So we know Ireland has the greenery, but which bits are the best? In a country known for its natural beauty, it’s a competitive climate. But can we really compare beauty? Is it art if it’s not made by humans? What’s a park? – These are questions we can’t answer, but we can at least give you a run down of the top ten parks in Ireland.
1. Wicklow Mountains National Park, Wicklow
So this is on of three Wicklow contenders, but the county is the Garden of Ireland, and we feel it deserves its name. Glendalough is no exception to the rule, and boasts the beautiful ‘valley of the two lakes’ which has been host to all sorts of film productions, including currently, History Channel’s ‘Vikings’.
2. The Burren National Park, Clare
County Clare’s famous limestone terrain is one of largest karst landscapes in Europe. ‘Boireann’, in Irish, means ‘great rock’, while ‘karst’ is derived from the Slovenian word kras, and relates to a bleak, waterless place. Add to that the Paleolithic monuments, the subterranean water system, tombs, caves, and the longest known stalactite in the world and you have quite the eerie but beautiful place. A Cromwellian general summed it up many years ago by saying: “ …it is said that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him…”. Not bad for an ole walk though.
3. Mount Usher Gardens, Wicklow
BBC’s Gardener’s World Magazine voted it the best garden to visit in Ireland. Designed by the most famous Irish gardener, William Robinson, the gardens were Robinsonian in that they deviated from the traditional form of gardening that was reserved for the wealthy who could afford the upkeep of the structured bedding plants. Robinson changed this with his more natural approach. What we’re trying to say is that it’s a revolution you’re witnessing at Mount Usher.
4. Killarney National Park, Kerry
Includes the highest mountains in Ireland with world famous lakes. The park is breathtaking in both its scope and diversity. 26,000 acres in size, this monster of a park will not disappoint.
5. Connemara National Park, Galway
Located on the slopes of the mountain range known as the Twelve Bens, this park is almost alien in parts, interspersed with trails full of fascinating features. Also home to a museum which teaches the history of peat, and along with it the stark fact that in the last 90 years, 80% of Ireland’s peat has been decimated. It is vital protected wildernesses such as this continue as they are.
6. Phoenix Park, Dublin
One of the largest walled city parks in Europe, this park boasts its own herd of deer, the city Zoo not to mention our nation’s presidential home. If its good enough for him (and the Pope)… Also a park within a park: the beautiful Farmleigh gardens can be found inside.
7. Woodstock Gardens & Arboretum, Kilkenny
Located near the very pretty town of Inistioge, this park has it all for any gardenphile out there. An arboretum, walled garden, terraced garden, yew walk, and rose garden that is sure to give you a strong spiritual dose.
8. Powerscourt Gardens, Wicklow
Over two centuries in the making, Powerscourt Gardens are well worth the trip to Wicklow. There’s the backdrop of the Sugar Loaf mountain, the manicured formal gardens to the more rambling wild variety, and the central magnificent water feature and lake; there is something to suit all tastes. Prepare to lose your kids upon entering as they run off in excitement towards the pet cemetery or Japanese gardens with it’s tiny bridges.
9. Glenveagh Castle Estate & Gardens, Donegal
Intricately constructed and maintained, these gardens are immaculate in their layout. Known for a diverse Rhododendron collection (best viewed from late March to May), this park also donates all the proceeds from the Wishing Well to a local charity. So these people are expert gardeners and generous; quite the catch.
10. Iveagh Gardens, Dublin
Just off Harcourt street, the Iveagh Gardens are a hidden gem in the centre of Dublin. Designed in 1865 as a blend of the ‘French Formal’ and the ‘English Landscape’ styles, it often lends itself to music gigs and events. Less crowded than the nearby Stephen’s Green making it a prime basking spot along with a good opportunity to peruse the Georgian architecture of the surrounding buildings.