The beautiful gardens of Castle Durrow began to bloom 300 years ago, when they were planted by the aptly named Flower family. Set aside a few hours to explore the 50 acres of lush lawns, colourful borders, green parkland, wild forest, plentiful orchards and meandering river.
The gardens are part of the Irish Looped Walks, you can also arrange a tour with the head gardener to get the full lay of the land. Follow your nose to discover hundreds of fragrant David Austin Roses or head straight for the Foodie Garden, where the hotel’s head chef goes foraging for fresh produce each day.
Less than a five minute spin from Castle Durrow, get hands on at Dunmore Country School, a wild, kitchen garden. Learn to live off the land with courses on growing tasty vegetables in sustainable and affordable ways.
The family owners have studied every inch of their land and have a wealth of knowledge to impart to would-be gardeners. Simultaneously beautiful and practical, their seed-to-table approach extends to cookery classes – and the best bit is you get to enjoy the spoils.
Pack a picnic and head for Emo Court House – the perfect setting for lunch al fresco in County Laois. Originally laid out in the 18th century as formal gardens, it’s a joy to explore the 35 hectares of landscaped grounds, woodland walks, statues and stunning 20-acre lake.
For enthusiasts, rare specimen trees and glades of azaleas are a sight to behold, while more casual visitors will love the sea of gorgeous flowers and the chance to spot rare red squirrels who’ve made the estate their home. Don’t skip The Grapery – an arboretum – as the series of pathways open up to vistas of the Slieve Bloom Mountains and Emo Court House that you can’t miss.
Known locally as The Italian Gardens, Heywood Gardens tells a tale of two gardens – the great romantic park created by Frederick Trench in the late 1700s inspired by a tour of Europe, and the formal gardens created in the 1900s by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Follow the lime tree lined walk to a formal terrace overlooking the countryside and bask in the breathtaking views. Look out for moorhens, kingfishers and other water birds from the terrace overlooking the lake, and don’t miss the sunken garden where circular terraces descend to an elliptical pool. Soak up every drop of romance in the gardens by finishing your visit with a trip to the loggia roofed with red tiles on the top level where you can read inscriptions from poet Alexander Pope.
One of the youngest gardens on our list, Gash Gardens were started from scratch in 1986 and today you’ll discover many interesting and unusual plants there. The moon house grotto, where a waterfall cascades into a lily pond, is one of the highlights, but there’s plenty to explore throughout. Visit the large rock garden with rare alpines and the heath garden and the colourful herbaceous borders. Keep going until you find the secret passage leading to a riverside walk.
Awaken your senses in The Sensory Gardens at Dove House in Abbeyleix. See the vibrant plants, hear the wind chimes, smell the most fragrant flora and feel their interesting textures — the peaceful haven is designed to stimulate the senses and provide spiritual nourishment. You’re sure to leave feeling refreshed and at peace.
Head to the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains to discover Clonohill Gardens, designed to enhance the existing woodland landscapes. Get your walking shoes on and start the looped trail that begins in the flower-filled woodland, continuing to the colourful Jacobs Walk before you reach the archway framing the entrance to the North Garden.
Let the kids explore the secret red squirrels’ den with its majestic Sitka spruce trees before checking out the plant collectors’ paradise in the sheltered walled gardens, where Ramonda Myconi, Roscoea and Celmissia's thrive.
Whether you’re after hands-on foraging or a peaceful walk, Laois’ beautiful gardens have plenty to discover. After strolling around the gardens, check out our Laois destination page for more incredible things to do in this beautiful county.