A 160-year-old subtropical garden on the Skellig coast in South Kerry has installed a “skywalk”, reportedly the country’s longest rope bridge.

It took five months to create the 36ft-high rope bridge spanning 112ft over the Delligeenagh River which runs into the sea through Kells Bay Gardens and House, just off the Ring of Kerry.

The estate had benefitted for many decades from the warm Gulf Stream and its gardens include a profusion of rare Southern Hemisphere plants, tree sculptures and bamboos.

It is also home to Ireland’s largest palm tree, an 11-tonne specimen with a 7.5m trunk which arrived in a 40ft container from Chile in 2007.

Owners, Billy and Penn Alexander say the inspiration for the skywalk came from trips to the rainforest and jungle plant exploration over several years.

The bridge is often referred to as a Burmese rope bridge.

“Whereas all the site preparation, foundations and steel work from which the bridge is suspended was completed using local materials and expertise, the bridge was fabricated and hung by a team of specialists from abroad,” Mr Alexander said.

A multiple gold medal winner at the annual Bloom Garden Festival in Dublin, the couple have invested €2m in the site since acquiring the property in 2006.

With around 10,000 visitors yearly, the gardens last year featured in the BBC Gardener’s World perogramme.

Record low temperatures of the 2010 winter had put paid to hundreds of valuable plants.

However, works on the new rope bridge include modifications to the original river walk including 800m of new paths, the construction of a stone staircase, 100 tonnes of rock foundation and almost 50 cubic metres of concrete for the bridge supports.

It will be officially opened on April 7 by Tim Smit, famous for his work with The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the world-renowned Eden Project in the UK.


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