The West Cork Garden Trail came about after a chance conversation more than 25 years ago between Bill Chase of Deelish Garden Centre and Phemie and Malcom Rose, who back then owned Kilravock Gardens in Durrus. After a gentle start with just a few gardens, year after year, the trail has grown and strengthened.
This year, nineteen gardens are involved, with some of the most diverse group of gardens yet. Country gardens such as Kinalea, with its lovely collection of rare trees and shrubs, alpine rockery and perennial borders. Carraig Abhainn, a three-acre garden in the heart of Durrus. This has been a 30-year labour of love for Eugene and Hazel Wiseman and an oasis of peace and serenity. At Pine Tree Lodge, amongst rolling countryside, careful and interesting planting ensures colour and interest right through the spring and summer. Then there is the lovely Lough Hyne B&B and Gardens, just a 10-minute walk from Lough Hyne Nature Reserve. Four acres of traditional cottage garden borders, woodland, kitchen garden and much more.
Gardens with special interest for families include Glenview Gardens and Hobbit House. The Hobbit house speaks for itself but the rest of the garden must not be overlooked with over ten unique garden designs to walk through. Inish Beg is a beautiful estate with 97 acres of gardens, woodland, organic pasture and farmland to enjoy with bird hides and pirate and fairy houses along woodland walks for the younger visitors.
For history buffs, the iconic Bantry House with its unique location on the fringe of Bantry Town overlooking the magnificent Bay, offers both beautiful gardens and the wonderful historic House. Drishane House and Gardens also offer romantic gardens with many specimen trees and another glimpse of history through the museum. The slate fronted, 18th century family house was home for Edith Sommerville, of Sommerville and Ross for most of her life. Fernhill House Hotel is a country house with a rich history overlooking the countryside where Michael Collins was born. The house is set in many acres of beautiful landscaped gardens. Ballycommane House and Garden is a garden with specialist collections of rare trees and plants from the southern hemisphere, particularly the Azores. It is also the home of an amazing, famous Bronze-age monument, comprising of a boulder-burial and pair of standing stones, set amongst rolling fields and beautiful pastoral panoramic views. Another iconic garden is Innicullin, Garnish Island, an island of 15 acres, set in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. This Italian-styled garden, designed by Harold Peto, is known to horticulturalists all over the world.
The trail also includes gardens with an artistic side to them; The Heron Gallery, Café and Garden for instance, an artist’s garden, full of colour and quirky ideas. Flower borders, wildlife pond, kunekune pigs roaming through a young woodland and a chance to see Annabel’s work in the shop and gallery. The Ewe Experience is also an artist’s garden and probably the Trail’s longest-standing member, with a garden that has evolved over the last 25 years into an interactive open-air natural history museum with sculptures, lush Jurassic planting and spectacular views. Another artist’s home and studio is Reen. The 13 acres of farmland bordering the sea on the Reen Peninsular, has been converted into a sculpture garden with in excess of fifteen sculptures ranging from garden sized maquettes to monumental.
Two new gardens this year are the Medicinal Herb Garden near Ballydehob, and the Garden of Re-Imagination, run by Kloe Wood Lyndorff and Adam Carveth. Kloe is the daughter of Kurt and Sheena from The Ewe Experience. This is the first time there has been a second generation gardener on the trail with a new garden. The pair are full of exciting new ideas, which push the boundaries, exploring flavours, aromas, sights and sounds in their outdoor space. Another exciting new garden, the Medicinal Herb Garden is devoted to growing native and non-native species of plants, which are both good for bees and butterflies and also harvested and used by Jacqueline in her clinical practise. Beautiful and very useful plants to benefit us all.
The Bamboo Park in Glengarriff is set in one of the most beautiful bays in Ireland. With Palms, Tree Ferns, as well as Bamboo, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Southern Hemisphere. This garden along with Derreen Gardens near Kenmare show how wonderful the benign climate in West Cork can be for gardens. The 60 acres of garden at Derreen, with its mature and varied woodland, is full of rare and exotic plants and a haven for wildlife.
Lastly is The Glebe in Baltimore. Like most gardens it is constantly evolving and over many years has become more than the sum of its parts. There is a large vegetable potager, cottage garden style borders, woodland, meadow and amphitheatre and last but not least peace and tranquillity.
The committee is delighted to include on the trail Dunmanway Community Garden and St. Patrick’s Boys National School Skibbereen. Both gardens, in their own way, are very much part of their local communities and are doing wonderful work, both educationally and socially.
In every way these gardens are personal and a testament to their owners and creators who see their gardens as a way of life and are proud to welcome others to share them. Several gardens have excellent cafes and many more serve tea or coffee and light refreshments. During the summer many of the gardens are holding special events details, which are detailed in the new West Cork Garden Trail brochure and on the website www.westcorkgardentrail.com.