High up along the rugged north west Wild Atlantic Way lies Cluain na dTor Seaside Gardens (means Meadow of Shrubs), one of Ireland's best kept horticultural secrets. The fact that this fascinating garden is still relatively unknown, even in gardening circles, is due in part to its geographical remoteness, yet what owner, Seamus O'Donnell has achieved in twenty years in extremely challenging climatic conditions is quite remarkable.
Within a stones throw of the cruelly exposed Atlantic coastline, this garden is packed with tender rarities and exotic specimen plants that come from all four corners of the world which proves that a much greater range of plants can be grown by the sea. Tree ferns, bananas, feathery restios and vivid ginger lilies jostle for position with honey myrtles, arisaemas and umbrella trees, all against the distant mountain backdrop of the Derryveagh Mountains.
In a part of the world where the climate often makes it difficult to create any kind of garden, the visitor will find a wonderful eclectic mix of specimens happily assembled to exhibit the beautiful forms, textures and bold colours of plants.
Cluain na dTor Seaside Gardens is set in twenty acres of wet, peaty ground that has been in the O'Donnell family since the 1920’s when Seamus’s grandfather returned home from the Klondike gold rush with money in his pockets. Wanderlust must run strongly in the O'Donnell family genes, for after his studies his grandson, Seamus, set off on his travels to places as far flung as Mexico, Costa Rica and South Africa as well as Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, before returning to Ireland for good in the late 80’s. His travels abroad had excited, inspired and informed him horticulturally leading the way to becoming an avid collector of plants suited to both exposed and more sheltered gardens by the sea.
Surrounding the more sheltered Tropical Garden there are 15 acres devoted to woodland and wild meadow. A pond area and Autumn garden has also been developed. Some of the land is part of the SPA for the protection of the extremely rare corncrake.
A haven for wildlife and an oasis of calm, Cluain na dTor Seaside Gardens inspires and delights it's visitors with it's display of local artists sculptures fused amongst the menagerie of plants.
The gardens are part of the Donegal Garden Trail and has won their Garden of the Year Award. Many of the plants in the gardens are available at the nursery which also houses an art studio and gallery. Cluain na dTor Seaside Gardens offers a planting design service as well as consultancy. Courses are run on organic gardening and biodiversity throughout the year.