This week I went on an expedition to Woodstock gardens. It had been on my long list for a while since I drive through Thomastown years ago and saw signs for it. So I stupidly assumed it was near Thomastown. Anyway, we stopped in the beautiful town/village of Inistioge for coffee and a quick look round and local signs showing the area and the Woodstock estate gave a strong hint that the gardens were above Inistioge! It is worth visiting here for the lovely views along the River Nore and just walking around the place where you can peep over walls to see gardens.
There are river walks and lots to do for the energetic – I will go again with my Fitbit! Anyway, on to the garden.
Like many gardens that were attached to big houses, the gardens have been allowed to fall into disrepair in the past, following the inevitable fire that happened in the 1920s. The gardens were famous for their tree collection and remnants of this remain. Kilkenny County Council are to be commended for the restoration that has taken place and the subsequent maintenance. This is no mean feat and whoever is in charge knows what must be done, with, presumably, limited resources, to maintain the place in a sensible and efficient manner. The gardens are not perfect but they are a credit to the council and very well worth a visit.
The gardens had (I believe) the longest monkey puzzle avenue in Europe (Araucaria araucana) and it is wonderful to see that there are still some of the original trees and, even better, new trees have been planted at various times.
The rock garden is, as you would expect, overgrown and more of interest to adventurous children than botanists, but it is still there to be discovered.
The large walled garden dominates the cultivated grounds and the walls are certainly impressive. Gardens like this always make me wish to have seen them in their heyday but at least the place looks and feels like it is loved.
Inside the walled garden are box hedges and a double herbaceous border, fruit trees and bushes – all you would expect…
and some veg too. Although not a large area and not in absolutely pristine condition, it was imaginatively planted, with some flowers too and a credit to the staff who must have a lot more to do.
The crowning glory of the garden is the terrace above the walled garden with two box parterres, one filled with pelargoniums that runs to the conservatory.
I am a sucker for old greenhouses and this one, a recreation of the original Richard Turner greenhouse is a gem. Richard Turner was born in Dublin and and a pioneer of using cast iron. His most famous work is the Palm House at Kew, though, in Ireland, the range at Glasnevin. It is a shame that this example is now used as the tea room but I can’t be picky – and the cakes are good.
I said that the jewel in the crown was the conservatory but, for me, the highlight was the old dairy. Almost hidden by shrubs and bamboo, as you walk in the door you enter a small, kitchen-like affair. But two door that lead off this take you into two grotto areas, one largely rocks and one a maze of bamboo (Sasa palmata).
It was pure magic – I am a sucker for follies and grottoes!
The garden is open all year and is a brilliant place. The cafe is only open during the week to the end of September – after that it is weekends only till spring. Entry is 4 euro per car – brilliant value! There are miles of paths to explore through the woods and there are red squirrels. A very helpful member of staff (Liam I think) showed us the main sights to look out for and said that in early October the place is full of fungi. I will be back.
This is a hidden gem, that kids would adore, and well maintained by friendly staff.
Did I mention the amazing dovecote or the rose garden (best in early summer)?
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