GARDENS OF IRELAND TOURING ITINERARY
Day 1 – Dublin to Belfast
With some 40 years experience in horticulture your guide Trevor has interests in Garden Design, Consultancy & Project Management, Garden Tours, Writing, TV & Radio Broadcasting. He is widely regarded as an expert and regularly lectures on the Gardens of Ireland and has lectured in many parts of the world on the topic. He acts as an expert guide to Garden Tour operators and runs Plantsman’s Garden Tours which offers Expert Guiding and specialist Garden tours into and out of Ireland.
Stop for tea/coffee and scones enroute northwards to Belfast. At the head of Belfast Lough, Belfast City is compact and easy to get around. Belfast is teeming with a multitude of stylish bars, gourmet restaurants, trendy clubs and lots of great shops. Some of the better known Belfast attractions include Belfast Zoo, St Anne’s Cathedral, and of course the titanic quarter, birthplace of the famous RMS Titanic.
Visit the Titanic Centre Belfast – Only in Belfast can you trace the Titanic story to its source, discover the passion and pride of those who designed and built her and relive the excitement of the Titanic era when the city was at the height of its powers. Relive the Titanic story when you visit the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience, Titanic Belfast. (NOTE: This is a SELF Guided visit.) The director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau of the film “The Titanic” opened the part of exhibition dedicated to their film. The display features props and costumes from some of the most memorable scenes from the film.
Time permitting have a short walk through the Botanic gardens – First established in 1828, the Belfast Botanic gardens have been enjoyed as a public park by the people of Belfast since 1895. There is an extensive rose garden and long herbaceous borders and the tree enthusiast can seek out the rare oaks planted in the 1880s, including the hornbeam-leafed oak. Situated near Queens University Belfast, the Botanic Gardens is an important part of Belfast’s Victorian heritage and a popular meeting place for residents and tourists alike.
Check into the Culloden Estate & spa for dinner and overnight. (Dinner, B&B Basis) – Originally built as an official palace for the Bishops of Down, the Culloden stands in 12 acres of beautiful secluded gardens and woodland and is only 5 miles from Belfast City Centre. Palatial surroundings, fine antiques and the highest levels of personal service combine to give the Culloden a unique air of elegance.
Day 2 – Gardens of Down.
Travel to Newtownards to visit Mount Stewart House & Gardens – Home of the Londonderry family since the mid 18th Century, Mount Stewart is full of wonderful artifacts and treasures. The gardens were planted in the 1920s by Edith, Lady Londonderry and consist of vibrant parterres and formal and informal vistas. Many unusual and rare plants thrive in the mild climate of the area. After the visit the group will have some free time for lunch in the Bay Restaurant to enjoy culinary delights made from quality ingredients and excellent local produce.
Stretch your legs after lunch with a short photo stop at Grey Abbey – This Cistercian Abbey church and its living quarters were founded in 1193 by Affreca wife of John de Courcy, the Anglo-Norman invader of East Ulster. The Abbey is set in the landscaped parkland of the 18th Century Rosemount House; however, visitors should note that these grounds are private. Visitors are welcome to wander among the ruins and the lawns.
Continue to Greyabbey House & Gardens, situated on the Ards Peninsula in Co. Down, The micro climate provided by Strangford Lough means that a widespread variety of trees, shrubs and plants flourish in the gardens. There are two orchards containing unusual varieties of apple trees, a working walled vegetable garden, herbaceous and shrub rose borders, and a southern hemisphere garden. Part of the Chilean collection of plants and seeds from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is held in the southern hemisphere garden, together with plants from Tasmania, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil, some of which have been collected by the present owners on their travels.
In the evening return to Culloden Estate for overnight.
Day 3 -Gardens of Down continued.
After free time for lunch in the café travel to Ballyalloly House & Gardens. *NOTE: This visit is subject to availability prior to the group’s arrival. We may need to include an alternative visit if this site is closed or unavailable.*Ballyalloly House was built in 1934 by Lord Glentoran as a replacement for a Georgian House (1792) so as to take advantage of a more impressive south-facing position sheltered by mature trees, but allowing for a magnificent garden sweeping down from the house to woodland and a lake (designed by Hugh Armitage-Moore of Rowallane).
Overnight again at the Culloden Hotel in Belfast.
Day 4 – North Antrim & Giant’s Causeway.
Visit the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Experience and explore the science, myth and legends that surround this magical place. Volcanic crashing and burning, sixty million years ago, led to the formation of the Giant’s Causeway, a coastline that has captivated the imagination of locals and visitors for centuries. Made up of nearly 40,000 basalt columns that stretch out to sea, the formation of this strange landscape can be explained by science. Locals, however, have their own story to tell. They say the Giant’s Causeway was the stomping ground of the giant Finn McCool, who lived in these parts nearly two thousand years ago and he certainly left his mark. You can still see evidence of this in the landscape today. The Shuttle bus to and from the causeway cannot be pre booked or prepaid – Guests need to pay the shuttle bus driver directly if they want to use the shuttle bus.
Continue to Ballymoney to visit Benvarden House & Gardens. Benvarden House is an attractive house with an intriguing history, beautifully situated on the River Bush. The estate is well-known for its extensive beautiful gardens, which were cultivated in the early 19th century and continue to be maintained with dedication by the present owners.
Travel to Derry for dinner and overnight at the Beech Hill Country House hotel – Beech Hill Country House Hotel, while having a perfect rural hotel setting is only minutes drive from Derry City centre. Beech Hill was a base for the US marines in World War 2 and a memorial to the Marine Corps stands in the Garden.
Day 5 – Derry & Donegal Gardens
Afterwards you will have a walking tour of Derry city. (approx 1 hour 30 minutes). Derry City Tours, operated by Martin Mc Crossan and his wife Sharon who both hail from Derry and from different cultural and religious backgrounds, is able to offer a balanced overview of the social, cultural and religious history, past and present, of this beautiful and ancient country. The River Foyle curves picturesquely around the old walled town of Derry, creating a cosy setting which jars horribly with the reality of this city’s recent troubled history. The old centre of Derry is the small walled city on the west bank of the river, with the square called the Diamond at its heart. Barbed-wire barriers detract from the magnificence of the city walls, though also giving resonance to their history. From the top there are good views of the Bogside and its defiant murals and the Free Derry monument.
Enjoy some free time in the city before traveling to Raphoe in County Donegal for a picnic lunch and a visit to Oakfield Park, an 18th-century Georgian Deanery, which has won national awards for the restoration of its gardens and buildings. Sitting in a lush landscape of parklands and mature woodlands, it overlooks the distant Croaghan Mountain. The grounds of Oakfield Park include a traditional walled garden and kitchen garden. Flower meadows, lakes and streams, as well as wild and wetland areas are entwined with more than 4km of narrow gauge railway to give hours of pleasure. Visitors can discover willow tunnels, oak circles, boardwalks, a par terre and a classical Nymphaeum by the formal lake.
Continue to County Fermanagh & Lough Erne, a particularly scenic waterway, renowned for its beautiful setting. The lakes are widened sections of the River Erne. The river begins by flowing north, and then curves west into the Atlantic. Dinner and overnight at the lodge rooms at Lough Erne Resort (Dinner B&B Basis) – This hotel offers the ultimate expression in old world heritage and new world luxury, set on its very own 600 acre peninsula, outside Enniskillen, with stunning panoramic views from almost every vantage point.
Day 6 – Fermanagh to Meath & Wicklow.
Take a short walk around Loughcrew Gardens – Located near Oldcastle, County Meath, Loughcrew is a magical experience that combines history, beauty, fantasy and atmosphere. Visitors can take a walk through centuries of garden and landscape fantasy. The central area of approximately 2.5 hectares includes a lime avenue, extensive lawns and terraces, magnificent herbaceous border and physic border. Within the gardens stand a medieval mote and St Oliver Plunkett’s family church and tower house.
Continue the journey south to county Wicklow also known as the Garden of Ireland. In Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, visit Powerscourt House & Gardens which has a sublime blend of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, statuary and ornamental lakes with secret hollows, rambling walks, walled gardens and over 200 variations of trees and shrubs.
The 18th century house incorporates a terrace restaurant overlooking the garden, specialty shops, garden pavilion, interiors gallery and an exhibition on the history of the Estate.
Set amidst one of the most scenic and historic estates in the country and overlooking the slopes of the Sugarloaf Mountain., is the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt where you will have dinner & overnight (Dinner, B&B Basis).
Day 7 – Wicklow – The Garden of Ireland Tour.
Travel to Ashford, County Wicklow to visit Mount Usher Gardens – This lovely “Robinsonian” – i.e. informal – garden, laid out along the Vartry River, measures 8ha and dates back to around 1850. The river is spanned by suspension bridges, from which numerous waterfalls and superb views can be enjoyed.
There are approximately 5000 different species of plants, shrubs and trees, originating from many parts of the world. The extensive collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias is exceptionally colourful in spring. There are also those shrubs and trees, planted precisely for their display of berries and glorious foliage, to be admired in the autumn
Day 8 – Dublin City Tour
Visit Helen Dillon’s garden at No 45 Ranelagh is truly a hidden gem right in the heart of Dublin. Helen herself is a great plants woman and well known broadcaster and author of several gardening book. With her husband Val, she has created a garden that is considered to be one of the gems of the horticultural world. This widely acclaimed garden is a mix of startling design and perfectly grown plants – many of them rare and unusual.
See the city’s scenic highlights on a narrated drive through Dublin City, including the River Liffey, the Customs House, O’Connell Street, the GPO (General Post office), the Four Courts, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Christchurch Cathedral, St. Stephen’s Green and Leinster House. Pass Merrion Square, the heart of Georgian Dublin – Mapped out 250 years ago in 1762, it has fine Georgian Houses on three sides and the garden of Leinster House and The National Gallery and Natural History Museum on the 4th.
See the Phoenix Park over 700 hectares (1752 acres) in area and is the largest enclosed public Park in any capital city in Europe. It was originally formed as a royal hunting Park in the 1660’s and opened to the public in 1747. A large herd of fallow deer still remain to this day.
Visit the National Botanic Gardens noted for its fine plant collections and holding over 15,000 plant species and cultivars from a variety of habitats from all around the world. Famous for its exquisitely restored and planted glasshouses, notably the Turner Curvilinear Range and the Great Palm House, both recipients of the Europa Nostra award for excellence in conservation architecture. Visitors can enjoy such features as the Herbaceous borders, rose garden, the alpine yard, the pond area, rock garden and arboretum. Conservation plays an important role in the life of the botanic garden and Glasnevin is home to over 300 endangered plant species from around the world including 6 species, which are already extinct in the wild.
Travel back into the city centre viewing more of the city highlights along the way to check into the Westbury Hotel for overnight.
Enjoy some free time for last minute shopping or additional sightseeing. Dinner tonight at a local Dublin Restaurant.
Day 9 – Malahide Castle & Dublin Airport.
The ornamental gardens adjoining the castle cover an area of about 22 acres and 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; he also re-landscaped the grounds here to dramatic effect. In all there are in excess of 5000 difference species and varieties of plants present. The gardens are best described as a small Botanic garden. In addition to the abundance of flora the Garden Exhibition presents fascinating stories about the gardens, Milo and Rose and the wonderful world of southern hemisphere plants. Follow the information panels in the garden and find out about the Victorian Greenhouse, the Old Rose Garden, the Peach House, the Alpine Yard, the Pond and much more.
Your driver will then transfer the group to Dublin airport (Flight details and terminal to be confirmed) in time to check in for your return flight home.
NOTE: ONLY 1 GROUP AIRPORT TRANSFER INCLUDED IN THE TOUR PACKAGE – Transfer time to be confirmed when flights confirmed. Should anyone have different flight times to the group, they will need to arrange a separate private transfer at an extra supplement or avail of public transport to the airport (Dublin Bus Airlink; Aircoach; Taxi) which they pay directly.
Slán Abhaile (Safe Home)
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