This year Garden Show Ireland was held in the grounds of Antrim Castle. I don’t have the mental capacity to untangle and rework the convoluted history of the place but suffice to say it is very old (it dates back to 1610), it burned down in the 1920s and it sits beside the Six Mile Water (River). It was the home of various families over the years including the Skeffington family and Viscount Massereene. The basic structure of the extensive, Anglo-Dutch gardens miraculously survived decades of neglect – credit to their builders rather than their upkeep – but they have recently undergone an extensive reconstruction, reputedly the biggest garden restoration in Northern Ireland.
While hardly the most remarkable of gardens, the site, which is a beautiful public space, is worth visiting and are very well maintained. There are plenty of amenities and a nice coffee shop, an informative if unimaginative museum of the garden with the intriguing histories of the many ghosts (including the ghost wolfhound) and a (disappointing) shop. *
The gardens are easy to find near the town. I couldn’t quite work out the town itself nor how to get to the Castle Mall. Maybe I didn’t miss much. You have to hand it to Tesco – at least they make it obvious how to get into the car park – that’s the way to get customers!
* Why don’t these shops sell something appropriate to the site! There were no postcards of the garden and no guide book or local history book that I could see – just shelves of generic floral tat! I walked out with all my money.