Visitors beat path to Cork Gardens of delight

Offering everything from pet pigs to weird sculptures and even boat trips, the gardens of West Cork are full of unexpected treasures — and some of the best open their gates to visitors later this month as part of the 2014 West Cork Garden Trail.

Visitors beat path to Cork Gardens of delight

Ironically, the trail, which was set up two decades ago and boasts some of the most beautiful gardens in the county, was, for many years itself a hidden gem, relatively unknown to the greater public.

However, following a well-organised publicity campaign last year which involved the launch of an attractive new website and accompanying brochure, the number of visitors soared.

“The Garden Trail was a loose and informal arrangement for a long time; it was well known among a group of interested people but not well-known outside that group and would not have figured prominently on the tourist radar,” said spokeswoman Miriam Cotton.

“Last year was the first year it was presented formally to the public as a tourist attraction.

“There was a very significant difference in the numbers — they were well up.”

She added that while exact figures were not available, anecdotally, garden owners were reporting large increases in visitor numbers, a trend expected to continue further this summer.

There are 16 gardens on the 2014 trail, which was launched at the weekend.

“The gardens are located in beautiful scenery with fantastic sea views, wonderful lake settings and mountain backdrops,” said Ms Cotton.

She said “exquisite” gardens at Drishane House in Castletownshend, home of Edith Somerville, co-author of the Irish RM books, were certainly worth a visit.

For food enthusiasts there’s lots on offer — take Glebe Garden, outside Baltimore, overlooking Roaring Water Bay, which boasts an extensive kitchen garden bursting with herbs and vegetables which it uses to supply its award-winning café, while the pet pigs of the Heron Gallery in Ahakista and the bizarre and colourful sculptures in the Ewe Garden outside Glengarriff are sure to be a big hit with families who have young children.

For those who like something different, there’s always the option of taking a boat trip to the sub-tropical surrounds of Garnish Island.

The trail runs from Saturday next for two weeks.

While most of the gardens are also open to the public outside of those dates, some are only open to the public for the duration of the trail.

However, Ms Cotton says many of the gardens are at the peak of their beauty during this fortnight so this is the ideal time to visit.

“The trail season coincides with the height of the blooming season, it is the height of summer and the time the gardens are at their best,” she said.

www.westcorkgardentrail.com

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