NORTHERN IRELAND boasts some of the most magnificent gardens in Europe that are perfect for family days away, inquisitive horticulturalists and lazy summer picnics.
Tourism NI’s Communications & Destination PR Officer Rachel Quigg explained why everyone should experience some of the beautiful gardens that NI has to offer:
“During the summer months, there is no better time to get together with friends and family and spend some time outdoors. From grand ornamental gardens to charming walled gardens, award-winning rose gardens and woodland meadows, there are a wide range of magical open green spaces all over NI just waiting to be explored.
“So whether you are a gardening enthusiast or just love to be outdoors there will be a garden to suit the experience you are looking for,” Rachel added.
Must See Gardens
Benvarden Garden in Ballymoney Co Antrim, is a beautiful walled garden which dates back to the 18th century and includes a woodland pond and a small stream with a waterfall. The garden is one of the finest and best maintained in Northern Ireland and visitors can take in the stables, coach houses, cart houses and tea room which is converted from a former stable.
Antrim Castle Gardens are renowned as a historical gem and are the perfect way to spend a day out for a leisurely stroll with friends or family. Visitors to the gardens can explore many beautiful features such as the Large Parterre, Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pond. After a walk around the gardens why not stop for a rest at the Garden Coffee Shop where you can sample a treat from the menu before visiting the nearby shop which has a unique range of goods.
Bangor Castle Walled Garden was officially opened as a visitor attraction in April 2009. The gardens have four distinct sections which are the kitchen garden, the herb and topiary garden, the swamp garden and the flower garden so there is plenty for visitors to uncover and explore.
Lisburn Castle Gardens was once the site of Lisburn Castle, a 17th century fortified manor house. The upper 19th century gardens and the 17th century terraces have recently been restored by Lisburn City Council with aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the gardens main features include mature trees and many historic monuments.
Seaforde Gardens in Co Down is the perfect destination for families as it hosts a Tropical Butterfly House which has a large flight area with hundreds of free-flying exotic butterflies as well as reptiles and insects available to view behind glass. The Tropical Butterfly House is set in beautiful grounds with avenues of mature trees, a maze set in the middle of an old walled garden and many tropical plants.
Glenarm Castle Gardens in Co. Antrim is part of the Antrim Garden Trail and is one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens dating back from the 18th century. This stunning garden is a centre of horticultural excellence with water features, fruit and vegetable gardens and colourful displays of flowers. As no visual records of these gardens remain, the new physic garden at the 12th century Cistercian monastery of Grey Abbey is a notional reconstruction based on much general research on gardens of its period.
Florence Court in Enniskillen, Co.Fermanagh is set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains and forests. Visitors can discover the many serene and beautiful areas such as the Pleasure Grounds and the Walled Garden within this magnificent demesne where garden lovers will also find the famous Florence Court Yew. Other interesting features include a saw mill, original ice house and charming summer house.
Rowallane Garden in Saintfield, Co Down is an enchanting garden enclosed within a demesne landscape. The garden reflects the beautiful natural landscape of the surrounding area with spectacular displays of shrubs and several areas managed as wildflower meadows.
Castle Ward in Strangford Co Down has 40 acres of parkland and contains many beautiful historical garden features such as the Temple Water, the Sunken Garden and the Irish Yew Trees. The grounds at Castle Ward are perfect for those with an interest in garden history and keen gardeners will revel in the trails, stunning vistas and a picturesque farmyard as well as woodland, lakeside and parkland walks with breath-taking view points.
Mount Stewart in Newtownards, Co Down is one of the most popular gardens in Northern Ireland. Visitors can enjoy formal gardens of clipped topiary, impressive colour schemes and a picturesque lake surrounded by beautiful areas of woodland.
Garden lovers should keep an eye out for the Ulster Gardens Scheme which sees a number of private gardens open each year to raise funds to support work in the gardens cared for by the National Trust in Northern Ireland. Some gardens open for one or two days every few years whilst others make their gardens available throughout the summer months ‘by appointment’.
For information on which gardens are open, go to
Green Fingered Events
Orchid Walk, Belfast, July 31. Enjoy a beautiful walk along the western shore of Lough Beg which is just one of a handful of sites in NI that is home to a rare type of orchid known as Irish Lady’s Tresses. Walkers are sure to be delighted at the delicate scents and stunning scenery.
Kids Mini-beasts Nature Trail, August 6. Join local naturalist ‘Woody’ for a creative exploration of Killynether Wood in Newtownards, Co Down and look out for the mini–beasts that make the parkland their home and find out more about the flora and fauna.
Creatures of the Night Picnic, August 10. Enjoy a picnic with a difference at the Ring of Gullion and find out what goes bump in the night. Families can watch mammal expert David Tosh as he tries to catch bats with his nets as well as listen out for them with special bat detectors. Those that are lucky enough may even see an elusive pine marten or a fox.
Edible Geology Bus Tour, August 16. This fun event will be hosted in Mullaghbane, Co Armagh and attendees will join geologist Kirstin Lemon and accompany her on an edible geology tour of key sites in the Ring of Gullion. There will be lots of home baked delights on offer, all in the form of different geological features!
For further information on things to see and do in Northern Ireland click on www.discovernorthernireland.com