Fifty Shades of Green - Gardens of Ireland

Fanad Head Lighthouse. Co. Donegal, Ireland.

Photo: © Marco Bottigelli / Moment / Getty Images

July 6 - July 14, 2024

Nine Days - Seven Nights

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Truth be told, all of Ireland is a garden, and some of the loveliest settings in Ireland revolve around its gardens, havens of peace and tranquility. This trip offers a horticultural feast for the eyes, framed by lush, green fields and sparkling seascapes. Come along this summer and follow the green road to Ireland's most enchanting gardens that include well-known gems and off -the-beaten path treasures.

You begin your horticultural adventure on Ireland's west coast with three nights in Killarney. You'll drive around the magical Ring of Kerry with its steep cliff s dropping dramatically to the pounding surf of the Atlantic and you'll visit the magnificent Muckross House and Gardens. Another excursion takes you to the sub-tropical vision of Ilnacullin Garden.

 You will travel east to Lismore Castle and the woodland garden of Annes Grove enroute to Waterford. Other highlights include The John F. Kennedy Arboretum, Kilmokea Garden and the amazing Patthana Garden. A visit to the Avoca Handweavers Store and Factory is certain to wrap you in luxury. Meet the locals and explore their culture with free time in Waterford and Dublin. Come and join us on this unforgettable journey through the enchanted Emerald Isle and Ireland's incredibly glorious gardens.

Day One:

Board your overnight flight to the Shannon Airport in County Clare.

Day Two:

Upon arrival, you'll be met by your local guide and transferred to your full-service hotel in Killarney for a three-night stay. (The Randles Hotel or similar.) The hotel is ideally located just minutes from the Killarney Town Center and is famous for its Irish hospitality, spacious guest rooms and fine dining.

 After you check into your rooms, there will be time to relax, refresh and get acquainted with your surroundings. Early evening, gather for an orientation meeting followed by an included welcome dinner served in the hotel's lovely dining room.

Day Three:

Following breakfast in the hotel, board the coach and head out for an immersion in green. Your first stop is at Dunloe Castle Gardens.

 Dunloe Castle was built around 800 years ago by the Anglo-Normans. It was attacked, damaged, repaired and altered many times during the 700 years it was lived in. Having fallen into a state of dereliction during the twentieth-century, it was saved from collapse in 2013 by Killarney Hotels Ltd. with support from Filte Ireland. It is one of the most interesting and romantic ruins, and one of the most famous beauty spots in Ireland.

Dunloe was subsequently sold in the early 1920s to the American Howard Harrington. His legacy to Dunloe is immense, as he planted the wonderful arboretum that contains a collection of rare trees of international acclaim. In 1960 the demesne was sold to the German industrialist, Hans Liebherr, who had a keen love of plants and in particular trees. His work continues to this day under the guidance of Mr. Liebherr's family and company. The Dunloe Castle Gardens contain one of the most fascinating and important collections of trees and shrubs in Ireland. The most ancient trees are the two Yews known as Adam and Eve that are between 300 and 350 years old.

Depart Dunloe Castle and travel along the Ring of Kerry, 112 miles of some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world. Along the way, you'll stop in a little village for lunch on your own.

This treasure trove in the southwest coast of Ireland really has it all, which is why people come from far and wide to see the Ring of Kerry. Each turn along this route around the Iveragh Peninsula, beginning and ending in Killarney, brings a new treat to the eye, from lakes, rivers and waterfalls, to grand houses and castles. 

Your final visit of the day is at Muckross House and Gardens, was once visited by Queen Victoria. One of Ireland's most popular visitor attractions, Muckross House is a magnificent Victorian mansion and one of the country's leading stately homes, still furnished in its 19th century elegant decor to portray the lavish lifestyle of the landowners of the era. The estate consists of formal gardens and 3 traditional farms.

Muckross House was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colorist Mary Balfour Herbert. Building commenced in 1839 and was completed in 1843. During the 1850s, the Herberts undertook extensive garden works in preparation for Queen Victoria's visit in 1861.

You will witness the Rock Garden, the Stream Garden and the Sunken Garden and a beautiful arboretum. The ornate Walled Garden is where you will find the restaurant and gift shop.

Return to the hotel late afternoon. There will be time to refresh before you head out for dinner on your own in one of the Town Center's local eateries.

Day Four:

Following breakfast in the hotel, board the coach and travel toward Bantry Bay where you will board a ferry for a short crossing to Garinish Island and Ilnacullin Garden. Keep a look out for the basking seals as you approach the island. The island was the inspiration of a Scotsman who decided in 1910 to turn this gorse-covered rocky outcrop into an Italianate Arts and Crafts garden.

The island extends to 37 acres and is renowned for its architecture and gardens that flourish in the mild, humid micro-climate of the harbor. Structures include a clock tower, a Grecian temple, a Martello Tower and an Italian casita. Ilnacullin, the 'island of holly', offers an intriguing mixture of formal and informal gardens.

After your visit, ferry back to the mainland, board the coach and travel across the Beara Peninsula. Your next vstop will be at Derreen Garden, a 19th century woodland garden famous for its tree ferns and magnificent views to the Caha Mountains. Here you will walk along paths that open to breathtaking sea views.

Derreen is famous for its collection of rhododendrons and some of the Arboreum rhododendrons have grown to a size rarely seen elsewhere. Throughout the garden, the labyrinth of paths passes through groves of bamboo, tree ferns, towering eucalyptus, conifers and the twisted trunks of the old oak trees from which Derreen, meaning little oak wood in Gaelic, takes its name.

The tranquility of the garden makes it a haven for wildlife and birdlife. You may be lucky enough to see one of the magnificent sea eagles that have been recently introduced. During your visit have lunch on your own at the Derreen Cafe.

Return to the hotel late afternoon. There will be time at leisure before you gather for an included dinner served inn the hotel's restaurant.

Day Five:

Check out of your rooms after breakfast in the hotel. Board the coach and travel to Annes Grove, a 190-acre historic estate with 30 acres of renowned gardens. The estate is situated in a landscape of woodland, river and glen, reminiscent of the poet Edmund Spenser's epic poem, The Fairie Queen, written in nearby Kilcolman Castle. The oldest part of the gardens is the Walled Garden, originally laid out in the 18th century, while the Woodlands Garden holds some of the earliest rhododendrons introduced to Ireland. 

Board the coach and continue along to Shanagarry, home of the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The school is run by Darina Allen, a celebrity chef, cookbook author and pioneer of the slow food movement in Ireland. The school is located within the grounds of an organic farm that produces the vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy products, all of which are used in the kitchen every day. At this multi-award-winning cookery school, you will experience first-class instruction followed by time to enjoy the fruits of your labors for lunch.

Depart Ballymaloe and continue on to Lismore Castle Gardens, believed to be the oldest gardens in Ireland. The historic gardens of Lismore Castle are essentially two distinct gardens. Both are set within the castle walls and comprise of 7 acres with spectacular views of the Castle and surrounding countryside.

 In the lower garden, meandering paths lead you through this informal setting of trees and shrubs and out onto open lawns. The upper, walled garden was first constructed in about 1605, where most of the walls and terraces remain the same, although the plantings have changed to suit the tastes of those living within the Castle. The garden is a mix of ornamental borders and productive areas, with vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers grown for the kitchen and house.

At the end of the last century the owners introduced sculpture into the gardens that subsequent generations have added to, culminating in 2005 with the renovation of the west wing of the castle into a contemporary gallery, Lismore Castle Arts.

Late afternoon arrive at your Waterford hotel for a two-night stay (The Granville Hotel or similar.) This full-service hotel is situated in the center of the quay in Waterford City. Its bustling shopping district is right behind the hotel and the historic Viking Triangle is just a stones throw away. There will be time to refresh and relax before you gather for an included dinner served in the hotel's Bianconi Restaurant.

Day Six:

After breakfast in the hotel, board the coach and travel just a short distance to the John F. Kennedy Arboretum. Dedicated to the memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the Arboretum is a tree collection of international standing, located on a prominent hill overlooking the Kennedy ancestral home at Dunganstown. President Kennedy's visit to Ireland in June 1963 was a pivotal moment in modern history and one that ignited the spirit of the nation. Following the President's untimely death, a number of Irish-American societies wished to establish a memorial forest as a living tribute to him in Ireland. The arboretum contains over 5,000 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world. It is the largest collection of catalogued trees in the country.

Collections of special note include an ericaceous garden with over 500 different rhododendrons and azaleas, a slow-growing conifer grove and a phenological garden. The Visitor Center houses engaging exhibitions on President Kennedy.

Depart the Arboretum and travel just a short distance to Kilmokea, a formal walled garden with rooms that lead from one design feature to another. It is renowned for its seven acres of award-winning gardens, with a wide range of unusual sub-tropical plants and wonderful organic vegetables.

Topiary, lawns, herbaceous and mixed plantings combine with architectural features and ornaments to provide an enchanting series of enclosures. The walled garden is a place of peace and reflection with rose gardens, pools and herbaceous planting. Love seats are placed around every corner waiting to provide comfort for moments of contemplation.

Throughout the gardens you will find storyboards that highlight much of the history of the area. During your visit, have lunch on your own at the on-site cafe.

Return to the hotel late afternoon. There will be time to enjoy a free evening in Waterford and to have dinner on your own at a local eatery.

Day Seven:

Check out of your rooms after an included breakfast and depart Waterford. Your first stop will be at the Avoca Handweavers store and factory outlet. Here, you will take a tour of the mill Mill,founded in 1723, and the Visitor Center, followed by time for lunch, on your own, in the cafe, and to browse the lovely store where you will find colorful woven throws in mohair, Donegal wool and cashmere, as well as beautiful scarves, clothing, baby blankets and more.

This afternoon you will visit Patthana Garden, an award-winning village garden owned by artist, T.J Mather and Simon Kirby. The garden is comprised of a lower cobbled courtyard with a potting shed and a sunken meditation room leading to the main courtyard with a small wildlife pond.

Circular granite steps lead to the upper terrace garden with its borders of herbaceous perennials, annuals and unusual shrubs and trees. Patthana is gardened organically with many plants chosen for their attraction to wildlife.

Board the coach and travel to Dublin where you will arrive at your hotel for a two-night stay. (Trinity City Hotel or similar.) This four-star, full-service hotel is located right in the heart of Dublin. After you have relaxed and refreshed, gather for an included dinner.

Day Eight:

Board the coach after an included breakfast served in the hotel and travel to the gardens of Powerscourt House, created in the 1740's. With the highest waterfall in Ireland, Powerscourt offers numerous attractions including formal gardens and landscaped walks with more than 200 varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers.

Main attractions in the grounds include the Tower Valley, Japanese gardens, winged horse statues, Triton Lake, pet cemetery, Dolphin Pond, walled gardens, Bamberg Gate and the Italian Garden. Powerscourt was awarded third best garden in the world by the prestigious National Geographic Magazine. During your visit there will be time to have lunch on your own at one of the on-site cafes and to visit the gift shop.

Depart Powerscourt and continue on to Glendalough, a monastic settlement founded in the 6th century and one of Ireland's most famous landmarks. The ancient ruins of Glendalough include several churches and an impressive high round tower. The monastery in its heyday included workshops, areas for manuscript writing, guest houses, an infirmary, farm buildings and dwellings for both the monks and a large lay population.

Return to Dublin mid-afternoon to enjoy time at leisure. Gather for an included festive farewell Irish dinner and entertainment at the famous Merry Ploughboy's Restaurant.

Day Nine:

Check out of your rooms after breakfast in the hotel. Board your transfer to the Dublin Airport for return flights to the US departing after 1:00 pm.

Your Package Includes:

 7 Nights accommodations

7 Breakfasts

1 Cooking Class Lunch

5 Dinners

Tour of Dunloe Castle Gardens

Travel around the Ring of Kerry

Visit to Muckross House and Gardens

Tour of Ilnacullin Garden on Garinish Island

Walk through Derreen Garden

Garden tour at Annes Grove

Visit to Lismore Castle Gardens

Time to explore the John F. Kennedy Arboretum

Tour of Kilmokea

Free time in Waterford

Stop at the Avoca Handweavers Store with tour of the Mill and time to shop

Patthana Garden Tour

Visit to the gardens at Powerscourt House   

Stop at the monastic settlement, Glendalough

Free time in Dublin

Full-time, local tour guide

Full-time tour manager

Airport transfers

Private motor coach transportation throughout the itinerary

Baggage service for one piece of luggage per traveler

Taxes and fees

The following prices do not include airfare 


  • Per person double occupancy: 4,766.00
  • Per person single occupancy: 5,877.00

Prices and itinerary are subject to change.

This tour is designed in cooperation with one of our trusted travel partners.

Copyright 2023ArtInBloomGardenTours, Inc.

Teresa Watkins, garden author, landscape designer, horticulturist, and radio personality, designed the landscape for the first certified "green home" in Florida. Her landscape company, Sustainable Horticultural Environments, designs unique, beautiful, and award-wining sustainable landscapes.

In the last 24 years, over 39,000 homeowners have attended Teresa's landscaping talks and programs. Her garden programs range from the ABCs of landscaping and themed-landscapes of fairy gardens to xeriscaping.

Teresa, a 25-year radio show veteran on her award-winning garden show In Your Backyard, and now host of Better Lawns and Gardens, Florida's most popular syndicated garden radio show on iHeart, iTunes, and multiple podcasts. She enjoys traveling and leading gardening tours annually, checking off incredible national and world gardens on her bucket (pronounced bouquet) lists. 

Teresa Watkins copyright 2023

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