned. I was heading to county Wicklow to see the lavender field in Kilmacanogue. I had been wanting to visit one again ever since going to the Wexford Lavender Farm last year. It was such a romantic experience!
I was also really excited to try out my new camera and lens. I had only been filming so far so I was really keen to see how I got on with it for taking pictures. And what better place to test a camera than a flower field! I bought a Canon 700d and a 24mm lens. I usually shoot with a 50mm which I still love dearly but the 24mm with its wider angle gives so much more space to work with, I’ve been loving the freedom of movement it allows. Let me know what you think of the pictures, hope you like them!

Lavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest Party

Every month of July, Fragrances of Ireland organises a Lavender Harvest Party in Kilmacanogue… or is it Kilmacanog or Kilmacanoge? Even the locals can’t seem to agree, I saw the three different spellings in the space of a yard. And apparently, it is pronounced Kilmacanick I found out after embarrassing myself talking to a helpful bus driver. All of it is very confusing for little old Belgian me. The good thing is that the field was very easy to find, the less good thing is that it is next to a busy motorway. It kind of killed the Provence vibe unfortunately. On one side of the road, you can look at the lavender rows (a kind lady harvester let me in so I could take pictures but I don’t think you’re really meant to, the alleyways were quite brambly) and on the other side, there’s the harvest sale set in a cute little courtyard.
I think it’s one of those instances where having a car makes the experience more pleasant. It was easy enough going from the field to the courtyard by foot (there’s a bridge over the motorway for crossing it) but walking along cars can be a bit stressful, especially when the pathway disappears. If you ever go, I’d recommend as well you to visit during the first weekend of July so you can see the field in its full purple splendour before it gets gradually chopped.

Lavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest Party

At the harvest sale, you’ll find all the lavender by-products you can expect: fresh pots of lavender, dried lavender, essential oils, perfumes and soaps. You can also buy them online on the Fragrances of Ireland website (along with other ranges). It is an Irish independent perfume house managed by friendly owners. I just love how they set up their courtyard with buntings and pretty stalls for the occasion. They even put a cute purple bow on their dog to go with the theme!

If you’re ever in the area in July, it does make for a pleasant Summer afternoon. Especially as the harvest sale is located next to the Avoca‘s flagship store where you can have a bite and a little nosey around their shelves stocked with gorgeous crockery and beautifully-packaged cosmetics.

Lavender Harvest Party

Practical Information

Fragrances of Ireland – website
Jameson’s Corner
Kilmacanogue
Co. Wicklow

Opening Times
11am – 4pm (Sat-Sun during the month of July)

Admission
Free

How to get there (from Dublin)
Take the Dart to Bray then the bus 45a (the stop is just outside the station), get off at the last stop

Killruddery Gardens | co. Wicklow

Killruddery GardensKillruddery Gardens
I was just writing my Irish Summer Checklist when I realised I had not shown you the beautiful Killruddery Gardens in Bray yet. I visited them 3 years ago and since then, every time the weather warms up, I’ve been meaning to come back to visit the house.
Last time, the weather was so gorgeous that it felt kind of wrong to spend any time indoors. Also I remember thinking back then that I really should start watching The Tudors since it’s one of the filming locations for the series and somehow, I haven’t watched one episode either. I don’t know who I am anymore. So once again, ‘Killruddery House’ finds its way onto my list of places to visit during the Summer, I’ve got a strong feeling it will happen this time but in the meantime, let’s have a look at the gardens, shall we?
Killruddery GardensKillruddery Gardens
Killruddery Gardens
Killruddery Gardens
There’s quite a bit to explore in Killruddery Gardens: formal gardens, maze-like topiary where you can hide, a mini forest , canals, a walled garden with vegetables and a farm. It’s just the perfect setting to wander aimlessly.
The day I was in, people were rushing around to get an evening banquet ready. Next to the long table, a whole hog was spinning on a giant skewer. I had only seen those in Asterix comics before so it was a bit of a shock! After I stopped my stomach from turning (hello I’m a wimpy vegetarian!), I had to admit that the whole thing fitted so well the spirit of the gardens, the oldest in Ireland that survived in its authentic 17th century form.
Killruddery GardensKillruddery Gardens
Killruddery GardensKillruddery Gardens
Killruddery Gardens
Killruddery Gardens

Did you know?

Killruddery was the film location for The Tudors, My Left Foot, Far and Away, Angela’s Ashes and Camelot

Are you in Ireland this Summer and wish to visit some gardens? Here are a few more I wrote about: Powerscourt Gardens | Altamont Gardens | Dublin’s Botanic Gardens

Killruddery Gardens
Practical Information

Killruddery House & Gardens – website
Southern Cross, Bray

Co. Wicklow

Opening Hours
9.30am – 6pm, every day (May – September)
9.30am – 6pm, weekends only (April & October)

Admission
Adults €6.50 / Concession €5.50 /Children under 12 €2 / Children under 4 Free (Gardens Only)
Adults €11 / Concession €9 / Children under 12 €3 / Children under 4 Free (Gardens + House*)

*Guided tours of the house start at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm (July-Sep)

The farm market is on every Saturday, from 10am to 4pm

How to get there (from Dublin)
Take the Dart to Bray then the bus 84 or 184 outside the Dart station

 

Powerscourt Gardens | co. Wicklow

pegasus powerscourtiron garden gate

I visited Powerscourt Estate for the first time last year after a long and cold Irish winter that coincided with a long and dark season in my personal life. It was April and I was starting to wonder if it will be sunny ever again. It looked pretty bleak, it even snowed the week before.
But somehow, the miracle of Spring happened again and as sun rays pierced the thick clouds, I decided to finally visit that place I had heard so much about. Lonely Planet listed Powerscourt as one of the greatest houses and this year National Geographic voted it the third best garden in the world.
Pretty impressive, right? Those titles are definitely not unearned, the estate brought back some needed magic in my life. It made me realise that I have all those amazing places practically on my doorstep and I needed to start exploring, look for my Spring and stop waiting for it (which is a message I’m trying to convey through this blog, everyone’s backyard is worth exploring).

powerscourt housepowerscourt statues
powerscourt house + sugar loafjapanese garden
fountain powerscourt
iron chairspink azalea

Powerscourt Estate goes back as far as the 13th century and has been a work in progress over the years. Today, when you visit the estate, you’re met with an impressive mansion holding an array of shops that boast beautiful Irish design and craft within its walls. If you’re in the market for gifts, souvenirs and local delicacies to bring home, this is a brilliant place to shop as you have so much choice on hand. Not an Irish product but I was super excited to see that the shop Avoca stocks some of Rifle Paper Co‘s divine stationary.

On the first floor, you will find Tara’s Palace, one of the greatest doll’s house in the world, in the Childhood Museum. Click here to read about my visit there.

The terrace café is a lovely place to have a slice of cake (or two) as the views on the Wicklow Mountains are stunning. Outside you’ll be met with the beautiful Italian Gardens and a panoramic view over the estate. There is so much to explore: Japanese gardens, a pet cemetery, a walled garden, a greenhouse, the Pepperpot tower, a deerpark and the highest waterfall in Ireland.

french gardens
gilded garden gate
greenhouse
flower parterre
powerscourt house + mountains
wicklow mountains powerscourt

Did you know?: Stanley Kubrick filmed Barry Lyndon in Powerscourt House. Powerscourt has actually been used as a filming location many times, check out IMDB for the full list.

My favourite part was the walled garden, not surprisingly, and especially the gilded iron gates which reminded of pictures I saw of Versailles’s gates.
Although I’ve been to Powerscourt twice already, I’ve quite a bit left to explore. There’s the pet cemetery, it might sound weird but the stones’ epitaphs are said to be heart-warming (I kind of avoided it last time as my dog had recently passed away and I was worried to lose it); and also the waterfall and the deerpark.
This time, I’ll do a favour to myself and not wait for Spring to visit Powerscourt again.

 

powerscourt estate

Practical Information

Powerscourt Estate – website
Enniskerry
Co. Wicklow

Check out their website for the events programme

Opening Times: 9.30am – 5.30pm; During Winter, gardens close at dusk
Closed on December 25th & 26th

Admission Fee: Adults 8.50€ / Studens, OAP 5 € / Children < 16yo 3.50€ / Children <2yo Free

How to get there (from Dublin): Take the Dart to Bray then the Bus 185 (the departure stop is directly outside Bray Dart Station)

More information on the Waterfalls and Tara’s Palace, Museum of Childhood

Tara’s Palace | Co. Wicklow

tara's palacetoy cabinet & view

Last month when my mum came to visit me I knew I wanted to take her to Powerscourt Gardens. I went there last year and was blown away by this beautiful estate in county Wicklow. I only had the chance to visit the gardens, so this time I made sure to head first to the first floor of Powerscourt House where the Museum of Childhood is located. I was quite eager to see Tara’s Palace with my own eyes , this giant of a doll house. 22 rooms, practically all mod cons, priceless antiques and readable miniature books, this house is every little girl’s dream come true. I wouldn’t say I’m a doll house connoisseur but I visited my fair share of toy museums and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a courtyard and a church built in a doll house. It’s that big!

guest bedroomdining & gamblingminiature floral bowldoll's house wallpaperliving roomblue bedroomgiant bathroom creeper
                                                            Bathroom creeper alert!

Tara’s Palace was modelled after 3 Irish Houses: Castletown house in county Kildare, Leinster House in Dublin and Carson House in Maynooth. It was built in the eighties to replace Titania’s palace, another huge Irish doll house built in the early 1900s which eventually got sold to Legoland Denmark. It took 20 years to build and furnished the palace you can see today in Powerscourt House. The craftmanship is astonishing, but what I liked above all is the attention to detail that sparks one’s imagination just looking through the glass. I couldn’t help making up little stories just looking at the way certain objects were displayed : the flowers soaking in the umbrella stand, the mini-slippers left in a hurry under the sink. And what is the meaning of that blue dress lavishly left at the foot of the bed? Could Tara’s walls hold its very own Hollywood drama at night?

roses in umbrella standthe blue dressmini slippersginger nuts

The museum in itself is quite small (two rooms and a little corridor where children can play) but it’s full to the brim with special little treasures. Apart from Tara’s Palace, there are a few other unusual-looking doll houses with a gothic and working-class vibe but also toy cars, a whole shelf full of teddy bears and a model cathedral.

vauxhall victor
a rare childs chairwindow view

Top tip: Don’t let all your attention be grabbed by those tiny wonders and do look out the window. There’s a breathtaking view over the gardens not to be missed! ( Do you want to see more of Powerscourt Gardens? Click here, I’ll give you a tour!)

tara's palace front

Practical Information

Tara’s Palace, Museum of Childhood – website
Powerscourt House
Enniskerry
County Wicklow

Admission fee: Adult 5€ / Children 3€ / Concession 4€ / <5yo Free / Family 12€
NB: All profits go to Irish Children’s charities

Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm (Mon – Sat); 12 am – 5pm (Sundays & Bank Holidays)

How to get there (from Dublin): Dart to Bray, Bus 185 (the departure stop is directly outside Bray Dart Station)