21st – 25th June 2021
Why go all that way to Italy when we have spectacular gardens next door? After much discussion Alys and I chose to concentrate, this year, on the gardens nestled at the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains between Dublin and Waterford. The clement and rather damp weather of Ireland is just perfect for creating lush sumptuous gardens and they are there in abundance. We shall visit great county estates with sweeping vistas and small private creations full of exquisite planting. Many of the gardens are privately owned and with true Irish hospitality, owners have opened their gates to us and offered to show us around, often with a cup of tea and cake thrown in.
We have chosen two contrasting hotels, our first is the much loved 17th century coaching inn, Hunter’s Hotel, a step back in time to an era of true hospitality, crisp white tablecloths and a beautiful garden. Our second is the grand Manor House of Mount Juliet with a working stud farm and estate. Ireland is famed for its wonderful produce and so good food will also feature highly on this trip, from a Michelin starred restaurant to home grown salads, we will sample all that Ireland has to offer.
Monday 21st June
Our coach will meet us at the airport and take us the short distance to the coastal town of Bray, here we will find Killruddery House. Home to the Earls of Meath since 1618 Killruddery is the most well-preserved Elizabethan-Revival mansion in Ireland. The beautiful 17th century gardens survive in their original formal layout, along with some 18th and 19th century additions. The Long Ponds, The Angles and The Sylvan Theatre are features of this magnificent landscape. We will be shown around the house and gardens by the owners, Fionnuala and Anthony Ardee, whose passion for their family home truly shines through. Fionnuala has been hard at work renovating her walled garden and it will be exciting to see the changes she has made. We will then be treated to a delicious lunch in their private dining room, overlooking the gardens.
In the afternoon we will drive to the nearby estate of Powerscourt with spectacular gardens commanding dramatic views of the Sugar Loaf Mountain. The gardens are packed with history taking much of their inspiration from Italy with theatrical terraces, sculptures and grottos. Hidden throughout are quotations from famous Italian sights – Barbarini Fountain, the Laocoon, Apollo Belvedere to mention a few. Away from the formal garden is a fantastic tree collection, a Japanese garden and the Pepperpot Tower. Sadly the house was gutted by fire, however it is now a centre for Irish hand-made crafts – so perfect for a spot of shopping! We will then continue on to Hunter’s Hotel, where after an aperitif (hopefully in the garden!) we will have an excellent dinner at the hotel.
Tuesday 22nd June
Our first visit will be to Hunting Brook, a breathtakingly magical creation by Jimi Blake nestled in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. We are very lucky to have Jimi taking us around, a font of knowledge and dedication. A marvellous contrast to all that we have already seen; we will be awed by the theatrical large scale planting, bright colours and bold designs. Deeper into the garden, a path leads us down to a shady glen with a babbling brook, boulders and bridges coated with moss and hidden by ferns. Back in the light we will be given lunch at Jimi’s sweet timber house which he built within the garden.
Next door is the garden of Jimi’s sister, June Blake. A perfect combination of intriguing design and masterful use of colour. June was a successful jewellery designer before starting her garden and this meticulous attention to detail and painterly use of colour, form and texture is evident in her small gem of a garden. We will then return to our hotel for dinner in the evening.
Wednesday 23rd June
Close to Hunter’s are Mount Usher Gardens. As soon as you enter the gardens all your worries are left behind, the feeling of tranquillity is immense. A perfect example of a Robinsonian garden, with a sense of nature running free through the valley and along the banks of the river. There are hidden glens, winding paths and an unexpected grove of eucalyptus trees. At the entrance is a pretty courtyard with a restaurant, weather permitting we may even eat outside.
Our next stop will be the enchanting Bay Garden. The garden was created by Frances and Iain MacDonald, their expert knowledge and passion is evident throughout. Frances has kindly agreed to show us through the series of ‘garden rooms’, a feat of design, colour and interesting planting. We will then drive to Mount Juliet where we will stay in the Manor House. In the evening we will go to the lively and colourful Thomastown for supper.
Thursday 24th June
A real treat lies in store for this morning, Kilfane Glen, a garden steeped in history and remarkable stories. We hope to see the owner Helen Mosse who will explain how she transformed a wild valley back into an 18th garden. Not only will we discover moss coated woodlands, streams, waterfalls and a butterfly garden but also dotted around the estate is an excellent contemporary sculpture collection including the work of David Nash.
In the afternoon we will visit Altamont where we will first have lunch in the gardens. Another Robinsonian style garden with wild planting matched by formal lawns sweeping down to a lake. The evocative names of the various areas give some idea of what awaits; Ice Age Glen, Sunset Field, Bog Garden and the Nun’s Walk.
We aim to return to our hotel in good time to make use of our fantastic surroundings. The charismatic Des will be on hand to show people the working stud farm or you could opt for one of their famous Irish cream teas in the drawing room. Dinner will be at their renowned Michelin star Lady Helen Restaurant where we will have a private room.
Friday 25th June
We shall head off towards Dublin early in the morning. On our way we will stop at the beautiful little Patthana Garden with arguably the best potting shed in Ireland. We will then continue on to the Dublin Botanical Gardens which are famed for their historic glasshouses and every September they hold an excellent outdoor sculpture exhibition. After one last lunch near the gardens we will leave for the airport.
Tutors – The trip will be led by Charlie Winton and Alys Fowler, this will be their 12th year of taking AHA garden tours. Charlie lives in Northern Ireland and spends much of her time exploring Irish gardens. Alys trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, The Royal Horticultural Society and the New York Botanical Gardens. Here she studied horticulture, going on many botanical expeditions. Alys now writes for Gardens Illustrated and The Guardian.
Hotels – We will spend two nights at the delightful Hunter’s Hotel. Ireland’s oldest coaching inn has lost none of its charm, it is run by two very welcoming brothers who maintain a beautiful garden. The rooms are simple but very comfortable and you can’t help but fall in love with the place. Our second hotel is the 5 star Mount Juliet, where we will stay in the Manor House surrounded by a working estate, which we are free to explore along with the stud farm. A dinner at each hotel is included in the fees.
Transport – We will travel in comfort in a private coach. Due to the nature of the trip there is quite a lot of travelling. We have endeavoured to keep the travelling time to the minimum with the average drive being 40 minutes, however the longest stretch from Mount Juliet to Dublin Botanical Gardens is around 2 hours with a stop midway for Patthana Gardens.
Ability – There is quite a bit of walking on this trip, as well as uneven terrain. As is the case for all our courses, there is a lot of standing while we discuss the works we are looking at.
Cost – The fees are £1630 which includes accommodation and breakfast, 2 dinners at Hunters Hotel and 1 Michelin star dinner at Mount Juliet, all lunches, and transfers for the recommended flight, transport when connected with teaching, entrance fees (many of which are private), tuition, reading lists and local advice. The single room supplement is £250 (double room for single use). Please state on the form if you would be happy to share if available. Not included are the flights, other suppers and travel insurance. The group will not exceed 16 people.
Flights – We do not book the flights thus allowing you to travel to suit your budget, use airmiles, travel between different airports or on different dates. The recommend flights are with Aer Lingus:
21st June London Heathrow 8.50 – 10.15 Dublin EI153
25th June Dublin 18.00 – 19.20 London Heathrow EI178
The application form should be returned with a deposit of £600.00. Please note all new deposits paid after 24th March 2020 will be refunded if the current travel disruption continues due to Covid-19. Please call 01379 871800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries.
NB you must buy your own flights.