Not far from Dublin, with spectacular views of the Sugarloaf, is one of the most spectacular gardens in Ireland, if not in Europe. A few years ago I doubted I would ever have the opportunity to visit this world-famous garden but now I find I am just an hour away and I pass it regularly. In the village of Enniskerry, to the west of Bray, beside the River Dargle, Powerscourt is spectacular and worth visiting at any time of year but last weekend was my first summer visit and it was spectacular. I am pleased to say that the standard of maintenance is excellent, the garden retains its 18th century splendour and it also features excellent Avoca shops and cafes as well as a garden centre (I won’t mention the hotel and golf course). (oops)
Originally there was a castle on the estate, owned by a man called La Poer from which the anglicised ‘Powers’ originated. The current house is approached along a magnificent curved beech avenue with superb views to the west. The beech trees are exceptionally fine and are tall, elegant and it is easy to see why the beech (Fagus sylvatica) is often called the lady of the forest. Parking is just beyond the back of the house. Walk back to the house and through, past the shops (you can go to them later) and pay the 8.50 euro admission and you walk out onto the top of the terrace and you are faced with one of the most spectacular views in Ireland.
From the terrace you look down over the stepped Italian gardens down over the Triton lake to the Sugarloaf in the distance. This is a garden that proudly declares how rich its owner was. Its a ‘wow’ moment that takes your breath away. You can walk down the steps to the lake or turn right and save the best views till you have explored the rest of the garden. And the rest of the garden is hardly dull!
Into the walled gardens there are hundreds of roses, clipped topiary, a pair of long herbaceous borders (that have a bit of a weed problem) and which culminate in a fountain and pond.
You then walk through the pleasure grounds that work their way down to the far end of the lake and into the Japanese Garden, via the pet cemetery if you wish.
Leaving the Japanese Garden you find yourself at the lake again (explore the ‘cave’ under the two winged horses for a water-level view of the lake) and you have the climb up the steps to the house.
The house was built in the Palladian style by the German architect Richard Cassels and took 10 years to complete, in 1741. The 7th Viscount of Powerscourt inherited the 200km2 (49000acre) estate in 1844 at the age of 8 and when he came of age (21) he set about creating the garden we see today. It took 20 years to complete his vision. In 1961 the estate was sold by the 9th Viscount to the Slazenger family and the house was largely destroyed by fire in 1974. It was restored in 1996 and we are lucky that such a magnificent property is so well maintained and such a popular attraction.