Powerscourt Estate, Ireland

Powerscourt Estate in Ireland is 30 minutes south of Dublin. It came third in a list of the World’s Top Gardens by National Geographic, so I was very interested to see how nice it was. Within the estate, there are 47 acres of gardens set in open countryside with spectacular views of the Sugarloaf Mountain.

First impressions

The road from the entrance gates to the car park is lined with mature beech trees, some of which have recently fallen or been cut down. I couldn’t help but think how beautiful this entrance must have been in its prime and that any gaps could have been prevented with a long-term planting plan. It made me think about how difficult it must be to keep such high standards in a huge estate like this.

The Italian Gardens

After paying into the main house, we stepped out through a very small, unassuming entrance onto the spectacular terrace linking the house to the Italian Gardens. The sun shone down on our heads and it felt like we had stepped into a holiday destination - the formal Italian Gardens were spectacular. The terrace we were standing on was designed in the 1840s by architect Daniel Robertson and took 100 men over 12 years to build.

The gardens in front of us were perfectly symmetrical and centred around a magnificent stairs leading down through terraced lawns. The annual and spring planting was neat and well maintained and framed the wonderful lake and views. The statues, collected from across Europe by Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt, watched over us as we walked down steps made from coloured river-washed stones to the circular pond at the lower level.

The volcanic rock grotto at the entrance to the pond seemed to have been recently cleared of overgrown vegetation and you could again appreciate the grotto’s volcanic rock structure. The path followed the side of the pond until you reached another mini grotto and some smaller more rustic steps leading into the Japanese Gardens.

The Japanese Gardens

The transition from the formal Italian Gardens to the Japanese Gardens was barely noticeable. The water from the huge lake above slowly flowed down a small, deep stream cut into curving slopes and on to the sheltered setting of the Japanese Gardens. The scene was beautifully framed by mature evergreen and deciduous trees. The winding path and little bridge moved you along, though my every inclination was to stop and sit a while.

The garden was created by the 8th Viscount and Viscountess Powerscourt in 1908 and is dotted with azaleas, Japanese maples and Chinese fortune palms. We were lucky in that the softest white cherry blossoms were in bloom and the maple leaves were just opening. I climbed steep steps to view the gardens from a height and then wandered through the surrounding woodlands which consisted of a mixed variety of huge and exotic evergreen trees.

New discoveries

We stopped to admire the tiny flowers and the giant leaves of two big-leaf rhododendrons. Even without flowers, it is a plant well worth having in the garden. We walked onwards to a small castle tower called “Pepperpot Tower”, which was modelled on a favourite pepper-pot from Viscount Powerscourt’s dining table. The entrance was flanked by the most fun cut box shrubs that would not have been out of place in Alice in Wonderland. The view from the top was across huge century-old trees to the mountains beyond.

The sun kept coming and going, huge shower clouds passing over at speed. We walked by an old stone wall which bordered the forested area and then saw open grass covered in white and yellow Narcissi. Though just on the turn, they were still spectacular, framing the house beyond beautifully.

An appetite for more

While we were unable to sit on the terrace overlooking the gardens to have our own picnic (you need to purchase food from the house café to do that), we were able to sit in a courtyard area which had seating and was sheltered from the wind.

As we didn’t get to visit everything in the gardens, I will have to return again to see the areas I missed, including the Rhododendron Walk (ideally when they are in flower), the Pet Cemetery and the Walled Garden with Dolphin Pond.

I would highly recommend a visit to Powerscourt Estate as a wonderful way to spend a day out among spectacular plants and scenery.

What is the best garden you have ever visited? Please let us know below!

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Written by: Cornelia Raftery

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