Garinish Island or Ilnacullin -

Garinish Island or Ilnacullin 'island of the hollies' (ás Gaelige) lies at the mouth of Glengarriff harbour, a delightful, south facing, sheltered inlet of turquoise/lapis-lazuli water, hence the blue pool or (poll gorm) bathing spot. Which, is also the name of the ferry company that takes you on the short boat trip out to the island past the seal colonies relaxing atop the rocks quite unabashed in their ‘pilates style’ poses. Next to the landing stage is a small café and well signposted paths from which to explore this small tropical island oasis. You will be immediately drawn to the Italianate garden, the subject of 1000s of postcards, its mirrored pool and Grecian Temple framing the mountains beyond. It is a symphony in water, planting, sculpture and architecture that cannot fail to please. A collaboration of Amman Bryce MP, who bought the 36 acre island in 1910 and then commissioned Harold Peto, an eminent English architect at the time to execute his designs. The resulting beautifully, landscaped gardens have endured since they were first carved out from this rocky wilderness in the early 1900’s.

It is hard not to spend all your time here at the pool capturing the scene as the light and reflections change or just absorbing the warm stillness and quiet. But do push on (at some stage) to the heady delights and powerful aroma of azaleas and rhododendrons in the Happy Valley with statement tree ferns and exotic plants from all over the world so obviously enjoying and thriving in the warm, moist micro-climate of Garinish island. Which is a plantsman’s paradise with many specimens labelled as the biggest in the British Isles! There is also a huge wall garden with gnarled old espaliered fruit trees, the obligatory, lengthy, herbaceous borders and plenty of sheltered sunny places to sit (or have a snooze) on well weathered, oak benches. Elaborate follies, possibly garden stores once upon a time, define the corners with intricate wrought iron gates set into the walls, note the galleon weather vane on the clock tower, not that you will be watching the clock on a visit to such a wonderful garden.

10 Hidden Gems near Garinish Island

1 Spend some time in Glengarriff itself having a bite of lunch, plenty of nice pubs and craft shops, including Quills, which is the big stone building in the centre of the village.

2 Eccle’s Hotel is a good place to stay if you want to explore the Beara Peninsula one of the least visited yet most beautiful places in Ireland.

3 Ewe Sculpture Garden on the road to Bantry is an entirely different kettle of fish, cats, frogs, sheep....well worth a visit.

4 Gougane Barra is about 30kms inland heading to Macroom and well worth a visit if you have not already been, a tiny church on a lake with a forest park.

5 Otherwise head out along the Southern side of the Beara Peninsula as far as Adrigole.

6 Stop off at the lovely craft centre / café for coffee, cake and an elevated view of Hungry Hill.

7 Take the Healy Pass over the mountains for some fantastic scenery.

8 Stop off on the other side at Josie’s Restaurant for tea and smoked salmon sandwiches.

9 Or continue on to Castletownbere and have a pint in Pete McCarthy’s Bar maybe famous by the author of the same name who wrote the funniest book about Ireland ‘Pete McCarthy’s Bar’ ever.

10 Take the cable car over to Dursey Island for a day’s hiking and bird watching.

For more information re visiting Garinish Island please click here

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