Ilnacullin is a small garden hidden away in the south west corner of Ireland, so why have I included it in my list of Top Ten Gardens? Well for many reasons including that it is a quite magical, island garden, nestling in a sheltered harbour with a backdrop of spectacular mountain scenery.
As you take the 10 minute boat ride to Ilnacullin from Glengarriff through the calm waters of the harbour, you get great views of Beara Peninsula and Sheep’s Head on the mainland and you should see seals basking on the rocks.
The Ilnacullin garden covers the 15 hectares of the island and is renowned for its humid micro-climate created by the Gulf Stream and the enclosing Glengarriff harbour. This permits a range of exotic plants to flourish including Mediterranean, South African, South American and Australian plants.
Buildings within the garden include an Italian temple, a GrecianTemple and a Martello tower dating from the Napoleonic Wars; it is well worth climbing up to the battlements for the panoramic views. Visitors often note a Japanese influence in the garden, for example, in the Tea House and in dwarf trees.
The highlights of my visit were the colourful displays of camelias and magnolias, the avenue of Italian cypress trees leading to the Grecian temple and the panoramic views of the mountains on the mainland framed by the temples.
If you are travelling in South West Ireland, then I strongly recommend you take time out from the major tourist attractions, like the Ring of Kerry, to visit this serene jewel of a garden.