Visiting gardens is a fabulous way to explore and Northern Ireland has one of the best gardening climates in the world. So it is not surprising that some of the most beautiful and interesting gardens are to be found here.
Take a visit to the walled garden of Benvarden in Ballymoney which dates from the 18th Century and includes a woodland pond fed by a small stream with a waterfall. The grounds sweep down to the River Bush which is spanned by a Victorian iron bridge.
Close to Antrim Town Centre are the historic Antrim Castle Gardens and Clotworthy House, which feature four centuries of garden design, with styles from the 17th century and Victorian era.
The Ward family designed the Walled Garden at Castle Park, Bangor in the 1840's, however it was never open to the public and was considered by many as a secret garden! Now, restored by North Down Council, the garden is open April to September and makes the perfect place to rela and enjoy a few moments peace and quiet.
In Lisburn Castle Gardens the upper 19th century garden and 17th century terraces have also been recently restored by Lisburn City Council with grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Features include mature trees and many historic monuments.
Check out the hornbeam maze at the centre of an eighteenth-century walled garden at Seaforde Gardens, County Down. It also has a Butterfly House, enchanting for both its butterflies and tree ferns and unusual tropical planting.
The physic garden at the twelfth-century Cistercian monastery of Greyabbey is a reconstruction of gardens of its period. Called a physic garden because the monks would fill it with plants which were useful in the treatment of illness.
Some other ideas include:
Botanic Gardens - First established in 1828, the gardens have been enjoyed as a public park by the people of Belfast since 1895. There is an extensive rose garden and long herbaceous borders and the tree enthusiast can seek out the rare oaks planted in the 1880s, including the hornbeamed-leafed oak. Two of the most notable early greenhouses in Europe are to be found here - the Tropical Ravine and the Palm House.
Glenarm Castle & Walled Garden - The Walled Garden situated in the grounds of Glenarm Castle is one of Ireland's oldest walled gardens dating from the 18th centruy. Beautiful in all seasons, the Walled Garden and Tea Room are open from May until the end of September, when the garden is still rich with displays of herbaceous plants.
Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park - This attractive rolling parkland in south Belfast is home to one of the most comprehensive rose gardens in the world. The display of over 30,000 rose blooms is spectacular in summer and the Rose Garden is the setting for the famous Rose Week and Annual International Rose Trials. The parkland also features more conventional plantings of exotic trees and rhododendrons near the Walled Garden and a Japanese Garden.
Tully Castle - Within the carefully maintained ruin of Tully Castle the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has created a charming garden. Although not intended to be an accurate reconstruction of a renaissance-style formal garden, it give a flavour of how a garden in this early period might have looked.
Guy L. Wilson Daffodil Garden – A glorious sight in March and April the Guy Wilson Daffodil Garden in Coleraine is home to the world’s largest collection of daffodils – over 1500 varieties thanks in part to the donation of bulbs from as far afield as New Zealand, Holland and the USA.
Grovelands - A haven of peace and quiet off Stockman’s Lane, a busy road in Belfast. The variety of small ornamental gardens provide plenty of inspiration for visitors planning their own gardens.