Transport yourself back to 1625 with a trip to Huntington Castle and Gardens in County Carlow. The historic garrison has stunning gardens with unique strolls along the Yew Tree Walk or the Lime Tree Avenue and also has galleries full of art. A tour of the castle is recommended and includes a visit to the Egyptian Temple of the Goddess Isis in the basement.
Explore the grounds of the castle and take some time to pet baby lambs or admire the peacocks at the castle's farm before enjoying a cuppa in the lovely tearooms. Pick up some local crafts and homemade jams from the gift shop or even better – stay the night in their B&B or self-catering accommodation to really get the full Huntington Castle experience.
Some of the best gardens in County Offaly are on the grounds of Birr Castle. Famous for Leviathan, a Great Telescope, and interactive Science Centre, the castle also has an interesting history dating from medieval times, and much of it is reflected in the gardens. With rare plants from all over the world collected by the Earls of Rosse on their travels, the gardens – spread over 50 hectares – are a haven for nature lovers.
Take a walk in the formal gardens, along the terraces or by the lakes and river. Children can play in Ireland's biggest treehouse, or learn about why the best mechanical, mathematical and creative minds from across the globe once flocked to Birr.
When you’re taking a trip along the Waterford Greenway, make sure you stop off at one of Ireland's best gardens; Mount Congreve Gardens. Crafted with passion by Ambrose Congreve and inspired by the stunning Exbury Gardens of Lionel de Rothschild, the gardens have treelined paths weaving through the 100-acre grounds.
In springtime they are alive with colour from one of the largest collections of rhododendrons – and throughout the year, you can admire the pretty Japanese pagodas and breathtaking views over the river. Call into the Garden Shop and get all you need to create your own garden or dream up your own garden makeover over a hot drink in The Dairy Café.
Stand awestruck and take in the beauty of County Wicklow and the Great Sugar Loaf mountain from the upper stone terrace at the Powerscourt Estate. Designed by the architect Daniel Robertson, the exquisite green terraces cascade down to lily-pad dotted Triton Lake, flanked by an impressive life-sized pair of winged horses. The beautiful estate includes a Japanese garden and a cemetery for dearly departed family pets.
Climb the Pepperpot Tower, stroll through the Italian garden, enjoy the views with tea and cake in the house's Avoca Terrace Café – and pick up some gifts upstairs at the Design Loft. Check their website for kids' activities throughout the year, and when you visit, stroll to the nearby Powerscourt Waterfall. It's no surprise that National Geographic named Powerscourt as one of the top three gardens in the world.
Deep in Ireland’s equestrian country is the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens with its exotic outdoor spaces. These County Kildare gardens were devised by the stud's eccentric founder Colonel William Walker and laid out by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son, Minoru.
Featuring bridges, a teahouse, rocks, water, stone lanterns and bonsai, the gardens are custom-made for meditation and are known as some of the finest of their kind in Europe. Learn about the region’s important role in Irish horse racing at the Horse Museum and stroll around the unique St. Fiachra’s Garden, where the wonderful garden and plants are set around replica monastic cells.
The vast neoclassical Emo Court in County Laois was designed by acclaimed architect James Gandon and is filled with fascinating history, not least of all the tale of its creation – while construction commenced in the 1790s, it was not completed until the 1860s. The gardens surrounding the house were first laid out in the 18th century and are made up of formal lawns, a lake, majestic sequoias and rare flora framed by woodland walks with the impressive peaks of the Slieve Blooms in the distance.
While you wander, keep an eye out for the red squirrels hiding in the trees – though they're now rarely seen in Ireland, this area is a haven for these adorable tufted-eared creatures. When you've worked up an appetite, refresh yourself with a drink or snack at the Emo tearooms.
Plan your visit to Ireland’s Ancient East and discover incredible gardens throughout this historic region.