In the heart of the garden county of Ireland, Kilmacurragh is home to one of the most important plant collections in the country. The garden dates from the early 18th century and restoration work of this old estate has been ongoing for several years under the careful management of the National Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, National Historic Properties.
The story of Kilmacurragh stretches back beyond the establishment of the gardens to early Christian times. A lake, part of which remains as a small pond, once existed as a fishing pond for a monastery that stood where the remains of the Acton family homestand today. This monastery was dissolved by Henry VII.
Queen Anne House, built by Thomas Acton II, the five-bay mansion was one of the first unfortified houses of the time in County Wicklow and is one of the few remaining (albeit in a ruinous state) early panelled houses in Ireland. Comprising five reception rooms and eight bedrooms, the house was perched on a hill facing east, making it a chilly place to be in winter.
Thomas Acton II was also responsible for the Deer Park, an area of forty acres, carved into primeval oak and alder forest, surrounded by a six-foot deep ha-ha, and the old paddock walls that now surround the visitor carpark.
During this period, Kilmacurragh’s famous yew walk (known locally as the Monk’s Walk) was planted along an old road that served as a pilgrims’ route from the abbey Kilmacurragh to nearby Glendalough.
Tom Acton had a rule of thumb, which was to plant three of every important tree or shrub. To this day a line of exotics, like Himalayan rhododendrons, mighty North American conifers, and Chilean trees, all planted by Tom Acton’s gardeners, still grow on this windswept site.
There are reminders of this sad period at Kilmacurragh. In the walled garden grow a line of mature maidenhair trees, Ginkgo Biloba, planted just over a meter apart. Tradition has it that this was a nursery bed and since the garden staff believed that the war would last only a few weeks, the young trees were left in situ, with the belief that they would be placed in their permanent positions when staff returned that autumn. No one came home from those bloody battlefields, and the maidenhair trees still grow in their nursery positions.
Kilmacurragh’s tragic history is well known, and the fallen crimson blossoms of the ancient rhododendrons on the Broad Walk have been said by one visitor to be as symbolic as the Flanders poppies.
Few Highlights of the Garden:
Daily Guided Tours
From March to October, free guided tours take place daily at the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Kilmacurragh.
Many educational events for bio-diversity and other kids’ activities take place here.
The Acton Café opened in 2015 in one of the restored courtyard buildings on site. There are free guided tours from March to October (12noon and 3 pm daily). Suitable outdoor clothing/footwear advised.
The gardens, with some unusual trees and lots of beautiful flowers, are absolutely gorgeous and a must-visit for all nature lovers.https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/national-botanic-gardens-kilmacurragh/